Petit Forestier tackling skills shortage head-on

18 Oct 2023

A new batch of students have embarked on one of the UK’s only transport refrigeration engineering apprenticeship programmes, to kickstart their careers in the cold chain industry with Petit Forestier.

For the last ten years, over 100 young people have come through official learning programmes to join the Petit Forestier team. These programmes started off life as multi-skilled engineering courses as a solution to the shortfall in skilled staff the company was facing, incorporating truck mechanics and refrigeration.

Last September, the scheme expanded its apprenticeship offering and now provides a refrigeration-only apprenticeship, which is one of the first of its kind in the UK.

Earlier this month, Petit Forestier welcomed five new students onto the three-year refrigeration and air conditioning course, which is supplemented with Petit Forestier’s own in-house training and manufacturer courses so the skills can be applied specifically to transport refrigeration.

Ian Derrick, Refrigeration Engineering Director at Petit Forestier, said: “Utilising these apprenticeships and showing young people that there are opportunities out there for them, which can progress into lifelong careers, is key to attracting new talent to the industry.

“I’ve been working with the apprenticeship scheme since it started back in 2013, and have been fortunate to watch so many of the trainees go on to enjoy successful careers within Forestier UK Ltd. The apprentices coming on board this year have been really excited about it and they’re really engaged. It’s great to have them as part of the team.” 

The apprenticeship scheme had previously been running since 2013, and was delivered by Petit Forestier in partnership with the local Stephenson College, Marshall Thermo King, and The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI). However, the partnership is between Petit Forestier, the City of Liverpool College and Marshall Fleet Solutions which will now lead to a formally recognised qualification.

The scheme has diversified its offering in recent years to attract more young people to the many areas of the cold chain industry that is lacking in new blood wanting to develop careers within this important sector.

Ian added: “We noticed there was a common pitfall of students falling into one area over the other and it seemed difficult to get them to connect with both truck mechanics and refrigeration. When we noticed it was getting increasingly harder to attract people to the refrigeration side, we adapted the course again to attract more potential apprentices.”

The scheme has had huge success, with numerous apprentices now working with Petit Forestier as full-time employees. Oliver Dutton joined the apprentice scheme when it first started back in 2013 and is now Southern Technical Refrigeration Engineer at Petit Forestier, he said: “I joined the scheme when I was 19 not really knowing much about Petit Forestier and just how big the company was! Since I started back in 2013 you can see there are lots of progression opportunities and you’re surrounded by a really supportive team. I love my job and what I do now with Petit Forestier, and this wouldn’t have been possible without that apprenticeship offering.”