A DARLINGTON-BASED housing association is celebrating helping the first apprentices in its 93-year history gain full-time employment.

And Railway Housing Association is hoping to make it three in a row after taking on its latest apprentice, Lauren Butcher.

In 2010, Railway Housing Association took on two apprentices, Hayley Hanselaar and Charlotte Wallace. The pair spent two years gaining on-the-job experience as a receptionist and maintenance clerk respectively, whilst also studying for National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) in Business Administration.

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They both achieved NVQs (Charlotte to Level 3 and Hayley to Level 2) and have now moved to on full-time employment, Charlotte remaining with the Association as Maintenance Assistant and Hayley to a local recruitment agency. An NVQ Level 3 is equivalent to two or more A-Levels and a Level 2 is equivalent to five GCSEs.

The Association’s newest recruit, 16-year-old Lauren joined in October and is working as a receptionist at its Bank Top House head office in Darlington.

Lauren, who lives in the Neasham Road area of Darlington and attended the Education Village in Haughton, is undertaking an NVQ Level 2 in Administration, which includes modules covering all aspects of working in a busy office, such as customer service and IT.

She said: “I am really enjoying the job; the people I work with are really nice and it is a fantastic environment to be in.

“I am hoping to gain as much experience as possible and learn the skills I need to make this a full-time career.”

Anne Rowlands, Railway Housing Association chief executive, said: “We were absolutely delighted with the progress Hayley and Charlotte made and very proud that the work experience we were able to give them has led to full-time employment for them both.

“They have proven how beneficial apprenticeships can be and we are now hoping Lauren will follow in their footsteps. She has certainly already made a good first impression on everyone.”