Skip to content Skip to menu

Triple triumph: Three students shortlisted for national industry award

Three refrigeration engineering students at Eastleigh College have been selected as finalists for the industry's ‘National Student of the Year’ at this year’s Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Awards.

Luke Haile, Matthew Huckle and Gemma Weston are among eight students from across the UK who have been shortlisted for the coveted title which will be announced at the RAC and IOR Industry Awards next week.

The trio, who are all advanced apprentices, will be vying for the title and top cash prize which will, for the first time, form part of a special broadcast and event.

The ‘National Student of the Year’ sets out to honour engineers currently undertaking training that have stood out over the last twelve months or displayed a level of quality or dedication in their work that can address some of the huge challenges facing the industry.  

Eastleigh College lecturer, Shaun Creech, said: “These challenges have been heightened due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has put unprecedented pressures on the employers we work with, as well as the apprentices and students.

“Despite this, our learners are doing brilliantly and we’re delighted that Gemma, Matt and Luke have been selected for the finals of this prestigious award. It is a reflection of the hard work and commitment they have demonstrated both at their places of work and here at college.”

Twenty-five year-old Gemma is a second-year apprentice with CSS Environment, and has an ambition to become a lead engineer and pass her knowledge to the next generation engineers. She said:I am ecstatic, over the moon and honestly feel so proud of myself, as well as championing my affiliation with the WiRACHP.

It’s a huge accomplishment for every single student nominated, but being in such a minority as a woman in a predominantly male-oriented industry, it’s a particularly huge accomplishment for me.”

Gemma was given the opportunity to become an apprentice which she felt suited her personality and practical approach. She explained: “I have always been very hands-on and also love a challenge, and I have never looked back.

"The College has given me confidence in myself and my career choice, especially being the only woman in my class, but I have never felt excluded and have received huge support from my classmates and tutors. I have used my time to develop my skills and grow, but I would not be where I am without every single one of them.

Luke, 17, who is half way through his Engineering Technician apprenticeship with Lightfoot Defence, added: “I was delighted to be selected for the Student of the Year. It would be a great accomplishment to be recognised for my hard work and dedication, especially with helping my peers.

“I was inspired to work in RAC at 14 years-old during a week’s work experience at a

company specialising in military refrigeration. I have always had a passion for engineering and the science behind it. It is exciting working on units that service the RAF Eurofighter typhoons, army Apache helicopters and naval ships offering innovation and niche assistance to an area most wouldn’t think of in the RAC industry.”

Luke, who successfully competed stage two of the national SkillsFridge industry competition and has also been nominated for Eastleigh College’s ‘Apprentice of the Year’ award, added: “The College’s dedicated tutors have many years experience in the field which has been invaluable. The recognition I’m getting is wholly attributed to the College and my employer mentoring me and giving continuing support. I am grateful to be selected for this award as I believe it acknowledges not only my achievement but my contributions.”

Luke’s long term career aspirations lie in research and development and he explains his ambition is to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Heating Air Conditioning and Refrigeration.

“My core values lie with innovation and sustainability," he explained. "I’m interested in the possibility of making the industry, as a whole, greener; reducing the carbon footprint. I would like to look into the development of new gases and into creating more efficient components so that the future gases could be recycled.” 

The panel of expert judges includes chief judge, John Skelton, who is an inspirational figure for evoking carbon reduction within the sector and previously chaired the Institute of Refrigeration’s Education & Training Committee. 

Click here for a full list of the 2020 RAC and IOR National Student of the Year finalists.