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Resettlement Success: From Star musician to Star Refrigeration

Category: Success Stories

Resettlement Success: From Star musician to Star Refrigeration Operations Training Manager Dave Bartlett served in the Armed Forces for 18 years. On leaving the military Dave began a career in refrigeration as an engineer with Star, before moving into management. He’s now been with the business for 19 years. We spoke with Dave to find out how the transition happened and what it was like for him.

Before working with Star, you served in the Armed Forces. Can you tell us a bit about your role in the army?
I was a musician in the army, playing saxophone, and I also briefly served as a medical assistant in Northern Ireland and tours of operation during the first Gulf conflict in 1990/1991. After 18 years of playing the saxophone and supporting the battalion in operational zones I decided it was time for a change.

I was proud of everything I had achieved in the Army but was looking for a new challenge that would bring a total change and long term career potential. Let’s face it, refrigeration is all around us and something we take for granted. There will always be a need for refrigeration engineers. I’ll never forget that I left the army on Thursday 28th February and entered into my new engineering job the very next day (yes a Friday)!

Had you always shown an interest in refrigeration?
Not at all! Before joining Star, all I knew about fridges was that they were a box in your kitchen that kept your food and drinks cold! It didn’t matter; Star has a great support ethic and training programme that taught me everything I needed to know about the industry and I continue to learn to this day. I had never thought of myself as a future refrigeration engineer, but you just never know where life will take you.

I learned a lot about commitment and being dedicated to the task at hand in the army, and I was able to bring these essential traits with me to Star. I also learned that it’s important to have the attitude to want to make things happen, and these were especially useful for me when starting off at Star.

What were the biggest changes you noticed when you moved from the army to Star?

With the army you were always in a very controlled environment that was tightly managed, due to the often dangerous situations you would be in or be near. When moving to Star, I had to get used to being more independent. As an engineer you are allocated works and expected to deliver. You are still part of a team but often find yourself out there alone with deadlines to work to. This means solving problems yourself and having self discipline to carry out tasks in the time provided.

You started off as a trainee engineer at Star but you are now the Training Manager, so you have progressed quite a bit! How long did it take you to move onwards and upwards at Star?
It took me about 6 months to progress from “trainee engineer” to just “engineer.” Star’s staff are extremely knowledgeable about what they do. Star Refrigeration is highly renowned for innovation and for their pioneering technological developments across the world. With an award-winning engineering team, I was confident I was in good hands and was going to learn from the best.

Having developed my engineering skills, I then took on the role of Oxford Branch Manager which I held for 15 years before becoming Training Manager this year. During my employment as Branch Manager I became involved in carrying out F-Gas assessments at the Oxford branch; I became a qualified assessor for the City & Guilds qualification and found my experience with training and understanding of engineers helped.

There are many different possibilities within a company that go unnoticed from outside. Many of my colleagues at Star who also served in the armed forces are now refrigeration engineers, commissioning engineers, service controllers project managers, and regional managers.

What advice would you give to anyone who is switching from a career in the army to one in a completely different industry such as refrigeration?

My advice would be to approach any new opportunities you are given with an open mind. Take me, for instance – 19 years ago I never would have believed I would be where I am today, but that is because I was open to the idea of starting fresh in an industry I was unfamiliar with. It’s not difficult at all to educate yourself on the fundamentals of refrigeration, what with the endless resources on the Internet. Star also provides free eLearning to all our engineers and apprentices, ranging from basic refrigeration to pressure/strength testing (probably one of the most dangerous tasks within the industry).

I would also advise to always show commitment and ambition, both to your training and to your role in general. The more committed you are to the initial training offered to you, the quicker you can progress. With the right attitude, you can achieve anything.

What tips can you give to your job seeking ex-colleagues?
These days when searching for employment a little good fortune can go a long way. It has often been said “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Employment fairs like those laid on by CTP are crucial. They are a fantastic opportunity for both serving and ex-military personnel to have a chance to meet the right person who will kick start a new career and new life – you just need to come along with an open mind. I will be at the Star Refrigeration booth at the fair, so please come and talk to me about future opportunities.