Sam Gills is an apprentice trainee at Star Refrigeration Operations Group in Newcastle. He was named ACR Trainee of the Year 2017 and then went on to compete in the national finals of Skill Fridge at the NEC in Birmingham in 2018 where he won the bronze medal. More recently he has been awarded Student of the Year 2019 at the RAC Cooling Awards
Sam has recently finished his BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Engineering and thanks to dedication, hard work and commitment, he achieved a Distinction. He is currently halfway through completing a four year apprenticeship with Star Refrigeration.
Congratulations on winning ACR Trainee of the year award! What does the award mean to you? What have been the highlights of your career so far?
Thank you very much, the award means a great deal to me as it is an industry recognised award. I am overwhelmed to have won this award and was in no way expecting it competing against great apprentice engineers. I was honoured just to be nominated but to win the Trainee of the Year Award is an amazing feeling. I am only just starting my career in engineering, so now I have to keep on pushing and challenging myself as I progress.
Star is a great place to train and work and I couldn’t have won this award without my trainers and colleagues. I am so grateful to my mentors and colleagues at Star who have dedicated so much time and effort to my training and development and have given me complete support throughout my apprenticeship.
The biggest highlight of my career so far would have to be working alongside the engineers at Star Newcastle branch. They are first class engineers and have taken the time to explain how customer’s plants and refrigeration components work. I have just recently been invited to the annual IOR dinner in London and it was great.
When did you join Star and what kind of training have you received?
I first started at Star in July 2015. When I first joined the company I was working on site with the service engineers for 2 months. Then I was sent to a local training provider full time for 6 months in which I completed my level 2 NVQ and my BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Engineering. Since coming back to work I have completed a number of internal and external courses which are included in the Star apprentice training pathway.
What advice would you give to other young apprentices who are just getting started in the refrigeration industry?
Industrial refrigeration is a great trade to be involved in. With the phase down of synthetic refrigerants, natural refrigerants are becoming more popular and more ammonia and CO2 refrigeration plants are being installed. Star Refrigeration have been pioneering natural refrigeration technology since 1970 and are one of the leading companies in ammonia and CO2 refrigeration so I can envisage some exciting times ahead.
Another piece of advice is try to ask as many questions as possible because no question is a stupid question.
What attracted you to the industry, and Star in particular?
Working on different sites, equipment and with different people every day makes the job very interesting. The job is very unpredictable as we are working in the service industry where we have to instantly react to customer requirements. I was made aware of Star’s excellent training programme prior to going for the job, and I knew they were a reputable company in the industrial refrigeration industry.
What is the most interesting element about working in the refrigeration industry for you?
A varied work load.
What challenges do you face at work?
Assisting the engineers in the best way possible when on site, be it working on install, service or maintenance is always challenging, stimulating and very rewarding when you get things right first time.
Star Refrigeration have very rigorous processes in place when it comes to compliance and health and safety and we are continuously receiving training, which means we must create the relevant paperwork for the office staff and training manager.
What are your plans for the future? Where do you see your career developing?
I aim to come out of my apprenticeship and grade up the Star ranks. Then possibly in the future if I am able enough, I would be interested in getting involved in sales, design or management.