The IOR has been talking to some of the new RACHP EngTech “Trailblazer” Apprentices about how their training and experience has helped them become successful technicians and engineers.  We start with Curtis Whalley of Weatherite who told us how his training at Dudley College helped him at work, what his employer did to support him and why his commitment to learning makes him stand out.

“I really got stuck into the practical work at college, finding out about how fridge systems and components work and installing splits. In my job I was learning about more specialised equipment like AHU and adiabatic systems so college was a different type of learning - I’m glad I paid attention because I do some split installs now.  We did extra work with the electrical tutor testing compressors, faulting windings and down-to-earth faults and that was really helpful when I had to deal with a compressor failure in a big job in Jersey and was able to diagnose it because of that. 

 Not many people get to work on the type of energy-saving adiabatic units that I work onThey are a new technology so you don’t learn that at college.  When I had to install and commission a unit at St Thomas’ hospital for a new covid ward I really felt I was doing my bit.

 During my apprenticeship my employer had me working in different places and systems covering the whole of the UK. I used to go to Dublin every 3 months for 2 weeks to maintain Microsoft Xbox live servers – 100+ units – that was incredible. I also did one week every 3 months commissioning a data centre in Jersey. I had to make sure I was back in time for college on Fridays. Fortunately, Weatherite is a great company, they understand that the apprentices need constant training and offer lots of learning and opportunities, I have been treated really well throughout my apprenticeship. 

Right now I’m working on finishing my electrical qualifications at Dudley College – another 4yrs of study. You have to keep learning to progress in the company. I’m really glad to work for a good company that looks after you.

My advice to anyone thinking of doing an apprenticeship is - you can do it! Maybe you will make mistakes but you will learn from them. Just knuckle down in college, listen as much as possible, ask for help if you need it, ask lots of questions on site and show initiative.”

Curtis described his apprenticeship end point exam as a bit daunting as he was one of the first at Dudley to successfully achieve his Apprenticeship last year. The final exam was based on a system he doesn’t usually work on at work and he had to go down to another centre for the exam as the local assessment centre wasn’t ready yet. He said his experience from work helped him understand what to expect during the practical exam – for example he realised the fault-finding test would have to incorporate fairly basic faults as there wasn’t enough time allowed in the assessment to do a complete compressor change. He says that the apprenticeship has given him more confidence to go out on his own and improved his skills. He recognises that having the right mentors at work helped him to approach jobs in the right way and credits his success to having been hands-on at work from the start, asking lots of questions, having a good employer and working with the right mentors who swapped him about in different jobs to get more experience solving problems in different ways.

His employer, Service Manager Lee Smart said “Curtis is developing into a very capable, dependable and likeable engineer, who is thought well of by the Company, his colleagues and customers alike; a shining advocate for the success of trainee apprenticeships schemes in our industry” 

Congratulations to Curtis, his lecturer Chris Clamp at Dudley and his employers at Weatherite for their achievements and the contribution they are making to raising skills in our industry.

For more about the RACHP EngTech Apprenticeship, guides for employers and links to college training providers see

(This interview was first published in RAC Magazine October 2022)