Dean Thomson started his apprenticeship as an industrial refrigeration engineer at 16 after completing his GCSEs at secondary school. He now serves as a Service Manager for Star Refrigeration Operations Group in Derby.
How did you start working at Star?
I applied for the engineering apprenticeship with Star Refrigeration and was offered a placement through B.E.S.T at Star Refrigeration Derby.
What attracted you to the refrigeration industry and to Star in particular?
The honest truth is that I knew nothing about the refrigeration industry at all but I was always hands on and I liked repairing things from a young age. I knew that I wanted to be some sort of engineer.
Describe your apprenticeship with Star?
I attended an engineering college for the first year on a one day a week basis and carried out a diverse number of tasks including welding, electrics, electronics and metalwork. In my second, third and fourth year I attended Basford Hall college on an NVQ level 2 & 3 refrigeration course. I really enjoyed the practical, hands on aspect of the apprenticeship and I gained lots of onsite experience from seasoned engineers who were happy to share their knowledge and offer encouragement.
How did you progress to your current role? Has this particular career progression been a long term goal?
After being a service and maintenance engineer for approximately 12 years I obtained the ST5 engineer grade after a technical interview with the company’s Technical Director. I then became a branch contract and resource manager for Derby for three years before being promoted to Service Manager
Can you describe your current job? What kind of projects do you work on?
I would say I specialise in fault finding and working out how to carry out difficult tasks with minimal disruption to the customer as well as ensuring day to day operations run smoothly. My role has been one of a progressive nature, I have been doing this kind of work steadily for years now.
One of the most attractive things about working for Star Refrigeration is that there are great opportunities for development and career growth. Being in the different roles has enabled me to work with the majority of our current customers and to build a good relationship with the people I work with on a weekly basis
What do you enjoy most about your job, and what are the biggest challenges you face?
I enjoy most the fact that every day is different. The team around me makes it enjoyable to come to work. The fact that Star are always at the forefront of new ideas/technology keeps it interesting too!
Any general career highlights?
Retrofitting large food factories from R22 to new plant was quite rewarding for me. The way my team approached the work to completely transform our customers’ business without interrupting production was a great achievement.
Also seeing the engineering team at Derby grow from strength to strength is very rewarding, we now operate with an engineering team of 15 engineers and a supervisor plus the specialist managers.
How long have you been working at Star now? What do you like about working for Star?
I joined Star in Sept 1997, so nearly 20.5 years now. I mostly enjoy the rewarding working environment as the kind of customers Star Refrigeration have, value what we bring to the table!
What excites/interests you about the industry and your part in it now?
I believe the operations team at Star Refrigeration is a team unrivalled in terms of size anywhere in the UK, this drives me to maintain the standards of our engineering team to produce one of the best refrigeration engineering teams that has ever been in the UK.
What advice would you give to young people who are just starting a similar career path to yours?
My advice to young engineers entering into the Star group is to try and get exposed to as much as possible, not just service and maintenance. The more exposure they are given as an apprentice the better engineer they will become, make the most of working alongside other engineers and learning as much as possible while on the sites with other engineers. This will broaden your knowledge and give you that edge when it comes to fixing/working on the plant on your own in the future.
Make the most of all opportunities that arise and learn to work with and for different departments. Above all, work hard and enjoy your career!
Dean Thompson - Service Manager