Drew Thornton trained as an industrial refrigeration engineer at Star Refrigeration in ScotlandDrew Thornton

Drew Thornton


Drew Thornton has achieved top competence level for an industrial refrigeration engineer after following Star’s Refrigeration training programme. As a fully qualified ST5 engineer, Drew is utilising his exhaustive knowledge & experience to serve customers and train new apprentices.

 Education background?

Standard secondary school education. After leaving school, I got a job with an electrical contractor via the YTS (Youth Training Scheme in the 80’s).

What is your current job title?

Senior engineer (ST5) working for operations in Derby, I also hold Lead Commissioning status with contracts.

How did you start working for Star?

I used to commission and calibrate the gas detection systems that Star used and became really interested in industrial refrigeration engineering. I was talking to an engineer on a site about wanting to join Star as they had a great reputation within the industry and gave him my details. A few days later I was contacted by Star’s service manager at the Derby branch and asked to come in for a meeting. I was offered the job and joined the Derby branch in August 1998.

What attracted you to the refrigeration industry and to Star in particular?

I love engineering in general and after talking to my fellow colleagues when I joined, I realised that most people back then just drifted into refrigeration, rather than setting out to be a refrigeration engineer. Back then, information about the important role refrigeration and heating engineering play in our lives was not readily available.

In my previous job I used to service gas detection systems for other refrigeration contractors. Whenever I mentioned I was joining Star, they would say things like; “Let Star train you, then give us a call!”. I knew I was making the right choice and that I would reap the benefits of being trained by an industry leader with a great reputation for developing young people. Star told me that if I worked hard, they would train me and provide me with opportunities for career progression.

Describe your apprenticeship/training progress with Star?

I was placed on lots of different training courses. I was also mentored by an experienced engineer who would provide on the job training. After just 3 months, I was given the extraordinary chance of helping with the installing and commissioning of a branch contract (several DX R404a plants).

Did you do any further studying after your initial apprenticeship/qualification?

I studied all the learning material Star provide through their online eLearning system and also bought several books to increase my knowledge. Mainly, It’s all on the job training.

What role did you move into once your apprenticeship/training was completed?

After my training was completed I became a fully qualified refrigeration service and maintenance field engineer at level ST1. It would take me several years of training and on-site experience to become a ST5 engineer, the highest refrigeration engineering grade at Star Refrigeration.

How did you progress into your current role? Has this particular career progression been a long term goal?

My role hasn’t changed; I’m still a field engineer, I just use my knowledge and experience to train other engineers and apprentices. I have no interest in changing my role at present, I love getting my hands dirty and solving issues.

 How does your role benefit your customers?

I’m very aware of the fact that I represent Star Refrigeration when onsite, so I must be professional at all times. I have gained the respect and trust of several customers, who often request I am assigned to their sites.  Customers will also ring me direct with issues and questions about their plants. But, I’m afraid that I cannot say that I am unique in this aspect as many of my colleagues experience the same levels of trust. I guess this is just the result of so many years of training. Star not only invests on developing our technical skills, we all follow Star’s ethos. One of the company’s main values is ‘Better for Customers’ and this can only be achieved if we make things better for them which overtime builds trust.

What do you enjoy most about your job, and what are the biggest challenges you face?

Fault finding and sorting issues out. The biggest challenge I currently face is the training of new apprentices and engineers as a lot of work goes into ensuring they get the best possible training to become the best they can be.

What are your greatest achievements?

Gaining ST5 status (and Lead commissioning status at ST3); especially as there were only a few ST5’s in the company when the ST grading was first introduced.

How long have you been working for Star? What do you like about working for the company?

I started in 1998, but left for a year to pursue my motorsport dreams. August 2019 will mark my 15th year back at Star, but I’ve got almost 20 years in total working for the company. At Star you’re not just a number, management knows everyone. There’s no need to struggle with anything, there’s always someone you can ring for advice and help.

Where do you see your role progressing?

At the moment, I enjoy being on the tools and I know that Star will help provide answers in the future if I ever decide to move to a desk based or support type of role.  

What excites/interests you about the industry?

New developments in low carbon and lifecycle cost technology.  We are at the forefront of these with our award winning products such as the Azanechiller 2.0.

What advice would you give to young people who are just starting a similar career path to yours?

Put your phone away – a big problem now (when did I get old?). Pay attention, work hard and you’ll go far. Nothing is free, put the work in and reap the rewards.