A talented Gateshead student has been named as the region’s top plumbing apprentice.
Jill Cormack scooped the accolade in the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) regional awards – becoming the first female plumber to do so in the institute’s 101-year history.
The award caps a remarkable journey for the former call centre worker, who last year enrolled on a four-year advanced plumbing and heating and gas apprenticeship at Gateshead College to pursue her dream career in the industry.
The 27-year-old is employed by Gateshead Council and in her day job carries out installations in properties in the council’s housing stock.
She also spends one day a week developing her skills at Gateshead College, which was recently named Best Plumbing College in the North East by the CIPHE.
She said: “I’m thrilled to have won the award and been recognised by such a well-respected national organisation. I always wanted to train as a plumber and when the opportunity arose at Gateshead College I jumped at the chance.
“My apprenticeship has enabled me to gain specific industry knowledge of the latest plumbing techniques and technologies, as well as transferable skills such as the ability to work as part of an effective team and deal with difficult customers. I’m thoroughly enjoying it and I’m living proof that it’s never too late to retrain and develop new skills.”
Ms Cormack worked in a variety of administration and customer services roles for EDF Energy, Gateshead Housing Company and two other North East property maintenance firms before securing a position with her current employer.
Victoria Beattie, service director, construction for Gateshead Council, said: “Jill really deserves this award for her commitment, dedication and ability. She hit the ground running as soon as she joined us and has added genuine value to this organisation.
“Apprenticeships are a great way of developing the next generation of industry talent and preventing a skills shortage when older workers retire. Fortunately Gateshead College understands the needs of specific sectors and provides local employers with the skills they require.”
The plumbing apprenticeship is one of a wide range of vocational training options provided by Gateshead College, with others including creative industries, business and administration, hairdressing and hospitality and catering.
Judith Doyle, principal and chief executive at Gateshead College, said: “Jill is a talented student and it’s fantastic that her hard work has been recognised by the CIPHE.
“She is one of many beneficiaries of our apprenticeship programmes which allow people to earn a wage whilst learning vital industry skills.
“We help local employers protect and grow their business by providing them with a pool of job-ready talent. These skills are vital for the continued resurgence of the North East economy.”