Star Refrigeration’s Lyell Perks was crowned National Student of the Year at the RAC Cooling Industry Awards 2014. Lyell began his journey with Star at the Oxford branch in 2011 and became a fully qualified engineer in the summer of 2015 after completing his apprenticeship. Here are Lyell’s thoughts on apprenticeships, becoming Student of the Year, working with Star, and what’s in store for his future in the industry.
Q. Congratulations on winning Student of the Year! What does the award mean to you?
A. Winning this award is a great honour. It has been a goal of mine to win it for a long time particularly having seen two previous winners from Star progress within the business.. Their achievements helped push me on to complete my apprenticeship ahead of schedule. Winning this award is a great form of recognition for all the hard work that has been put in over the past few years.
Q. What have been the highlights of your career so far?
A. The highlights would have to be winning this award, being able to complete my apprenticeship as quickly as I have, and being given the opportunities to work on such a variety of refrigeration systems Star have designed, installed and maintained over the years in order to expand my knowledge.
Q. What advice would you give to other young apprentices who are just getting started in the refrigeration industry?
A. I think the best advice I was given was to practice the basics. Learn how to read drawings and understand the fundamentals of refrigeration – the rest will then fall into place. With the right attitude and this understanding of what you are working on, anything is possible.
Q. What kind of training have you received with Star?
A. I joined the company in July 2011 as an apprentice and have been on block release to Grimsby during that time, completing NVQ Level 2 & 3 in Refrigeration Systems. Also, I completed many other training courses including ammonia handling, essential electrics, industrial brazing, manual handling and first aid. There were also many in house training courses throughout my apprenticeship.
The majority of the training I’ve received has been site based with senior engineers. I have been supported by the branch and Operations Training Manager during my apprenticeship and successfully completed it in July 2014
I am now a fully qualified engineer currently working as a service and maintenance engineer for the Oxford branch office.
Q. What attracted you to the industry, and Star in particular?
A. My father and brother both work in the industry and find their jobs to be enjoyable and rewarding. I chose Star because my brother Aiden has been working happily with them for many years.
Q. What is the most interesting element about working in the refrigeration industry for you?
A. I really enjoy the amount of exposure to different challenges and customers sites I receive on a daily basis, whether they are small chillers or large industrial sites.
Q. What challenges do you face at work?
A. I think the biggest challenges are understanding the systems/plants and ensuring I am following the correct working procedures when working on refrigeration systems as I need to be able to operate them accurately from a technical and safety perspective. This means gaining an understanding into how they operate mechanically, electrically and from a controls prospective (i.e. Telstar, PLC etc.). To help with this I attended training courses on different types of systems, new products and components and this helps to increase my knowledge and add to my continued development within the refrigeration industry. I also need to understand company procedures for carrying out different aspects of my job.
All engineers have a tablet with copies of the company’s working procedures and specifications which help when on site, particularly if working on your own. I am also in close contact with my mentor, other engineers and supervisor or manager back in the office to get advice when required.
Now I’m a qualified engineer, I am on the branch’s standby rota for call outs in the evenings and over weekends. Initially, there is an engineer shadowing me so that if I require assistance, say during the night or at weekends, I can contact him and if necessary request him to attend site to assist.
Monthly health and safety meetings and toolbox talks keep me up to date with existing and new working practices and policies. They also provide an opportunity to learn more about new sites and their systems from the branch team and my engineering colleagues.
Q. What are your plans for the future? Where do you see your career developing?
A. I am hoping to continue my studies with a foundation degree in building services at London Southbank to further my engineering knowledge. I’m hoping to apply what I learn at University to further myself as an engineer at Star and become involved in more technically challenging roles, including commissioning work.