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Meet the finalists who have earned a place to compete at the 2016 WorldSkills Australia National Refrigeration Competition in Melbourne.

Making it to this competition is a huge achievement but the fridgies are striving for greatness as the winners of this event join the 2017 Skillaroos team at the 44th WorldSkills Competition in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

That's right its the World Olympics for tradies and there is a total of 10 fridgies all gearing up for a shot at greatness at this year's ARBS Exhibition.

2016 marks the 7th year that ARBS has hosted the National Refrigeration Competition which is sponsored by Heatcraft and Refrigerant Reclaim Australia.

CCN spoke to  Australia's top 10, the fridgies that will travel from all corners of the country to be at this month's competition.

Apprentice refrigeration technician Jonathon “Jonny” Sinclair knows the value of practical experience.  It seemed a pretty natural progression for the 23 year old from the Adelaide suburb of Greenwith to go into the refrigeration industry - his interest was piqued after watching his two older brothers enter the industry straight from high school. In fact its pretty much a family business.

Now in the fourth year of his apprenticeship, Sinclair works alongside his brothers in their father’s business, Sinclair Refrigeration. He is also studying a Certificate III in Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning at TAFE SA. After completing his apprenticeship, he hopes to work his way through the Diploma of Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning and become a leading senior technician.

“I ultimately want to be the owner of an industry leading company,” he said. Sinclair is excited about the competition and recalls watching his brother compete during his own apprenticeship. In the lead up to the national competition, Sinclair has been busy training for the big day.

Nathan Balliana

At just 21 years old, air conditioning and refrigeration technician Nathan Balliana is from Woodberry, NSW. Balliana attributes his love of the refrigeration industry to his school’s careers advisor.

“I originally applied for a trial for an electrical apprenticeship through my school careers advisor at the end of Year 10,” he said. “But at the end of my first week trial at a small air conditioning company, I was offered an apprenticeship as a ‘fridgie’. Up until that time, I never realised that it was a trade!”

Balliana has just completed the Certificate III in Air Conditioning & Refrigeration at TAFE NSW Hunter Institute, and now works at Coolrite Air Conditioning, where he hopes to move up the ranks and train his own apprentices one day.

His first time competing with WorldSkills Australia was at the Regional Competition in 2013, where he placed fourth. Not one to give up easily, he spent the next two years training until 2015, where he secured a gold medal in Refrigeration. “It was very nerve-wracking and my heart was racing all day long! I double and triple-checked myself on everything I did the entire day,” Balliana said.

He now has his sights set on the 2016 WorldSkills Australia National Refrigeration Competition in Melbourne.

Jai Nesbit

From Outlands, NSW, this 19-year old apprentice is proof that a little determination can go a long way. Growing up, Jai Nesbit looked up to his uncle who works in the industry. Not long after finishing school, his uncle introduced him to the owner of Harvey Air Conditioning and after completing some work experience, they were so impressed with his skills that they offered him an apprenticeship.

“I love solving issues and fault-finding,”Nesbit said. He is now in the third year of his apprenticeship, studying the Certificate III in Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration at TAFE NSW South Western Sydney Institute. “I want to finish my apprenticeship, learn as much as I can and run a successful business of my own.” When it comes to the competition Nesbit is going for gold. “I hope my quick thinking and the tricks I’ve learned along the way will help me to win.”

Daniel Smith

Apprentice air conditioning and refrigeration mechanic Daniel Smith proves that inspiration can come when you least expect it. Growing up, the 21 year old surfie from Bermagui, NSW, wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when he grew up.

After he finished school, Smith went for a trial job in refrigeration not knowing anything about it, and ended up enjoying it.

“It’s really satisfying fixing a tricky fault in a system,” he said. Smith is now in the fourth year of his apprenticeship at Elite Air, studying the Certificate III in Air Conditioning and Refrigeration at TAFE NSW Illawarra Institute. After completing his current qualification, Smith hopes to enter into an electrical apprenticeship and open his own business one day.

“I’m happy to be representing my region and having a crack at the competition. Hopefully I’ll win a medal – preferably gold!”

Nathan McHugh

Nathan McHugh, a 20 year old apprentice from Cedar Grove in Queensland, said he knew he was destined to work in the refrigeration industry. “I always wanted to work with my dad when I was younger,” he said. “Getting to go to work with dad and seeing what he did was pretty cool for a young kid.

"What my father has done with his career has inspired me.” After he finished school, his father took McHugh on as an apprentice at DTM Air Services and he hasn’t looked back since.

He is now in his fourth year, having almost completed a Certificate III in Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration at TAFE QLD SkillsTech.

After his apprenticeship, Nathan plans to gain electrical qualifications and work his way up to the Bachelor of Engineering, hoping to become a teacher in the trade in the future. “I’m very excited and nervous. By applying all my knowledge and skills to the tasks at hand and trying my best, hopefully I’ll do well,” McHugh said.

Declan Hamilton

For apprentice refrigeration and air conditioning technician Declan Hamilton, a surprise passion turned into a glowing career opportunity. Hailing from Mt Evelyn in Victoria, the 21 year old originally planned to be an electrician. That was until he was given two weeks work experience with a refrigeration and air conditioning company.

“I fell in love with the job! I love the thinking and problem solving that is involved,” Hamilton said. He is now in the fourth year of his apprenticeship with Sea Breeze Air and is completing the Certificate III in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning at the Box Hill Institute. He hopes to become a supervisor one day.

“I’m putting time aside each night to study for the competition. I hope to do my best and get a gold medal,” he said.

 

Toby Gillespie

Toby Gillespie is a 21 year old apprentice refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic from Dubbo. “I wanted to try something different from farming and a family friend saw an ad in the paper about a refrigeration apprenticeship just after I had finished my HSC so I gave it a try,” he said. That's how Gillespie began his apprenticeship at Chill-Rite.

Now in his third year, he is currently studying the Certificate III in Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning at TAFE NSW Western Institute and hopes to open his own business someday.  Gillespie first heard about WorldSkills Australia through his lecturer. He had the pleasure of competing at the Regional Competition with fellow Chill-Rite apprentices, where his hard work and determination paid off with a gold medal.

Now, Toby is proud to represent his region at the national competition.

Jarrod Martin

Based in the southern Perth suburb of Madora Bay, WA, apprentice air conditioning technician Jarrod Martin was encouraged to do an apprenticeship by his father.

The 20 year old began with a pre-apprenticeship in refrigeration and air conditioning at the end of Year 12. His passion ignited, Martin pursued and secured an apprenticeship with Aircor Mechanical Services, where he is currently in his third year.

Upon completing the Certificate III in Engineering Mechanical Trade (Refrigeration & Air Conditioning) at Polytechnic West’s Carlisle Campus, Martin hopes to undertake another apprenticeship in electrical instrumentation and work his way up the ranks within his field.

Martin first heard about the Regional Competition through his TAFE lecturer. “It was a very good competition as it had all the various tasks we would encounter out in the field,” he said. Although winning at ARBS 2016 is the ultimate goal, Martin is grateful just to compete. “I’m training hard so I can learn the most I can from this experience,” he said.

 Hayden McColl

Based in Anstead in Queensland, 20-year-old Hayden McColl was introduced to the industry by chance.  A refrigeration tech came out to his parent's business on a job and ended up becoming his employer.

A simple conversation turned into work experience, which turned into an apprenticeship. McColl is currently in the fourth year of his apprenticeship, completing a Certificate III in Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration at TAFE QLD SkillsTech.

Early into his apprenticeship, McColl’s lecturer told him about WorldSkills Australia competitions. He decided to take a chance by competing at the Regional Competition last year and it paid off: He won a gold medal and earned his spot at the upcoming 2016 WorldSkills competition.

After completing his apprenticeship, McColl hopes to broaden his skill set and continue his studies in electrical work and engineering.

Matthew Cleave

Matthew Cleave is a 19 years old apprentice refrigeration and air conditioning technician from Kurmond in NSW. After finishing school, he managed to secure one week of work experience at Commercial Air Mechanical Services, who was so impressed with him that they offered him an apprenticeship.

Cleave is now in his second year and is completing the Certificate III in Air Conditioning and Refrigeration at TAFE NSW South Western Sydney Institute. He hopes to work toward his electrical license and become the best air conditioning service technician he can be. "I really enjoy fault-finding and fixing things that have broken,” he said.

Not long after commencing his studies, Cleave's lecturer approached him about entering the regional competition. He pushed through his nerves and it paid off with a gold medal. Now, he looks forward to seeing how he stacks up against the nation's best in the upcoming competition.

 

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