A customer advisor at Newcastle Building Society’s South Shields branch is celebrating after being named one of the North East’s top apprentices.

Eryn Wood from Gateshead was recently named North East Intermediate Apprentice of the Year and is now getting ready to possibly represent the region at the national awards in December. She has worked at the branch in South Shields’ Denmark Centre since joining the Society in March 2020 after taking part in an employability programme with the Prince’s Trust.

Despite starting her apprenticeship at the start of the pandemic, the judges were impressed by Eryn’s achievements in such difficult circumstances. As well as helping colleagues provide an essential service to customers during the national lockdown, Eryn took on extra training to build her skills and gave up her own time to volunteer with the British Heart Foundation.

Eryn, 20, was also asked to become a young ambassador for the Prince’s Trust and through the Society’s partnership with Newcastle United Foundation has been able to share her experience with other young people around money management and how to enter the world of work.

The National Apprenticeship Awards 2021 showcase the diverse range of opportunities that apprenticeships can open up and celebrate the very best apprentices, employers and apprentice champions across the country.

The awards help to recognise apprentices who have made a real difference to their workplace and have used an apprenticeship to boost their career.

Eryn said: “I couldn’t believe it when I found out I’d won the award. It’s amazing to think how much I’ve done in the last 18 months and now I could be going to London for the National Apprentice Awards! I’m so proud but so grateful to everyone who has helped me and all the opportunities given to me by Newcastle Building Society and the Prince’s Trust.

“When I left school a few years ago I really didn’t know what I was going to do and I was really lacking confidence. Once I realised I wanted to work with people and found the opportunity to become a customer adviser apprentice I knew it was something I had to go for and give it everything I’ve got. Even though it was really strange starting work during the pandemic it’s been amazing and I’ve learned so much.”

Eryn’s success means that Newcastle Building Society have had North East Apprentice Award winners in each of the last three years, reflecting their commitment to helping young people at the start of their careers and drive to recruit new colleagues from diverse backgrounds.

Since the Society’s Early Talent Team launched its first apprenticeship programme in 2017, 36  people from across the region have gone on to secure permanent positions across the organisation in a range of different roles including IT, finance, customer service and HR.

As well as providing apprentices with learning opportunities and real life work experiences, the Society recognises the value and contribution of its apprentices by offering more than double the minimum pay level set by the government to its new recruits.

Eryn continued: “The award helps me realise how much I’ve grown in the last few years. One of the best things I’ve done during my apprenticeship is to help lead the money management workshops we deliver to young people through our partnership with Newcastle United Foundation. I know what it’s like to leave school with few qualifications and no idea what to do, but I also know that support and opportunity is out there if you look for it. It’s worth asking for support, because there are so many good communities and organisations prepared to give people a chance.”

Gemma Manson, early talent manager at Newcastle Building Society, said: “We’re so proud of Eryn and all our apprentices. It’s been such a strange time to start a career and they’ve all managed in difficult circumstances and without some of the face-to-face support and experience you’d normally expect during an apprenticeship.

“Eryn is an absolute superstar. She’s a great of example of someone who has faced challenges in life but found the determination and motivation to succeed. She’s taken every opportunity and really made the most of her time at the Society so far. She’s also a huge asset to the Society’s branch network and obviously a talented individual. I’m looking forward to the national awards but we can’t wait to see how she continues to develop and how she progresses at the Society.”

Regional winners will go through a second round of judging before national finalists are announced on 15 November. Finalists will then move to the national ceremony on the 1 December.

For more information on career opportunities including apprenticeships at Newcastle Building Society, visit www.newcastle.co.uk