How to kick-start your cooling career
This year’s theme is #NextGenCooling, the Future of Refrigeration, and it is the perfect opportunity to highlight the interesting people working for and with refrigeration. Think about the engineers who help manufacture the refrigeration devices of the future, but also the chefs and mixologists working with the products that keep the food fresh and the drinks cool.
We speak to Hoshizaki UK’s Technical Manager Stuart Kayes about his amazing 25-year career from apprentice engineer to Fellow of the Institute of Refrigeration and about his interesting path into a “cool career”. He also offers some valuable career advice for the next generation of upcoming cooling experts.
When did your career in cooling begin?
I started my career as an apprentice refrigeration technician in 1993 with an industrial refrigeration service company based in Kent. We covered the South of England but the apprenticeship also involved travel overseas on marine projects, so it was an exciting time.
What qualifications do you have within cooling? How did you get these?
As part of my apprenticeship, I studied at Lewisham College to obtain the City & Guilds 257 Refrigeration Technicians Part 2 which is a Level 3 qualification. Throughout my career, I have always kept up to date with relevant training and I have attended courses on a variety of specialist applications such as freeze-drying technology and high vacuum systems – as well as manufacturer-led training on the installation, commissioning, and maintenance of reciprocating and screw compressors. It is imperative to stay up to date with the legal requirements of our industry and this has involved courses on subjects like the safe handling of refrigerants F Gas Level 2 Cat 1. There is always something new to learn and some interesting topics to get to grips with like the safe handling of CO2 as a refrigerant as well as sector-specific qualifications to work towards like the CFSP Certified Foodservice Professional exam, which I will be sitting later in the year.
Can you give us an overview of your cooling career?
My apprenticeship opened an amazing world of industrial refrigeration applications as I began to learn the practical and theoretical skills needed to service and maintain a complex cooling plant used in the production of soft drinks, brewing, dairy, and cold-storage industries for the likes of Coca-Cola, Greene King and Diageo. I had the opportunity to travel on ships with marine projects and worked for two months in South America on board a liquified natural gas container whilst moored 10 miles off the coast of Ecuador and later during dry dock works near Santiago in Chile.
With a growing knowledge and appetite for further development, I worked as a site-based engineer with two separate pharmaceutical production sites, Pfizer and Abbott Laboratories. Through these roles, I developed new specialist skills in low-temperature freeze-drying and ultra-low temperature applications down to -180°C. Pharmaceutical companies often use freeze-drying to increase the shelf life of products, such as vaccines. By removing the water from the material and sealing the material in a vial, the material can be easily stored, shipped, and later reconstituted to its original form for injection.
Another interesting aspect of my career to date was working on the complex site services relating to a pharmaceutical production site with R&D laboratories such as demineralised water systems, high vacuum systems, steam autoclaves (for utensil and lab apparatus sterilisation), and HVAC systems for the containment of dangerous category 3 pathogens using positive pressure zones to prevent air born transmission. As you can imagine certain roles in the cooling industry really can make the world a safer place.
I have also worked within a multi-disciplined engineering department which meant I could develop an understanding of workshop skills such as machining on lathes and milling machines – which have proved really useful in a host of applications. One challenge I faced in my career was the transition from coming off the tools to begin a technical support management role, which encompasses many areas of project work liaising with factories and external suppliers and the wider EMENA areas. In this role, I have met many interesting people from around the world and learned a lot about their cultures and ways of working. A particular highlight of my career was when I was elected as a Fellow of the Institute of Refrigeration as it was a real honour to be recognised by my peers for my contribution to the RACHP sector.
Can you give us some top tips on how to pursue a career in cooling?
For anyone interested in a career in cooling I would advise that they connect with equipment manufacturers, installers and service companies through their social media to learn about opportunities within the industry and get involved with Webinars. Consider joining the Institute of Refrigeration to keep up to date with the latest news and events www.ior.org.uk/events 23rd June is the 2021 International Women in Engineering Day to hear about the importance of role models to the next generation of engineers. Cool Careers on the 24th of June is an online line event to celebrate the IOR and promote careers and skills during world refrigeration week #WREFD21 so do get involved!
For students considering an engineering or technical career in the cooling industry are there any further education or degree courses you would recommend?
The cooling industry offers a diverse range of roles and opportunities so there is no one educational path to follow. The basics of refrigeration are important but with the ever-increasing pace of technology, products, and applications a wide variety of skills will be required by the industry in the future. This will include transferable skills such as project management and business administration as well as more specific expertise in subjects such as computer modelling, CAD, thermodynamics, and even industrial chemists have their place in the cooling industry. It’s also worth bearing in mind that most senior management and director level appointments don’t demand refrigeration qualifications and the people in those roles have come from an academic or engineering background.
How has the industry changed since you started your cooling career?
Since I started my career there have been big technological advancements particularly in control systems and monitoring which has meant major improvements with equipment energy efficiency and reliability. There has also been a growing appreciation and awareness of neurodiversity amongst engineers. Dyslexia in engineering raised awareness of this condition and the benefits it can bring to the engineering and HVACR industry with a unique set of problem-solving skills and attention to detail. #INWED21 International Women in Engineering will celebrate the amazing work of women engineers around the world. IOR Women in RACHP (Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, and Heat Pumps) are speakers and actively take part in initiatives that promote engineering and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to young people.
How has Hoshizaki helped your career development?
Hoshizaki is hugely supportive of my commitments outside of my direct role and actively encourages training and allows time for CPD accredited courses and seminars. It’s great to have such a supportive employer.
What changes do you expect to see in the cooling industry over the next 10 years and what career opportunities might this create?
Following Brexit, I envisage that we will see a shortening of the supply chain so produce is more local and seasonal, with less reliance on imports. This will provide unique opportunities for project management in relation to logistics and cold chain planning and cold storage of produce from UK farms. The Government’s challenging target of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 will require the combined efforts of many industries. Heating contributes to around 30 percent of the UK’s total greenhouse emissions and so a concerted push to replace inefficient domestic boilers with low-carbon heat pumps will be required. This technological shift will create huge opportunities for people in a wide variety of roles from the design of heat pumps to installation and maintenance.