“Star is a great place to train and work…. 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.”

Sam Gills, Refrigeration Engineer

Sam Gills is a design engineer which he was supported by Star to progress into after completing his apprenticeship with 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 a BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Engineering and thanks to dedication, hard work and commitment, he achieved a Distinction. He successfully completed his industrial refrigeration engineering apprenticeship in July 2019.

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 and engineer training pathways.

I also started my HNC in Building services in September 2021 which I am halfway through completing. This is a qualification which I asked to do through the company which I have been fully supported in doing.

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

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.

Working on different sites, and equipment and with different people every day makes the job very interesting. The job is unpredictable as we are working in the service industry where we have to instantly react to customer requirements.

Congratulations on winning ACR Trainee of the year award! What does the award mean to you?

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 as I was 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.

What have been the highlights of your career so far?

The biggest highlight of my career so far would be working alongside the engineers at Star’s Newcastle branch. They are first class engineers and have taken the time to explain how customer’s plants and refrigeration components work. I was also invited to the annual IOR dinner in London and it was great.

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 are a leading company in the design and manufacture of natural refrigeration technology so I can envisage some exciting sustainability challenges ahead as customers become more environmentally conscious and look to invest in low carbon systems.

2024 update!

How has your career progressed since you completed your apprenticeship?

Following the completion of my apprenticeship, I was offered a full time position as a Refrigeration Technician at Newcastle Branch where I progressed up the Star Technician Grading Structure. I wanted to gain more technical knowledge around refrigeration & engineering, so I requested to do an HNC in Building Services Engineering alongside working. Star were very supportive of this, and granted me day release to further study a related discipline.

After completing my HNC, a position in the Design Department was advertised internally which appealed to me greatly as my course included Electrical and Mechanical Design which I really enjoyed. I applied for the role and I was offered the job as a Design Engineer.

Star Refrigeration showed continued support by allowing me to complete a Building Services Engineering BEng Hons Degree alongside my new role which was a personal goal of mine. I am now 7 months into my Design Engineer role continuing to learn and gain valuable experience.

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 as the need for cooling and district heating is growing to meet the increased demand for food, medicines and data centres.

Whatever career path you choose, make sure you give it your best shot and don’t get too hung up on mistakes, everybody makes them.

Sam Gills, Refrigeration Engineer