CCN in partnership with the Australian Refrigeration Council presents this year’s Top 20 apprentices under 25 years of age.

Second year apprentice Nathan Aiken finished high school and went straight into an apprenticeship. The 20-year-old says working at Trent Refrigeration has allowed him to learn from the best. “Every day is challenging which makes me a better refrigeration mechanic,” Nathan says. “My goal is to be an awesome fridgie and one day have my own business.”

Fourth year apprentice, Nicholas Baldi, says he actually enjoys the theoretical side of the trade. “I like the theory behind refrigeration and learning how everything works,” Nicholas says. The 22-year-old says he called a lot of refrigeration companies trying to get an apprenticeship before landing a job at Trent Refrigeration. “They asked to see my resume and soon after I began my apprenticeship,” Nicholas says. In future Nicholas wants to improve his skills and says he prefers the refrigeration side of the trade.

Fridgcon apprentice Jayden Beasley is based in Bathurst in western New South Wales. The 21-year-old was working in a timber mill when he discovered refrigeration and air conditioning. “I knew I wanted a trade but had to decide which one I liked best,” Jayden says. The first year apprentice is confident he made the right choice. “This trade is amazing because it is a combination of different trades such as plumbing, electrotechnology. It means that every day is different," Jayden says.

First year apprentice, Dean Bognado, always knew he would become a tradie, he just didn’t expect to end up in refrigeration and air conditioning. “My older brother is a plumber so I knew I didn’t want to do that,” he says.  The 20 year old did casual construction work for 12 months before committing to an apprenticeship at DM Air, west of Brisbane. “It is the best decision I have ever made. I am not stuck in the same place and the work I do is interesting, I am learning a lot,” Dean says.

West Australian apprentice, Jarred Budny, is in his final year of his trade at AJ Baker & Sons Pty Ltd. The 21 year old has always had his sights set on a RAC trade because it combined mechanical and electrical skills. While undertaking work experience at AJ Baker & Sons he made such a big impression with his positive attitude and willingness to learn that he was offered an apprenticeship. Jarred likes the daily challenges that come with the trade, it provides a real sense of accomplishment. “Whether it is routine maintenance, a simple service job or a large installation over a number of weeks I love troubleshooting and being so hands on,” he says.“Ultimately I want to focus on commercial refrigeration projects mainly supermarkets.” Jarred has won apprentice of the year for the last two years and was runner up in WA WorldSkills in 2019.

Kosmas Chronakis is a fourth year apprentice at Alliance Refrigeration in Sydney. Kosmas is serious about completing his trade and is now preparing to undertake a Diploma in HVAC Engineering. Kosmas was destined to be a fridgie. “My father is a refrigeration engineer so I picked up the tools as a toddler,” he says. The 22-year-old has travelled across Australia completing his apprenticeship. “The best part of the job is the people you meet, plus I like the theoretical side of the trade,” Kosmas says.

Dylan Cox is a South Australian based apprentice in his final year at Cold Logic. The 25 year old began his career as a light vehicle mechanic but soon got bored being in the same place day after day. This is when Dylan decided to be a fridgie. He tested the waters doing air conditioning installs for 10 months before joining Cold Logic. “This is complex work, it is challenging and we get to dabble in so many different areas; from ammonia to commercial air conditioning,” he says. “My favourite part of the trade is working on big industrial systems, compressor rebuilds and going on call-outs. In future I want to set up my ute to do contracting work and travel around Australia.”

Melbourne-based apprentice, Kai Davies, has been working towards his trade since high school. The 17-year-old worked two days per week at SP&R Air Conditioning while completing years 11 and 12. After completing his education Kai began working at SP&R Air Conditioning full time. The first year apprentice is part of the Head Start Program which allows students to do paid work while finishing school. It certainly gives students a headstart in their careers. The company is owned and managed by fridgies so it’s a place where apprentices can thrive. “I love the trade because I learn something new everyday and it is always different,” Kai says.

Ben Dolahenty is nearing the end of his apprenticeship at ChilledRight in Sydney. He was introduced to the trade by his father. “My dad is a fridgie and runs his own business,” Ben says. The 19-year-old says it is a challenging trade but that is what he likes most about the job. “I have to actually use my brain and I enjoy problem-solving,” Ben says. “I have had a chance to work in all aspects of the trade now and my favourite part of the job is working on supermarket jobs, I like working on the bigger stuff.”

Final year apprentice, Norman Furlong, loves the independence the job provides. “I am out and about all the time, I am never stuck in one place,” he says. “When I first left school I started an apprenticeship as a butcher but left within a year I hated being stuck indoors all the time.” The 24-year-old has been at DM Air, west of Brisbane, for four years. “It is the longest job I have ever had,” Norman says. In future, Norman plans to travel and is confident he will be able to get regular employment with his refrigeration and air conditioning skills. “My mate’s brother has been in the trade a long time and he has worked on jobs overseas, that would be awesome.”

Protech Air Conditioning apprentice, Pranesh Gounder, is in the second year of his trade. The 19-year-old went straight from school into refrigeration and air conditioning. “This is my first job, I was lucky family friends introduced me to the trade,” Pranesh says. “Since I began my apprenticeship I have learnt a lot, there is so much to learn which is why it never gets boring.”

Kieran Grima is a second year apprentice at Big Bear Refrigeration in Sydney. The 18-year-old knew he wanted to work in this industry straight from school. He began working at another air conditioning business before settling in his current role. Kieren says he prefers the commercial refrigeration side of the trade. In future, he plans to set up his own business.

Queensland-based apprentice Katie Hammill-Lovett, is in the first year of her apprenticeship with the Woolworths Group. Katie says she is thriving in her new trade career an describes the experience as amazing. Like many others her age, Katie wasn’t sure what career path to pursue after finishing high school. With a trade qualified older brother, Katie decided to enrol in a Certificate II in Electrotechnology at TAFE Queensland to gain the foundation skills she needed to start applying for apprenticeships. “I’d been looking into a range of different jobs and thought I might be suited to a trade career,” she says.

Logan Jankovski is a first year apprentice at Commercial Air Conditioning in northern Sydney. The 18-year-old knew very little about the trade prior to commencing his apprenticeship. “But once I saw the diverse range of jobs I was able to do I knew it suited me,” Logan says. “The only other job I had was working as a paper delivery person while finishing my High School Certificate.” Logan says the job keeps improving and expanding in ways he had never expected. “The opportunities to learn are endless.”

Second year apprentice, Connor Lavelle, is based in Bathurst in western New South Wales. The 20-year-old is completing his apprenticeship at Altech Air and also studies at TAFE in Bathurst. Connor enjoys the service side of the business and enjoys the problem-solving part of the trade. “Working in a regional area makes a difference as well, heating and cooling is very important,” Connor says.

Colin McGilvray is a first year apprentice at Woolworths in Brisbane. The 20 year old enjoys welding and says the best part of the trade is the variety of work technicians get to undertake. “We also have a very supportive team which is great for the all the apprentices,” Colin says.

Stephanie Peters is the first female apprentice attheBrisbane-based branch of Broadcast Services Australia (BSA). Before commencing her trade Stephanie went to university to study both arts and law subjects. “In high school it was really drilled into us that university was the only pathway and because of that I didn’t really know what I wanted to,” she says.“I needed a trade that had heaps of different aspects and air conditioning and refrigeration has all of these things, so I took a shot and have loved it ever since.”

First year apprentice at Hiflow Industries, Caleb Pouros, is keen to learn everything he can about the trade. “I am hoping to go as far as I can in this trade,” he says. Caleb knew he wanted to be a RAC apprentice straight from school and began seeking out opportunities. So far, he says learning about chillers has been interesting. The 19-year-old also wants to do more work with boilers. “I am not sure where my apprenticeship will take me in the future because right now my focus is on completing my apprenticeship,” Caleb says.

Omega Refrigeration technician, Vasilios Tsakirakis, has just completed his apprenticeship. The 24-year-old came first in the regional WorldSkills competition representing Ultimo TAFE. He says he pursued a career in refrigeration and air conditioning because it combined electronics, engineering and physics. “It combines everything I am interested in and I like doing repairs,” he says. “I love the trade, one thing that kept me going is my bosses who have taught me a lot.”

South Australian technician, Raymond Vlist has also just completed his apprenticeship and is planning to use his skills to travel around Australia. Raymond has left his job and is preparing for his big trip. Raymond says the pandemic has stalled his plans but it has given him more time to prepare his van and make sure he has enough tools. The 23-year-old always planned to get a trade to have the skills necessary to support his travel plans. “I am so glad I chose this trade because there always seems to be plenty of work.”

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