Bath College played host to the second of three regional heats for the latest instalment of the SkillFRIDGE competition on July 26th. Students from Eastleigh and Bath College faced three rounds of intense competition under the scrutiny of
the judges. They were given the task to attempt various test projects,
designed to challenge the RAC students in the use of materials, tools and equipment. They had to follow detailed instructions, applying industry standards and safe working practices, whilst demonstrating good time management, planning and problem solving in a unique environment.
Bath College student Chandler Davison commented: “It’s a tough challenge. You have to think about what you are doing and go through it slowly. It teaches you how long you should be spending on tasks and improves your confidence.”
The highest scorer of the regional heat was Steven Monk of Bath College, who received a tool bag as a prize, courtesy of Aspen Pumps. He will now wait to see if he has won a place to compete in the national finals at The Skills Show, organised by WorldSkills UK in November where the six highest scoring competitors will compete to be selected for the WorldSkills UK training squad.
Steven is a Level 2 apprentice studying at Bath College and is working as an apprentice at the Bath-based company, Ambient Engineering Limited. He said: “I wasn’t expecting to win at all, I’m over the moon. It was tougher than I expected. Although I’m studying air conditioning and refrigeration, I was out of my comfort zone because I normally do air conditioning rather than refrigeration in my day job. It’s good to challenge yourself and set yourself goals.”
The event was attended by technical director John Smith from Brand Sponsor, Beijer Ref UK & Ireland (Dean and Wood & Refrigeration Wholesale), who assisted in judging the competitors. When asked about the day, John commented: “I was invited to represent Beijer Ref UK as a judge at the SkillFRIDGE Regional Heat held in Bath. This was my first involvement in a SkillFRIDGE event and I was immediately struck by how well the event was organised and the professionalism of the other judges.
“The refrigeration and air conditioning course workshops at Bath College were particularly impressive allowing plenty of room for the competitors to carry out the various strictly timed competition tasks.
“The students were clearly challenged by the demanding tasks and they all did exceptionally well. Once the marking had been completed, they all received useful and constructive feedback on their performance from Mark Forsyth.
“This event was a great advert for RAC industry training.”
The judging panel consisted of Derek Davies from SkillFRIDGE Association Sponsor, the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) which has merged with the European Association of Brazing and Soldering (EABS), and head judge, Mark Forsyth, who is also the competition’s project manager.
Commenting on the importance of skills and apprenticeships in the industry, Derek said: “The skills tested today are the same as those used within the heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, refrigeration (HVACR) and heat pump industries. All of them are necessary and can be applied in various areas, be it domestic, commercial, transport etc. It’s a huge, global industry which affects everybody, and SkillFRIDGE allows those with the interest to progress and not be afraid to lead the future of the industry”.
Representatives from Eastleigh College were also present, including apprenticeship achievements officer, Julie Richmond and lecturer and lead internal verifier David Standing.
Supporting the judging team and competitors, was previous SkillFRIDGE competitor and BESA’s North West Air Conditioning Engineer of the Year 2016 (Level 3) winner, Ryan Unwin from Bruntwood
Management Services. Ryan was also impressed by the standards of the competition, commenting: “The competition is getting to a higher standard, partly because the college tutors know about it. It’s really important for colleges to get involved with SkillFRIDGE, as it promotes a higher standard of working, makes the industry better as a whole, and produces better and more efficient engineers, which will roll on with a knock on effect for the future.”
It’s not just the competitors who are benefiting from the competition; colleges who actively engage with SkillFRIDGE are seeing the benefits of entering their students. Bath College’s refrigeration & electrical learning coordinator, Simon Robinson agrees:
“I think it’s raising the industry’s profile, especially by showing the high level skillset required by apprentices in our industry. It offers the chance for some of the students entered into the competition, to reflect on what skills they have got and how they can improve them. This is going to have a massive effect on who they work for and potentially the students coming up whom they may supervise in the future.
“We got involved this time because it’s very well organised and gives Bath College great kudos. I’m trying to put refrigeration and air con department on the map; we want to be a beacon college for the industry, so this is definitely an important event.”
The goal for SkillFRIDGE is to highlight the importance RACHP skills in modern life and help create career paths with industry events. It also helps colleges communicate and discuss the industry as a whole. Simon continues: “Eastleigh College was also represented here today, it’s the first time I have met some of their lecturers; and as we offer the same qualifications, we are going to start sharing resources.”
Head judge Mark Forsyth commented: “This competition is held to raise the standard of professionals in the industry. This should be a benefit for employers, who will see the level of delivery to their clients improve. What the students learn here and what the employers experience should be managed back at the college to improve their standards, so the individual comes back out of the college, enters another competition and the level increases. We actually raise the standard of the competition because we’re raising the capability of the entrants.”
There are ample opportunities for businesses in this sector to show their support for the next generation of RACHP professionals; for more information contact Karena Cooper on 01622 699150 or email email@example.com
The final regional heat will take place on August 24th at the South East Regional College in Lisburn. Follow @skillfridge on twitter for the latest news.