College learner turns up the pressure on the competition at national awards

The race to be named the UK’s top plumbing apprentice is heating up for a local college learner.

Fresh from a victory at the regional heats, 19-year-old Lewis Blakely, from Caerphilly, is set to face rivals from across the country at the grand finals of the HIP UK Heating Apprentice of the Year competition. 

A win at the regional competition held at Gower College Swansea saw the Level 3 plumbing learner from Coleg y Cymoedd’s Nantgarw campus triumph over candidates from across Wales in a series of demanding practical tasks, which would be considered challenging for seasoned professionals.

His success was made all the more special by the fact that this was Lewis’ second year to compete for the Welsh title, having narrowly missed out on a place at the national final in 2018.

Following the result at the Welsh semi-finals, Lewis Blakely said: “To be honest I’m overwhelmed. I came to last year’s competition, but it wasn’t my time. I’m absolutely chuffed to bits with the result. There were some tough challenges set at this stage but I’m glad that I was able to produce tidy results on the tasks I was given. Now I’ve got to get back to work at college, I’ll be interested to see what Lee, my tutor at the college, is going to find for me to do to prepare for the finals.” 

Lewis will now join the winners of each of the seven regional heats and the highest runner-up overall scorer at the grand finals in Cheltenham later this month. Alongside the prestige for both the winning student and winning college, over £10,000 worth of tools and prizes are up for grabs for the winner.

Lee Perry, plumbing lecturer at Coleg y Cymoedd: “We’ve got a good track record at these awards, Lewis is our fifth learner in the last six years to make it up to Cheltenham for the finals. It’s really pleasing to see that track record continue.”

As a Level 3 student and apprentice, Lewis’ time is split between college-based learning at Coleg y Cymoedd and his apprenticeship with Aberdare-based plumbing and heating service, Darranlas.

Another of Lewis’ lecturers at Coleg y Cymoedd, Dean Perry, said: “We were really proud to see what Lewis was able to produce at the heats, he did a fantastic job and we know he’s going to put the work in to prepare for the next stage. We’re looking forward to seeing what he’ll do at the UK finals.”

With places to enter the competition limited to one student per campus, Lewis faced strong rivals from within Coleg y Cymoedd to secure his spot at the Welsh stages. Currently, the college trains over 200 plumbing learners at its four campuses in Nantgarw, Aberdare, Rhondda and Ystrad Mynach.