Many in our industry continued to work tirelessly throughout the lockdown period, delivering essential services so businesses could still operate in the challenging conditions. For this reason alone, we must thank and celebrate their commitment this World Refrigeration Day. The #SkillsKeepMoving campaign launched earlier this month by WorldSkills, the global hub for skills excellence and development, thanks the world’s skilled workers, including those employed in the cooling, heating and ventilation industries. Promoted in over 80 countries, including in the UK by WorldSkills UK, the campaign raises the profile of skilled people and we must build on this to demonstrate to young people the benefits and opportunities of a career in our industry.
The impact of Covid-19 and the disruption it has caused to the training of apprentices has the potential to amplify the skills shortages which were threatening to cripple our industry. However, I believe the launch of the new RACHP Engineering Technician Apprenticeship combined with the increased spotlight on skilled people, will help revive the interest of young people in considering a career in our industry. Yet, there is more we can do to recruit a larger diverse cohort of apprentices and develop them further by targeting quality through competence assured objectives.
SkillFRIDGE – recognising our apprentices
Each year, thousands of young people enhance the training they receive through their apprenticeship by participating in the SkillFRIDGE Competition. Delivered in partnership with WorldSkills UK, the competition assesses apprentices’ knowledge, practical and employability skills in time pressurised conditions. The competition is free to enter, and employers can access the Apprenticeship Levy to support their apprentices’ involvement.
At last year’s National Final, held in front of 70,000 visitors at WorldSkills UK LIVE, the UK’s largest apprenticeship, skills and careers event, 95% of those competing across all competitions said their personal and employability skills had improved after taking part. Employers and training providers, I have spoken with, have also remarked on the positive impact competitions have had on their wider workforce, who, spurred on by the apprentices’ success and competition ethos have been encouraged to look at their own training needs and processes.
Global Honours for UK engineers
Age eligible winners of SkillFRIDGE are invited to compete for a place in the team that will represent the UK at international competitions.
Currently, we are remotely training two SkillFRIDGE finalists: Dominic Dray, a former apprentice, now service engineer for Royale Refrigeration who gained his level 3 RAC at Eastleigh College, and Jack Newton, apprentice for Crowther and Shaw Ltd who studies for level 3 at Leeds College. Both are hoping to represent the UK in the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Competition at the EuroSkills event in Gratz, Austria in January, and the WorldSkills event, known as the ‘skills Olympics’ in September 2021 in Shanghai, China. Dominic and Jack were not studying during the lockdown, so I was determined that despite the current challenges, I would do whatever possible to provide them with a form of training activity.
Anticipating the lockdown, I created a training plan based on the WorldSkills technical description of an RACHP engineer and was able with the help of key suppliers and sponsors to deliver materials, components and tools to Dominic and Jack. This has enabled the continued development of some essential practical skills, all delivered and monitored using web access video links. We have also discussed the specific skills, knowledge and techniques to achieve quality that underpin international best practice in refrigeration and air conditioning. An understanding of this will not only help Dominic and Jack in competition but it will also support their career progression from apprentice to a senior position within their organisation in a relatively short amount of time.
There is only one place on the team to represent the UK in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning, and whether its Dominic or Jack who is successful, they will experience an incredible journey and a unique method of personal development. Taking part in WorldSkills also enables WorldSkills UK to use the insight gained at the competition to help support the government’s ambition of developing a world-leading technical education sector. It is my hope that this insight can be used to inform the future development of the apprenticeship so we can continually raise standards and provide talented individuals who in turn deliver new solutions for our clients.
Crucial to the rebuilding of the UK economy will be a skilled, motivated and competence assured workforce. That is why this World Refrigeration Day we will celebrate our talented engineers and encourage employers to remain focussed on supporting the next generation so they can play a role in developing the quality required for the future of our industry.