Chris Bailie has recently returned triumphant from Brazil, having secured silver at the World Skills global competition, ranking him second in the world
I had my first taste of the refrigeration industry when I was 14. My father runs BL Refrigeration, the company I currently work for, so when summertime came around he offered me work in the workshop – I jumped at the chance.
I’ve always been a hands-on type of person and enjoyed helping my dad fix things when I was a kid – this may have been more of a hindrance than a help back then, but I really enjoyed getting involved.
This arrangement continued every time I had a school holiday and it soon became apparent that this was what I wanted to pursue as a career. I didn’t particularly enjoy sitting in a classroom – it just wasn’t for me and I felt I’d be far more suited in a role where I’m out and about, applying practical skills out in the field.
Since starting out in the industry, I have achieved my NVQ Level 3 in refrigeration and air conditioning, and have recently started a night course to do a HNC in building services at my local college.
To say I was excited to win my place to go to Brazil for the World Skills competition would be something of an understatement. There were originally four apprentices battling it out for the coveted spot to begin with, with the group reduced until the final selection process in May, which would decide who would ultimately be on the plane.
The competition was extremely tough and the other apprentices are a massive credit to both themselves and their employers.
It really was a close-run thing, with all the scores neck and neck.
Once I found out that was chosen for the competition, I was elated. It felt absolutely brilliant to be selected as I had worked up to that moment for over a year, so to have missed out would have been devastating.
Fast-forward to Brazil and World Skills itself. It became obvious that the standard of competition was of a different class.
These were exceptionally talented people and I was going to have to up my game to a higher level if I was going to stand any chance of taking honours.
Once the event kicked off, I had never felt under so much pressure – between the thousands of people watching me and the heat of the arena, it was an amazing atmosphere.
When I had finished I’d genuinely thought I’d be happy with a top 10 position as I had a few problems along the way that I’d managed to overcome, but I knew that this had meant I’d dropped a few marks that I shouldn’t have.
Sitting in the closing ceremony when they announced the medal winners and the union flag came on the screen, I was amazed, totally shocked, but so happy, it was probably the proudest moment of my life to date.
When I think about how far I’ve come and to actually be second in the world, it is an absolutely amazing feeling.
For any young people getting into the industry, I would advise finding a good college and good employer that will encourage you to do as much as you can and to always push yourself.
Don’t just think all you need is the piece of paper with the qualification on it.
Do as much as you can, ask as many questions as you can and learn as much as you can. I have been very lucky.
The refrigeration tutors in SERC Lisburn college and my company BL Refrigeration have both been very supportive and helped me to achieve everything – and more – than I could have ever wanted.