The number of junior reporters applying to sit the NCTJ National Certificate Examination fell to its lowest number for several years last month, raising concerns about recruitment in the regional newspaper industry.
The NCTJ awarded NCE certificates to 74 trainee reporters of the 117 candidates that sat exams last month.
Awarding body, the NCTJ, said the particularly low level of applications had led its chief examiner Steve Nelson note the impact the recession has had on recruitment in the industry.
Despite the low number of applications for the professional training exam, the pass rate of 63 per cent was the highest since July 2008.
'Overall, this was a very encouraging set of results, in difficult times when training resources may have come under pressure in many newspaper offices,'Nelson said.
Mary Hamilton, a reporter for the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News, was award with the NCTJ's Ted Bottomley Award, sponsored by Midland News Association, after scoring 90 per cent on her newspaper practice exam.
Kimberly Middleton, a reporter for West Briton, scooped both the Esso Award - for gaining the highest mark in the news report exam - and the Newsquest Award for having the highest standard logbook.
Middleton said: 'It was unbelievable to win two awards. I didn't expect it at all, not in my wildest dreams. I'm thrilled to pass all four exams first time."
The Society of Editors' Award for the news interview went to Stephanie Steward of the Tameside Reporter.
The winners will receive a £250 prize for victories in each category.
The NCTJ also detailed the results of its second NCE for sports reporters, where two further trainee reporters achieve senior status in the new qualification.
Benjamin Pearce, a reporter for the Hampstead & Highgate Express, and Mark Williams of the Bury Free Press passed all four sections of the exam: sports interview; sports report; newspaper practice for sports reporters; and sports logbook.