Mayor Ben Houchen has met a Tees Valley travel agent whose career has taken off to mark this year’s National Apprenticeship Week.

After leaving Darlington’s Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, 24-year-old Jade Evers joined Thomas Cook as an apprentice in September 2013, which she completed in 2015 and has since progressed her career to become a Store Manager.

After her apprenticeship, Jade secured a Customer Service Manager position at Thomas Cook’s Metrocentre store in 2017, and was promoted to her first Store Manager role in Redcar in June 2018. She became Store Manager at Thomas Cook’s Darlington Morrison’s store on North Road last month.

During the visit the Mayor took the opportunity to highlight his 10 Year Rescue Plan for Durham Tees Valley Airport, and confirmed it would be returning to public ownership later this month.

The Mayor also took the opportunity to call for the region’s businesses to do more to create and back apprenticeships like Jade’s, highlighting the grant support available from the Tees Valley Combined Authority.

The Authority’s Apprenticeship Support for Employers scheme offers grants to employers for taking on apprentices. Companies in defined priority sectors, such as engineering, construction, advanced manufacturing and chemical processing, could benefit from up to £4,000 per apprentice.

Mayor Houchen said: “I’ve long said that university isn’t the only route to a rewarding job, and Jade is a fantastic example of that, and an inspiration for apprentices everywhere. Through her talent, determination and dedication, Jade has succeeded in carving out a great career which has just gone from strength to strength.

“We’ve already helped local businesses to the tune of £2.3million which, in turn, has supported the creation of more than 1,100 apprentices in the region. By throwing our weight behind priority sectors that we know will grow in the coming years, we’re giving young people the skills they need to secure fantastic job opportunities.

“I’d ask all eligible Tees Valley businesses to take advantage of our grant support and invest in our future by employing inspirational apprentices like Jade.”

Jade said: “After completing my A levels, which included travel and tourism, I was considering university until my careers advisors at college suggested an Apprenticeship with Thomas Cook.

“The company and my Mentor, Assessor and Managers have all been very supportive to help me get to where I am today. My training was tailored so that I could do my job to the best of my ability, as well as taking management training courses and going on educational trips to places like Morocco.

“Starting as an Apprentice has given me real-life experience working in town and cities across the North-East to help me progress my career. When the vacancy at Darlington Morrison’s came up, I knew I wanted the job, and I am excited about the future.”

The visit also came as a new TeesValleyCareers.com website was launched by the Tees Valley Mayor to support the £3million UK-first initiative which aims to engage the region’s 100,000 young people with more than 1,000 businesses and improve careers education.