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Turriff plumber, 22, to fight for world plumbing title in Germany

L-R Connor Cruden and Garry Cowie. Supplied by Blueprint media
L-R Connor Cruden and Garry Cowie. Supplied by Blueprint media

A Turriff-based plumber with “exceptional talent” is hoping to become flushed with success and land the title of world’s best.

Connor Cruden, who works for Cowie Plumbing & Heating, will travel to Germany to take part in the WorldSkills Plumbing final.

The 22-year-old former Gordon Schools pupil will be up against 20 other finalists from across the globe and represent the UK.

Test his skills

Mr Cruden, who grew up in Huntly and completed his four-year apprenticeship in 2020, secured his place in the final having originally come top in 2019 at the SkillPlumb UK finals held in Birmingham.

It was then he got asked if he was interested in representing the UK in the WorldSkills final competition.

Mr Cruden at work. Image: Connor Cruden

For the next two years, he competed against Huntly-based plumber Samuel Henderson to be selected for team UK.

Training complete and ready to compete

When Mr Cruden left school he was originally working on the family farm but realised it wasn’t the career path for him.

He said: “I fancied a change so I phoned Moray College to see if there was any local companies hiring and I got the name of a builder and did a three-day trial run in plumbing.

“I’ve never looked back since.”

Mr Cruden said he’s feeling competition nerves but he’s ready for the challenge.

“I’ve got a nervous excitement. I’m looking forward to it as it’s been a long time coming and a long process.

Mr Cruden doing some training. Image: Connor Cruden

“I have been going backwards and forwards to Newry in Northern Ireland to see my coach Ronnie Ferris, doing practices of installation and working to the competition rules.

“I am excited by going to Germany to test my abilities against others and feel ready to go for it.”

As part of his training, Mr Cruden has also been across to Switzerland where he took part in an international pressure test and won first place against competition from Germany, Lichtenstein and Switzerland.

What is the plumbing championship?

Under close inspection and scoring by industry experts, competing apprentices are given previously unseen detailed drawings from which they must devise practical plumbing solutions.

The piece of work they then produce, typically air-tight or water-tight, must be accurate to the most demanding tolerances.

As to the judging, there will be gold, silver and bronze medals up for grabs as well as medals of excellence for those who record high scores in the plumbing challenge.

The event was last held in Kazan in 2019 with Woo-Eui Jo of Korea taking home the gold medal.

Image: Connor Cruden

The silver medal was awarded to Yingzheng Yang of China, while Patrick Keating of Australia and Patrick Grepper of Switzerland shared the bronze medal.

The competitions will take place in the training centre Technicom of plumbing fixtures manufacturer Grohe AG.

It will include competitors from Austria, Canada, Hungary, Japan, Mongolia, South Africa and Switzerland.

The last time the UK picked up a gold medal was in 2015 when Gary Doyle competed in Sao Paulo.

“We don’t know what we’ll have to do because it’s a blind project,” he explained.

“We know there’ll be a 45-minute period for fault finding and an hour-and-a-half speed test.

“That’s all we’ve been told. We find out on the morning of the competition.”

‘Exceptional talent’

Travelling to the event with Mr Cruden will be his parents Iain and Fiona, instructor Jim MacKinnon from Moray College, and his employer Garry Cowie.

Mr Cowie said: “It was clear from the outset that Connor was an exceptional talent, able to absorb complex issues both rapidly and accurately.

“We were all very proud of his achievement in coming top in the 2019 SkillPlumb UK finals and will be cheering him on all the way next month in Germany.”

The Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF) training services manager Dale Thomson said: “Talents such as Connor’s are exceptional but the excellent showing of apprentices from SNIPEF members in competition with others has demonstrated consistently a real strength in depth.

“Everyone at SNIPEF will be watching closely to see how Connor fares amongst his peers and we are all hoping for a good outcome.

“Whatever happens, we know he will give it his all.”

The competition, which was originally scheduled to take place last year in Shanghai, China, has been relocated to Germany because of continuing Covid-19 restrictions.

The finals will be held in the Black Forest town of Lahr, Germany, between November 2 & 4.