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International awards in the pipeline for Blackwood plumbing apprentice

Coleg y Cymoedd plumbing and heating apprentice Ruben Duggan

An award-winning young plumber from Blackwood is set to head to Poland this September to represent the UK in a renowned international competition where he’ll compete against national teams from over 32 countries.

21-year-old Coleg y Cymoedd apprentice, Ruben Duggan, has been selected to compete in the plumbing category of the upcoming EuroSkills 2023 competition, which will take place in Gdańsk, Poland, on 5th September.

Now in its eighth year, EuroSkills is the biggest vocational education and skills contest in Europe. Held every two years, the competition sees hundreds of young people, under the age of 25, from across the continent compete for the chance to become the best in Europe in their chosen skill. 43 skills are covered at the event, which are grouped into six industry sectors including manufacturing, construction, IT, and the service industry.

Ruben, who is the only person representing the UK for the plumbing category, will compete in a range of challenges over two days.  Determined to win, he has spent the last six months preparing for the competition, travelling to Northern Ireland every month to train alongside the second member of the UK longsquad and his mentor, who are both based in Newry, as well as spending a full week in Grohe’s Training Academy in Lahr, Germany, to learn about the specific European standard equipment he’ll be using during the competition.

Following his success making the team, Ruben has also been selected to be a part of UK longsquad for the global WorldSkills, otherwise known as the ‘skills Olympics’, taking place in Lyon next year, where he will have the opportunity to compete against national teams from over 80 countries.

The talented tradesman, who is in the final year of a level 3 plumbing and heating apprentice at Coleg y Cymoedd, is no stranger to competitive environments, having been involved in multiple competitions during his time at college including the 2022 HIP Apprentice of the Year competition, where he came first place.

“I’m really chuffed to be representing the UK in my trade at this year’s EuroSkills. Not only is the chance to compete in an amazing competition itself, but so is all the travelling I’ve been able to do as a result of being involved in this competition. I’ve loved visiting Northern Ireland and Germany and I’m really excited to see Gdańsk as I’ve never been to Poland before.

“Competing in EuroSkills is a huge string to my bow. Of course, I’d love to get the gold but even to get a medallion of excellence would be a huge win for me. If I also make it to the team for WorkSkills next year and end up going to Lyon, that will just be the cherry on top of an already awesome experience, both personally and professionally!”

Back in May, contestants in the plumbing category were provided with a drawing of the room where they will need to carry out a selection of different plumbing and heating challenges, such as fitting boilers, sinks, radiators, and showers. On the first day of the competition, 30% of the original drawing plan will be changed, leaving Ruben to lean on his own knowledge and skills to finish the tasks.

Coming from a family of plumbers, with his father owning a Caerphilly based plumbing and heating business, Powerserv LTD, Ruben always knew he wanted to work in the industry.

After finishing his GCSEs, Ruben started working for Poweserv and applied for an apprenticeship at Coleg y Cymoedd’s Ystrad Mynach Campus. Despite being held back an extra year due to the pandemic, Ruben has gone from strength to strength during his time at college and his success in competitions has helped him to make a name for himself in the industry.

Ruben added: “Ever since I was a young teenager, I’ve been interested in plumbing. I’d work with my dad during the school holidays and loved doing thar. I really enjoy being hands on and fixing problems. To me, plumbing is like solving a puzzle – it’s so satisfying when you work it out!

“Studying an apprenticeship at college has been brilliant. It’s helped me to hone my craft as I have not only learnt from really talented and experienced tutors, but I’ve also gained great experience from all the amazing competitions they’ve encouraged me to enter. Taking part in them as allowed me to meet so many people in the industry and the tasks in the competitions have really developed my skills.”