Alison Farrell is a Graduate Apprentice at Star Refrigeration. She joined the company in September 2018 as a Contracts Trainee and hopes to become a fully chartered Project Manager.
In my 5th year at school, I achieved 5 highers (Maths, English, French, Art & Design, Graphic Communication). Struggling with maths – and only achieving a C I knew that I would not have the qualifications to study Engineering at University. In my 6th year I studied Advanced Higher Art and Higher Design and Manufacture but felt that I had exhausted all of the technical subjects that school could offer. I then requested to attend Ayrshire College day release during my final year of school, to study Level 5 Performing Engineering Operations.
During my 6th year I've done a lot of research into Graduate Level Apprenticeships. I knew that I wanted to work and gain my degree at the same time, but didn’t know whether this was possible so after discussing this with my school Careers Advisor – she told me that this did exist but was very rare and new. I then attended Apprenticeship events that I had found online and asked various companies about their Graduate Level Apprenticeship opportunities. Unfortunately, due to the lack of industry awareness of this type of programme, I was told that it was not possible.
At the same time as this, I applied for university through the UCAS procedure at school. I applied for Construction Project Management at various universities as a backup plan, but knew that I really wanted to do the Graduate Level Apprenticeship. I also applied to do an HNC in Mechanical Engineering at Ayrshire College to keep my options open.
After continually contacting companies and being turned down – Star Refrigeration offered me an interview and I was successful. They gave me a chance to show my enthusiasm and drive to succeed rather than seeing my grades and immediately turning me down.
What is your current job title?
What attracted you to the refrigeration industry and to Star Refrigeration in particular?
I felt that while attending Apprenticeship events, there was very little advertisement for apprenticeships in the ACR industry. My mum works as a Renewable Energy Officer and knew of Star’s Renewable side of the business – therefore suggested that it may be worth contacting them.
Describe your apprenticeship/training progress with Star?
I attend university one day a week studying “BEng Mechanical Engineering: Design and Manufacture” at Glasgow Caledonian University in a small class of 10 other apprentices from various companies. The rest of my week is spent learning the fundamentals of Star Refrigeration and completing a weekly logbook to reflect one activity that I have done that week.
What is your long term career goal?
My long term goal is to become a fully chartered Project Manager, although there are so many opportunities within Star that I can’t be sure what I will end up doing.
What do you enjoy most about your job, and what are the biggest challenges you face?
My job can be challenging as I have very little knowledge of the engineering industry or Star Refrigeration, therefore feel that I continually ask my colleagues to explain concepts to me. Although the highlight is that all of my colleagues are keen to share their knowledge and experience with me and I feel that this is the most valuable part of the whole Graduate Level Apprenticeship programme.
How long have you been working for Star? What do you like about working for the company?
I have been working for Star for around 6 months and feel that I have been welcomed into the company with open arms. I appreciate this as it can be particularly daunting to leave school and almost immediately be in full time employment and university.
What excites/interests you about the industry?
The ACR industry interests me as I feel that it is often overlooked although is essential to our daily lives. The engineering industry as a whole is continually evolving and improving which I find fascinating and am truly in awe of the level of engineering that affects us daily.
What advice would you give to young people who are just starting a similar career path to yours?
If you have an idea of a future career in mind – be persistent and don’t let being told “no” put you off.
Alison Farrell - Graduate Apprentice