Kelvin Clamp, Refrigeration Engineering Apprentice
After 6th form, Kelvin decided he wanted to do something 'hands on' as he always enjoyed learning how things work and decided to apply for a refrigeration engineering apprenticeship at Star. A large part of the work he does is preventative maintenance, which usually consists of frequent performance checks to ensure systems are running at their design efficiency. Kelvin was recently a finalist at the IOR Apprentice of the Year Awards and hopes to progress through the engineering grading system after completing the apprenticeship.
What is your educational background?
Before undertaking the apprenticeship at Star, I went to 6th form College and studied A level Math’s and a BTEC Level 3 Engineering and Business, achieving an A, and 2 Distinction Stars, respectively.
What attracted you to the refrigeration industry and Star Refrigeration in particular?
After 6th form, I realised I wanted to do something hands-on, as I’ve always been keen to take things apart to learn how things work. Whilst I was looking for apprenticeship opportunities, a role for Star Refrigeration appeared. I applied for the position, although I was not looking directly within the Refrigeration sector. I never imagined such big cooling applications existed before joining Star. Looking back, I appreciate how lucky I was to get an apprenticeship role within such a well-established company with the benefit of acquiring prestigious internal training.
Describe your apprenticeship experience with Star Refrigeration?
My apprenticeship experience has been nothing but great. At first, it was relatively intimidating going to sites with senior engineers – having never imagined such big plant equipment existed. Working with experienced engineers, I became more confident as they made me feel welcome and safe. I was told to ask as many questions as possible throughout the day, particularly if unsure.
I have had the ability to work with a variety of different people within the company, further expanding my knowledge. There are regular training meetings taking place every month. Here all the apprentices meet and have a training day with the training manager – for me this is a great opportunity to speak to other apprentices and to see what they’ve learnt recently and share knowledge.
In the last few months, I have been fortunate enough to attend the Institute of Refrigeration (IOR) Awards ceremony after becoming a finalist for the Apprentice of the Year Award, which proves the quality of the training at Star.
Everyone has been very welcoming at Star and happy to share technical information.
What does your role involve?
Contrary to popular belief, my apprenticeship role at Star doesn’t involve ‘making tea’. The role is relatively extensive – a large part of my work with engineers is preventative maintenance, which usually consists of frequent performance checks to ensure systems are running at their design efficiency. This is a proactive approach to maintenance and ensures any faults are found before failure. A great example of this is analysing the oil filter differential pressure. When this becomes too high, oil delivery to the system may be compromised. Therefore we would refer to the manufacturer’s guidance to replace it with an OEM part to prevent related issues arising. I am also fortunate enough to work on Ammonia refrigeration systems. Due to health and safety concerns, if a system is broken into, I would act as the second man for the senior engineer. However, if it’s a job I’ve done before, the engineer will let me lead, which is a great way to build confidence and experience.
How do you manage your time between working and learning?
Star are great when it comes to time management. I get a study day assigned every two weeks, allowing me to complete any NVQ or internal-based work required to fulfil my apprenticeship. There is plenty of time to learn and being with knowledgeable engineers every day on-site means that I am learning five days a week – there’s always something new.
Where do you see your role progressing after your apprenticeship/current role?
I am very excited to complete my apprenticeship at Star and progress through the internal engineer grading system. I have the ambition to acquire some further formal qualifications, therefore, I hope to start studying towards an HNC qualification. Upon completing my apprenticeship, I would like to progress through the internal grading system as an onsite Refrigeration Engineer. Hopefully, within the next few years, I can pass on all the knowledge I have been fortunate to acquire to new aspiring apprentices.
Any general career highlights?
My biggest highlight thus far has been attending the IOR awards as a finalist – the event was great, and it made me realise how fortunate and lucky I was.
What advice would you give to young people who are looking to start a career in engineering?
Don’t get caught up in following the trend, e.g., going to university. An entry-level apprenticeship position will form the foundation of a successful lifelong career in any form of engineering. I’d recommend to young people to seek an apprenticeship as soon as they leave school and opt for the earn-as-you-learn approach. The learning doesn’t have to stop after the apprenticeship and many companies offer higher education schemes like Star if you’re looking for a forever more challenging role.