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RAC’s ten of the best

The Student of the Year competition proved that employers and colleges are continuing to develop some exceptional young engineers, says Andrew Gaved

The RAC industry is not prone to extremes of emotion. This fact is not surprising given that much of their working lives is spent at the sharp end of cooling equipment. It’s an industry built on short factual summaries, not long flowery descriptions, and the judges of our Student of the Year competition have become used to homing in on often small details in entry forms when selecting their winners.

So when some of the testimonials in this year’s competition had hard-bitten college tutors and industry men using phrases like “best ever”, “exceptional” and even “inspirational”, we knew we had some pretty outstanding engineers our hands. The eventual winner, James McClennon, had customers and bosses alike waxing lyrical about his ability to rise to any task laid before him.

The stories from the winning students below are a testimony to the fact that the rac industry is collaborating well on bringing on a new generation of engineers. On the hand, the colleges and specialist trainers are ensuring that refrigeration and air conditioning apprentices are trained to a high standard in both practical matters and in the underpinning theory. On the other hand, employers are providing real opportunities for young engineers to put their learning into practice, while giving them a fair degree of freedom - and responsibility.

Congratulations to James and the other award winners, and to all the finalists. The judges and I are looking forward to the standard being maintained or even raised again in 2010.


RAC National Student of the Year
Roll of Honour
Gold Award Winner
James McClennon of Cornwall Cooling
Training with City College Plymouth

James’ tutor says he is a model student, always keen to push his own boundaries of learning. He completed his NVQ2 despite the challenges of his company calling
him away on a number of occasions to do some “real work”.

His employers join the queue for superlatives, suggesting that his troubleshooting ability enables them to send him even to jobs where he has had limited real-worldexperience. James says that the biggest thing he likes about the job is variety - and variety is what he has got, working on applications from cellar coolers through split air conditioning to seawater ice flakers on trawlers.

But it was the customers’ testimonials that really underlined the all-round quality of this candidate’s work in our judges’ eyes. One trawler captain said: “Some of the equipment on these vessels is not the most modern, but whenever he attends there is never a complaint, even though he exits some of the engine rooms covered head to toe in dirt and oil, he still remains smiling and will still have the time to explain everything that has been done.”


Silver Award Winner
Robbie Hughes of Cammach Group
Training with Tullos Training

Robbie has shown aptitude, commitment and real maturity in a very demanding sector of the industry - offshore refrigeration and air conditioning.

He has undertaken assignments all over the world from Trinidad to the Ivory Coast. The judges professed themselves astonished by the diversity and of complexity of the jobs undertaken and the responsibility required of someone who is still only in their early 20s.

His bosses cite his very positive attitude to work and life in general, praising both his teamworking and his ability to work on his own initiative, while his tutors have named him best second-year refrigeration engineer.

Customers are equally effusive, with one saying that they are prepared to wait until Robert is available because they know the job will be done properly by him.


Bronze Award Winner
Jack Barter of
MacWhirter Western
Training with City College Plymouth

Judges were impressed by Jack’s sheer enthusiasm and aptitude for his work and clearly his tutors have been too, although his lecturer concedes that it is proving hard to keep up with the consistent stream of coursework: “As soon as his work is marked, there is another lot being handed in.”

He is not short of ambition either, reporting that he would like to work his way up through his company, taking on more and more complex jobs.

His lecturer concluded: “When you talk to him about work, you would think he has been in the trade for 20 years, not just over two.”


Highly Commended
Joseph Cameron Of Dean & Wood
Training with North
Glasgow College

Joe received glowing testimonials from customers and tutors alike, with his maturity and approachable nature cited alongside excellent technical knowledge. His boss and his college both used the same phrase: “An excellent ambassador for the industry”,


Other Finalists
Sam Corlyon
of Airkool Contracts
Training with MotorClimate Training Academy


Zak Powell of Cargill Meats Europe
Training with MotorClimate Training Academy


Josh Riley of ACME Refrigeration
Training with MotorClimate Training Academy and
funded via Training 2000


Alejandro Rodriguez of C G Refrigeration
& Air Conditioning
Training with Enterprise Training


Ben Webster of MacWhirter Western
Training with City College Plymouth


Vinny Wong of ACME Refrigeration
Training with MotorClimate Training Academy and funded via Training 2000.