A NEWTON Aycliffe apprentice was among the finalists in a national business competition.

Lauren Brown, a receptionist and administrator at Reach Out Care Fostering Services, made it to final of the 19 to 23 age category of Business Impact UK Apprentice of the Year competition.

Miss Brown, 20, said she was thrilled to have made it to the finals, adding: “I was 18 when I joined Reach Out Care and I was really shy. I hadn’t enjoyed school and kept missing lessons.

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“The company arranged for me to study for my NVQ Level 3 in business administration, which I passed, and I’m now doing my Level 3 in customer service.

“I actually enjoy learning now that I’m not at school.”

Business Impact UK, an apprenticeships and training provider, runs an Apprentice of the Year competition to celebrate the achievements of young apprentices across the country.

Dot Butler, director of Reach Out Care, said the team was very proud of Miss Brown.

“Lauren is a real asset to our organisation,” said Mrs Butler.

“We’ve watched her grow in self confidence and skills over the past year or so.

She’s great at thinking outside of the box and really makes a positive contribution to the team.

“She’s also a great advert for the benefits of apprenticeships.”

Reach Out Care Fostering Services is rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted and holds Investors in People Gold and Investing in Children accreditations.