Chris Druce first joined Star Refrigeration as an industrial refrigeration apprentice over a decade ago, and has progressed rapidly through his career trajectory. Last month, Chris was presented with The Kenneth Lightfoot Medal award at the IOR Annual Dinner. But this was not his first recognition from the Institute of Refrigeration; he also picked up the IOR’s Ted Perry award for his student research while completing his degree with Star.
The photo shows Chris Druce receiving the Ted Perry Award from IOR’s Past President Steve Gill
What attracted you to the refrigeration industry?
I left school at 18 having completed GSCE's and A-Levels. I was then lucky enough to be offered the opportunity of applying for an apprenticeship with Star.
I was initially attracted to the company based upon the feedback and recommendation that I had been given from the father of a friend who was a refrigeration engineer and was passionate about refrigeration. He said that refrigeration shapes the world we live in - from the internet, to ice cream, to medicines and beer!
Describe your apprenticeship/training progress with Star?
I completed a three year apprenticeship with Star and I was awarded NVQ Level 2 and 3 qualifications while gaining practical experience with engineers on sites.
Star have supported my desire to continue education where I completed my FDEng in Building Services Engineering in 2013 and then topped this up to a BEng (Hons) degree this year in 2016.
How did you progress to your current role?
Upon completion of my apprenticeship I moved into a Service Engineering position at the Oxford Branch. I was encouraged to apply for the role of Service Manager. It was a long term ambition, however, I felt confident and re-assured that it would be a good opportunity.
Now being in a position where I manage a team of service engineers and apprentices, the most notable changes are the level of responsibility and customer relations.
How does your role benefit your customers?
Having served time as a service engineer has benefitted me greatly as a service manager. I find that my technical understanding and practical knowledge are of a good standard which allows me to assist engineers and help with fault diagnosis.
What do you enjoy most about your job, and what are the biggest challenges you face?
I enjoy the organisational and motivational aspects of the role and working within a team. I find having the ability of coordinating the resolution of a customer's system problem very rewarding. I currently find the biggest challenge to be managing the workload and demands of our customers along with expanding our current maintenance profile.
What are your greatest achievements?
I was very proud of receiving the RAC National Student of the Year Award in 2010. More recently at the awards evening upon the completion of my BEng (Hons) degree course I was awarded "Best Research Project" and "Best Overall Project"- a rather large trophy which I then had to carry home on the tube!.
I was especially proud to discover that the hard work paid off when I was awarded a First Class Honours Degree within the Building Services discipline when I got my results earlier this year.
What do you like about working for Star?
I have been working for Star for 11 years in total and I have mostly enjoyed working for a company that is fully supportive of your development, both as an individual and a professional. I have enjoyed working as part of a team and consider myself lucky to be surrounded by kind, supportive people.
Where do you see your role progressing?
At present I am currently happy working within an Operations based role and feel I have a lot of skills that can be improved within the current role. I will have to see where the future takes me.
What excites/interests you about the industry?
The introduction of the F-Gas Regulation has brought new challenges. As the industry moves towards the use of low GWP and natural refrigerants, I feel Star is in a strong position to capitalise on this shift.
Are you a member of any professional body?
I have just completed my third year membership with the IOR where I have enjoyed having access to a wide range of interesting publications in addition to a wide network of industry professionals.
What do you know now about the industry which you wished you had known before?
As experience and technical understanding is gained it becomes less intimidating to deal with certain situations. I would like to tell my younger self not to stress so much about pressured situations and that it all works out for the best in the end.
What advice would you give to young people who are just starting a similar career path to yours?
Study, Study, Study. Once you have a sound understanding of refrigeration and thermodynamic principles, the career progression and opportunities are endless. We are lucky to be working in a very exciting industry with such a variety of experiences and careers.
Chris Druce - Service Manager