Student Martin McLaughlin, winner of the Apprentice Category in Northern Ireland 2015, began by flying to London for the National Master Builder Awards.  But he didn’t stop there, and the Master Builder Award got him started on a journey that led all the way to Brazil.

Martin, a floor and wall tiler who had worked for his local council for two years, became a member of the UK squad in the 2015 World Skills competition in Sao Paulo – a kind of trade and skills Olympics.

And all because of his FMB nomination and prize which, he says, has proved life-changing.

Now 20, Martin said: “It was fantastic; I really, really enjoyed it!”

The young tiler from Limavady, Co Londonderry, was nominated as Apprentice of the Year by the human resources department of Limavady Borough Council, who had been impressed by his aptitude, attitude and hard work.

He had been on a placement with the council as part of his course at Limavady’s North West Regional College. “I was doing various bits and pieces through the college,” he explained. “I was doing a placement which included floor and wall tiling, and giving fellas a hand with roofs as well.”

Following his FMB win, Martin and a fellow student from the college joined five other nominees from Northern Ireland to take part in the 2015 WorldSkills competition, the 43rd such event, staged in Anhembi Parque, Sao Paulo, Brazil in August 2015.

Held every two years, WorldSkills includes students from 75 countries competing against each other to demonstrate their skills and talents in a host of trades.   

“I was in the wall and floor tiling section against people from 23 other countries, and I managed to get a gold medal achievement,” he said, although he just missed out on the two top awards, which went to young tilers from Brazil and France.

“I was in Brazil for a total of two weeks; we first went to London for the presentation, then got a big send-off to Brazil. In all there were four days of competition, and we were all really under time pressure then.

“We also had a day to go to a school in Brazil, and we had a couple of free days off as well. It was a wonderful experience.”

Martin feels that his regional Apprentice of the Year prize has given his career a major boost, and he believes others can also benefit if they are successful in the competition.

The deadline for the next batch of Master Builder Awards is the end of January 2017, so download the nomination form.  Who knows? This time next year you could be sipping caipirinhas on Copacabana beach.