Stephen Taylor on his way to winning the SkillFridge heat at Eastleigh College last week

UK: Eastleigh College’s Stephen Taylor is the latest heat winner from a record 42 refrigeration and air conditioning students competing in this year’s national SkillFridge competition.

Qualifying heats are already underway in colleges and training centres around the country. Following heats in Portadown, Glasgow and Cardiff,  five students competed at Eastleigh College in Hampshire last week.

The Eastleigh heat saw Level 2 apprentices, Jack Culhane, Bayley Mummery, Jake Gorman and David Couch, and Level 3 apprentice Stephen Taylor, tackling tasks such as pipework and brazing tests, as well as testing refrigerant systems for pressure and leaks to industry safety standards.

After the day’s competition, 19-year-old Stephen Taylor from Havant was awarded first prize and has officially secured a place at the SkillFridge national competition at The Skills Show in November 2017.

He said “It feels good to have won, I put a lot of effort in. I enjoyed doing the pipework the most. There’s lots of things I can work on before The Skills Show, like my brazing and making sure I put caps on condensing units.

“The competition has boosted my confidence,” he added. “I did it last year as well, and it was really helpful getting tips from the judges, which I’ve now put into practice.”

The Eastleigh College SkillFridge participants with their certificates

Kelvin Kelly, training director at Business Edge, and one of the judges for the day, said: “We were mainly looking to see that the students could work safely under pressure and follow instructions. I was impressed by the students’ enthusiasm, I could see they enjoyed it and found it a challenge.”

Joining Kelly on the judging team were SkillFridge national manager Mark Forsyth, former WorldSkills national team member Steven Burge, Veronika Grozeva of Datateam and Derek Davies from Flame Brazing Services.

Further heats will take place at Grimsby College on June 21 and North Kent College on July 19. The six highest scores from the regional heats, plus last year’s winner, will be invited to the final held at the NEC as part of The Skills Show in November.

The students need to perform two skill-specific tasks during the regional heats: fabrication, brazing, pressure testing and evacuation, and a control wiring and testing task.

The final incorporates RAC level 2 knowledge and practical tasks including charging and recovery of refrigerants to 2079 (cat 1) standards, plus elements of Level 3 RAC.