Sidney Copus, 2019 National Winner and gold medalist, being presented with his trophy.
The RACHP industry is one that is often overlooked yet is vital in modern day to day life, from keeping our food cold to safely storing medicines. However, with the ever-growing demand for engineers and services in the midst of a national skills crisis, competitions like SkillFRIDGE, in partnership with WorldSkills UK, are more important than ever.
SkillFRIDGE aims to highlight the RACHP industry as a career path to young people. Through its competitions it emphasises the benefits of an engineering career, promoting the career choices available as well as providing an exciting platform for apprentices to exhibit their skills. Whilst the main aim is to connect the younger generation with the industry, the upper age limit has been removed from the competition to encourage diversity as well as to allow all apprentice engineers the opportunity to learn best practice as well as develop their skills, benchmarking against industry standards.
How does it work?
There are three main stages, the first step is online registration. This is now open until April 2 and can be done through the WordSkills UK website by going to www.worldskillsuk.org/champions/national-skills-competitions/find-a-competition. The Refrigeration sector can now be found under the competition header ‘Engineering and Technology’.
Training providers, employers and tutors are encouraged to then complete a Passive stage task in order to send through outstanding apprentices and students who are ready to test themselves whilst boosting their skills and experience.
Once the registration closes things progress to the national qualifiers. Competitors will be invited to participate in qualifiers that will be held at colleges and training providers across the UK throughout late spring and summer.
During these regional heats competitors will complete a series of tasks under strict time schedules and their work will be assessed by a panel of specially selected industry experts.
Once the heats have concluded WorldSkills UK will quality assure the results and the finalists will be notified of their success by July 2020. Additionally, the competitor with the highest score will be crowned the SkillFRIDGE national winner and will be presented with a trophy.
The six highest scoring apprentices, along with the national winner, will be given the chance to compete at the WorldSkills UK National Final, held at WorldSkills UK LIVE at Birmingham’s NEC in November 2020. Here their brazing and joining of metal skills, air conditioning electronic controls systems, pipe work installations and refrigerant fault-finding skills will be tested in front of a panel of judges, as well as members of the public.
On the final day of the competition the gold medal winner from the WorldSkills UK national final will be announced and will be presented with a medal in front of the other apprentices and audience members. They will also receive a trophy and their respective training provider will receive the SkillFRIDGE Shield at the ACR News Awards in 2020.
Subject to age eligibility, those apprentices who achieve a sufficiently high score in the WSUK National Final will also be considered to represent Great Britain at international WorldSkills competitions for Squad UK.
Whilst the competition is tough the experience that can be gained is next to none. The competitors are able to train, network and compete with some of the top people in the country, giving them the chance to develop their career as well as gain new skills and confidence.
Last year’s gold medallist and national winner, Sydney Copus from Space Engineering, said: “The win has given me a little confidence boost, but the biggest thing about it for me is all the support and messages I’ve got from my lecturers, colleagues and friends.”
Life after SkillFRIDGE
For many apprentices these competitions offer more than a chance to show off their skills, they can play a pivotal role in developing their future. For some competitors, like Orlando Rawlings and now Dominic Dray and Jack Newton, the opportunity to join squad UK allows them to continue on their journey.
Last year Orlando competed in Russia, representing the UK and the RACHP industry, making both proud as he came away with a Medallion of Excellence for his display in the competition.
Following his success Dominic and Jack have been shortlisted to join Squad UK to compete in the European competition in Graz, Austria as well as potential future world-wide competitions.
The competition can also have a long-term impact on competitors. Chris Bailee, a former SkilLFRIDGE competitor, returns to judge the competition annually, commenting: “Remembering what the judges gave to me, the training, the support and the experience as a whole, I like the idea that I can give that back to the young people going through it each year.”
Encouraging the younger generation into engineering careers has never been more important than it is now. With big changes occurring in the UK bridging the skills gap could be crucial to the future of the country, so there has been no better time to support events like this to encourage the RACHP industry of the future.