Industrial Refrigeration Systems, Services, Plant and Equipment Design & Manufacture - Star Refrigeration

Pat Stacey

Pat Stacey has spent his working career in industrial refrigeration, joining Star Refrigeration in 1984. Starting as an apprentice, Pat went onto win the ‘Apprentice of the Year’ Award from Basford Hall College.

Having worked through various roles in the company's Operations business, Pat latterly became manager of its Derby branch. In 2008, he joined Star’s Consultancy arm, Star Technical Solutions (STS), as a consultant, where his wide ranging practical experience has been applied in a variety of ways. Pat is also listed as an external trainer at New College in Nottingham and has taught students on a part-time basis up to HNC level.

Q. How did you start working at Star Refrigeration?

I left school in the middle of a very deep recession.  Applied for apprenticeships at Rolls Royce, British Rail amongst others with no success.  It was then that I decided to embark on a Youth Training Scheme (YTS) ironically at British Rail.  I learnt many different skills, including gas welding, fitting, machining, electrics / electronics and many more.  Nine months into the scheme, I was approached by one of the lecturers who asked if I would like to attend an interview at a local engineering company, which didn’t need too much thought input.  The lecturer told me to take a selection of equipment that I had made, so I turned up at Star Refrigeration Derby with a big plastic bin liner full of gadgets I had made, like 6 / 12 volt battery chargers, a gas welded sectional pipe bridge mounted on a pressed steel frame and many other items.  I proudly presented these to the Branch Manager – Mr Tom Wood. He turned out to be the guy responsible for the ‘Tommy’ valve, which is the pump out valve at the charging port of an LPR.  Mr Wood asked me questions on latent and sensible heat, which luckily I knew the answers to and low and behold, I gained employment at Star Refrigeration Ltd. On the fourth of July 1984 I walked through the shutter doors and saw Mr Pete Stringer building four huge compressor packages.  I never would have guessed that I would still be here nearly 34 years later!

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

Like everyone else I know in this fantastic industry, I fell into it quite by accident.

Q. Describe your apprenticeship with Star?

Ha ha, very old school.  I enrolled on a day release course at Basford Hall College in Nottingham.  The other four days were spent working initially in the workshop working with Pete, who taught me how to pipe weld – TIG and MMA as well as make gauge boards, pipe up the gauges and instrumentation with ¼ stainless steel tubing, build the unit base frames and you name it, everything else as well.

I was with Pete in the workshop for a year before he pushed me towards refrigeration and not welding / fitting, which I will always be eternally grateful for.  I moved away from the workshop environment and became a site man.  Working with the Derby contracting team, which consisted of Dave Greaves, Winston Bateman, Chris Watson, Dennis Herrett and many more.

I was still at college, but working out of a suitcase for the remainder of the week.  Those were the days; I was allowed to ply my newly found welding skills to the manufacture of cold store under-floor heater mat pipework and was happiest lying on the ground on my back watching the molten pool of metal in front of my eyes.  I was officially on contracts for 1.5 years before Mr Wood pulled me aside one Monday morning and told me I was now on ‘service’.  I can honestly say that I loved my time in the service team, so much so that I stayed there.  Fault-finding / rectification was my new found forte.

Q. Did you do any further studying after your initial apprenticeship/qualification? What further qualifications did you gain?

I initially undertook City & Guilds 1 and 2 in refrigeration and A/C, but decided to stay on and do level 3, which was classified as the technician qualification.  In or around the year 2000, I decided to go back to college to sit the HNC course in Refrigeration, A/C and Building Services, which was undeniably the best thing I have ever done.  Star supported me fully all the way through and I finished 2.5 years later with a fabulous set of results.

Q. What role did you move into after your apprenticeship/qualification?

I became a service engineer, working all over the midlands and down south too, as the London branch was not in existence in those days.

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

I worked hard after serving my apprenticeship, initially becoming an engineer, then senior engineer and then service supervisor.  I spent a few years in that role until Star’s then CEO, Mr John Rowell, was looking to fill the position of service manager. I approached him and told him I could head the Service Department. Luckily for me, Star put their trust in me and I became Service Manager of the Derby Branch.

My next role was Customer Support Manager, a role formulated by the then Ops group MD, Graham Stuart.  A short while later, Star’s Bristol Branch Manager, Alan Halfpenny, moved to Derby and took on the role of Branch Manager.  I got on very well with Alan, he took me under his wing and I became his understudy.  I learned so many skills from Alan, he made me laugh with his comments – like his favourite….’you need to get the skin of a rhinoceros’- you do.  A few years later Alan retired from Star, and I took the reins as the Derby Branch Manager, which I did until 2007, when I joined Star’s Consultancy company, Star Technical Solutions (STS), – the best move of my entire career.

Q. What do you specialise in now, or what kind of projects do you work on? How different is it to your previous role?

My role as a consultant engineer has allowed me to travel the world.  Before STS, I had the chance to travel and had visited Sri Lanka multiple times installing and making many modifications to a second-hand duplex Bitzer LPR screwpack that was used as a blast freezer to cool chickens. I had also worked in Malta, carrying out liquid control modifications on two Ex-Bejam LPR freezer sets.  Since joining STS I have had the privilege of working in Barbados, Mauritius, Kenya and the USA.

Q. How has being in different roles been of benefit to you and the job you do for customers?

It has given me a wealth of experience and a confidence to talk directly with clients at any level.  I am able to tackle almost anything, but I specialise in my ability to express my knowledge to others i.e. training, as well as fault finding at design level

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

I enjoy the diversity.  One week I could be on site carrying out legal assessments, the next I could be somewhere the other side of the world training the locals.

Q. Any general career highlights?

Winning the apprentice of the year award from Basford Hall College.  And being lucky enough to work with, and learn from,  some of the best in the business.  It has been an absolute pleasure.

Q. How long have you been working at Star now? What do you like about working for Star?

I will celebrate 34 years this coming July the 4th.  As for what I like about Star, I enjoy working with very knowledgeable people.  I also think that the company is extremely well ran, and like the fact that at Star, people matter – they make a difference and are well looked after.

Q. Where do you see your role progressing?

I am quite happy in my current role as a Consultant Engineer.  I have walked the path of progression; ultimately achieving what I believe is a lucrative position, and one that I’m extremely happy in.

Q. What excites/interests you about the industry and your part in it now?

The industry is ever changing, particularly concerning legislation.  The sheer number of different refrigerants available now amazes me, I find it mindboggling.  But ultimately, it is the people I have met, which includes some truly wonderful people, sadly though some are no longer with us, but they remain in my heart and will do forever.

I do my best to assist wherever I can, that is why I work closely with the IOR, I feel it is of benefit to me as well as others within the industry.
Details about membership of industry associations and the benefits from being part of them

I’m a member of the Institute of Refrigeration and also sit on the steering panel for the Service Engineers section of the IOR, something I’ve been involved in for numerous years now.

Q. What do you know now about the industry which you wished you had known before?

How interesting it is from a scientific perspective.  I have ran many refrigeration training courses for STS clients and always enjoy discussing Thermodynamics, the Carnot cycle and the science that is refrigeration.

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

Show willing, work hard and do not be afraid to seek out knowledgeable from every available source.  Befriending people and asking them for their help and advice isn’t a bad place to start.

Pat Stacey - Consultant - STS