The knowledge and expertise of former Middlesbrough College students has helped a Teesside branch of Thomas Cook take a national title.

The store at Teesside Retail Park won the accolade of branch of the year after a visit by a mystery shopper showed the staff to be miles better!

Four former students work at the travel centre including 19-year-old Sophie Bower -a modern apprentice – who achieved a remarkable 97 per cent mark from the incognito visitor.

“I was really pleased to get such a high mark – I just followed the training- and obviously it works.

“I haven’t been able to travel much myself yet – I went to London and Paris when I was at college but I’m really looking forward to the opportunities working here presents. I’d love to go to New York one day.”

Kerry Dixon co-ordinator for level 3 Travel and Aviation at Middlesbrough College was on hand to congratulate the team.

She explained the College has had a long-term and very successful relationship with Thomas Cook with many students going on to work in travel centres and for its airline.

Other employees who are also former students are Megan Rennison, 20, a former aviation student who has worked at Thomas Cook for one and a half years; Jenny Himsworth, 29, who has been there for seven years and Emma Kirby, 28, a former travel student with ten years at the firm.

Emma, who lives in Marton, said: “I really enjoy working here and sharing in people’s excitement about planning and booking their trips and adventures.”

Sue Nelson, store manager, said: “Over the years we have built up a great relationship with the college. We know that when we get students they will be of a high calibre, have a good work ethic, an understanding of the industry and great customer service skills.”