KEELY was not only surprised to get an interview for an apprenticeship with Darlington Building Society, she was delighted to be offered a place.

Covid-19 interrupted her studies at school, so she left with no GCSEs. She went on a two-week pre-apprenticeship course at a local college, where she learned about the different apprenticeships available, and was encouraged to apply for any that appealed to her.

“I was interested in the beauty industry and in office-based jobs, but, because I didn’t have GCSEs, I didn’t expect to get an interview with the Society,” she says. “I was really pleased, and then I was offered a place on the apprenticeship.”

Keely started as a Customer Service apprentice in September, and mainly works on the front counter, where she might be the first person a customer would be in contact with when they come into the branch.

Although she lives in Middlesbrough, she is training at the Redcar branch, and expects to move around the different branches in the North-East as part of her job.

She is also learning to drive, which will help with commuting, although lessons have had to be put on hold for the moment.

“Because I’m front of house, I’m interacting with customers and new people all the time,” she explains. “I’m learning new things every day, and it’s all going very well.”

As part of her training, Keely is also studying a Customer Service Apprentice course with Middlesbrough College, which should involve one day every fortnight in college – but the pandemic has meant that she has to study online, from home.

“It hasn’t been too hard, and all seems to be going well,” says Keely. “I’ve finished the first module and will be starting the next one this month.”

Understandably, Keely’s parents were “over the moon” when she got the placement, and Keely can see that there could be a good future with the organisation.

Like many people starting new jobs, Keely did have some reservations. She says: “At the start, I wasn’t 100% sure that I’d made the right choice, but I’m really enjoying the job now and I have no regrets.

“I’m aiming to get my Customer Service qualification, and then there might be chance to become a Customer Service Consultant,” she says. “There are lots of opportunities for progression with Darlington Building Society.”

Lisa Sidgwick, manager of Darlington Building Society’s Redcar branch, said: “We are thrilled by the success of the apprenticeships that the Society started last year, in partnership with Middlesbrough College.

“Our eight new apprentices are all working in customer care roles, and Keely is a great example of someone who has quickly taken her training on board. She is friendly, engaging and flexible, and is displaying the kind of commitment to our members that we expect from our staff.

“It has been a joy to see her grow in confidence and I have no doubt she will continue to be a valuable part of our team.”