With the help of Competenz, Whangarei’s Jeff Cunningham gained the qualifications he needed to progress his career

November 18, 2021

At the age of 22, Jeff completed a Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (RAC) apprenticeship with Competenz. He says having a RAC qualification and background helped him with his career progression over the last ten years and has ultimately led him into his current roles at RefiningNZ.

“I currently work in two full-time roles within RefiningNZ; Refinery Control Room Operator and Field Operator. I’m responsible for the physical plant in the refinery and performing routine checks of all equipment as well as technical control of the units. The job can get very intense and requires a strong knowledge of plant, processes and control systems. We run the plant 24/7.”

In the past two years, Jeff has also taken on the part-time role of Control Room Assessor, using his knowledge and experience to help with the training, development and assessment of trainee operators. It takes him back to his learning days.

“I wasn’t the perfect apprentice!” he laughs. “Things have changed a bit since I did my apprenticeship, and it’s easier now a lot of the study has moved online. I took longer to complete my study than I should have, but I was lucky enough to have a supportive Competenz training advisor, who was constantly coming up with ideas on how to keep me motivated, and with timeframes and targets to help keep me on track.

“I was also very lucky to have a supportive boss and work colleagues to help me along the way. Everyone is different and it’s good to have people that will help adapt to the learning needs of individuals,” says Jeff.

Jeff credits his RAC apprenticeship with giving him the knowledge to read and understand plant engineering schematics and logic diagrams. He says the same concepts of a refrigeration system can be applied to refinery systems “although they’re a bit bigger”.

“It’s about the relationship between pressure and temperature. It’s given me a good base of concepts I’ve been able to build on to help get to where I am today.”

He also credits the opportunity to ‘earn while you learn’ for a great head start, allowing him to save enough money to buy his first home, while a lot of his friends were paying off their student debts.

“My apprenticeship helped me identify the areas I really enjoyed and what I wanted to focus on and learn more about, continuing with further qualifications. It has helped me transition into the industry I am in now, and I am confident it will help me with whatever career path I decide to go down next as we transition away from hydrocarbon in the future.”

Interested in an apprenticeship? We can help you get started competenz.org.nz/embracethefluro.