Hayley Phenix, 19, has made it through to the final of the UK Copper Board National Apprentice Plumber of the Year competition.

Ms Phenix is learning her trade in her father's plumbing business while training with City College Norwich. She is the first female to win a regional heat and make it into the national final in the six years the competition has been running.

Ms Phenix, from Happisburgh, earned her place in the final after coming out on top in the Midlands Regional Heat, which was held at Burton & South Derbyshire College on Thursday 6 February.

The apprentices were up against the clock, with just four hours in which to install a shower and a boiler rig and pipe it up to a gas main. Despite finishing the brief with time to spare, Ms Phenix was shocked when the judges announced her name as the winner.

"I felt like I'd done my best in the competition, but I didn't expect at all to win,” she said. “I was in total shock."

She continued: "I started doing A levels, but I realised that it was not really what I wanted to do, so I decided to look for work instead. But I couldn't find a job and so I went to work with my Dad, who is a self-employed plumber, for a week. I found that I enjoyed it and so I carried on."

That was three years ago, and Ms Phenix has continued to work alongside her father in his business, AMP Plumbing, while attending college one day a week. Having completed her Level 2 apprenticeship, she is now working towards the Level 3 apprenticeship in Plumbing and Heating.

"A lot of people are surprised when they see me, and once they get past their surprise they then wonder if I am any good,” said Ms Phenix. “As I am normally the only girl, I feel I've got to prove myself that bit more."

Corrienne Peasgood, principal of City College Norwich, is herself a former plumbing apprentice. She said: "Hayley is a girl after my own heart and I, along with her plumbing lecturers, am delighted for her on this fantastic achievement. We're very proud to have the first ever female apprentice in the final of this competition and wish Hayley every success as she takes her place alongside some of the best plumbing apprentices in the country."

The two-day final will take place at Adey Conference and Training Centre, Gloucester Road, Cheltenham GL51 8NR on 30 April and 1 May 2014.