It was all systems go for King’s Lynn-based apprentice plumber Billy Smith during an action-packed four-week study trip to Finland organised by the College of West Anglia (CWA).
The 22-year-old, who works for local housing regeneration specialist Lovell in King’s Lynn, learned new skills at a local college and during a work placement with a Finnish plumbing firm. He was one of six CWA students taking part in the exchange visit. Trainee plumber Billy is part of the Lovell team working on the large-scale housing regeneration programme which the firm is carrying out for Freebridge Community Housing at Hillington Square.
For his month-long trip abroad, Billy was based in the town of Kouvola in south-east Finland, around 80 miles from Helskini. He spent the first week of his trip at college, working alongside Finnish plumbing students gaining experience of pipe-fitting using a different system and completing a day in the college’s welding workshop. He also tackled a challenging project creating a ventilation duct using bending and moulding machines and spot welding.
Billy then spent two-and-a-half weeks on placement with Finnish firm R A Wickholm working alongside one of the company’s plumbers, helping with tasks such as installing bathrooms in a block of flats and fixing a range of plumbing problems in homes and businesses. He also spent time socialising with the Finnish students and hiking in one of Finland’s national parks.
“I found the welding particularly interesting and satisfying as it’s not something we do a lot of here and I also liked the ventilation work,” says Billy. “Overall it was a really good life experience, and I enjoyed working with so many different people – and in a different language! We had some basic phrases to start us off and I picked up some of the language while I was there,” says Billy. “Kouvola is a nice place, laidback and small and I made some good friends.”
Billy is now in the third year of his four-year apprenticeship with Lovell, and is mainly based on the Hillington Square project. He studies part-time at the College of West Anglia and expects to finish his advanced NVQ Level 3 plumbing qualification next summer.
Lovell construction manager Michael Saunders says: “The Finnish trip was a valuable opportunity for Billy helping him broaden his practical skills and learn new ways of working. He really made the most of his time and has gained hugely from the experience.”
Dermott Brennan, programme manager for Construction at the College of West Anglia says: “Billy has worked diligently in the workshops, he has always a very positive attitude towards his work and gets on with everybody. He is a real pleasure to teach.
“Students are encouraged to partake in trips and events that enhance their learning and life experience and boost their chance of employability. This Finland visit is one of many overseas trips that has taken place over the last academic year.”