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Meet James Bland: The experienced engineer furthering his development with a Bradford College apprenticeship

For our second apprentice success story, we chat with engineering apprentice, James Bland – a talented engineer with a rich wealth of experience in his industry; so why is he completing an apprenticeship? Read on to find out more.


If you were to ask someone what comes to mind when they hear the word ‘apprenticeship’, it would be fair to say that air conditioning and refrigeration probably wouldn’t be the first thing.

However at Bradford College, where this specialist industry is now reflected as part of the curriculum, this isn’t necessarily the case.

It’s been estimated that this area of engineering is requiring over 50,000 trained engineers to cover just the heat pump sector alone, with only approximately 5,000 currently covering the whole refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump industry.

James Bland, who works for Mitie Group, is an individual that jumped at the opportunity to further his development in this specialist area.

“I was looking for my next challenge and decided to go down the air conditioning route”, says James, delving into the finer details of why he opted to enrol at Bradford College.

James is a mature student who signed up to a Level 3 apprenticeship, focusing on air conditioning and refrigeration engineering, to further enhance his career and employability.

It is a particularly crucial time in this sector, which needs enough qualified workers by 2025, ahead of new legislation regarding gas heating.

From the year 2025, new homes will not have gas boilers fitted and will instead feature alternative heating systems, such as heat pumps.

As with many aspects of day-to-day life, this is part of wider initiatives to tackle carbon emissions and ensure a cleaner, electric future by 2050.

“I’m really interested in the big air handling systems, so my company sent me on my F-Gas qualification, which is the entry level required for the industry”, James continues.

“I didn’t feel the course provided enough, as it’s a very basic overview, so I asked my work to put me in touch with as many colleges as they could do and luckily they managed to get me into Bradford.”

This course teaches you how to be a good engineer and how to do the trade properly.

A Positive Experience

As a highly qualified engineer already, James was under no obligation to pursue any further qualifications and joined the college out of his own desire to develop.

With this in mind, why did James choose to do this and what exactly is he getting out of his experience so far?

“Engineering isn’t just a job to me, it’s a hobby as well and I do loads of stuff outside of work. I just love it and always have done.

“I kept nagging my work for the opportunity and when they could sort it out, they did.

“My confidence has gone from nought to one hundred with the work I’m doing, as I’m actually doing aircon work all the time now. Learning more about how things work has put my confidence right up, I’m more willing to go and get hands on with the job.”

As someone who has been out of your typical studying environment for several years now, James also offered his thoughts on the work/study balance of an apprenticeship: “I usually do a bit of revision on my own through the week, then I’m here (Bradford College) all day on a Monday and at work for the other four days. I’m managing pretty well.

“My tutor (Derek) always says he’s only an email away if I need anything. The team are good, they’ve always been in contact with me.”

Advice to others

To anyone else who may be considering taking the plunge and furthering their development with an apprenticeship, James advised: “I think people in my age group, who might’ve been at work for a while and are wondering what their next step is, can be a bit apprehensive about going back to college; just go for it. It’s great.

“It provides you with so many opportunities and as soon as you get into a group of people who are all doing the same thing, you just start flying.

“Your contact list becomes massive and you find more opportunities coming your way. There’s a world of opportunities, in all different industries, opening up to me from this.”

Top Tips

James also shared some top tips from his knowledge:

1. Always turn up 15 minutes early – As the apprentice you want to be the first one there, you don’t want the guys you’re working with to think that you can’t be bothered turning up on time.

2. Ask as many questions as you can – Get to the point where your engineer wants to say “go sit in the van, you’re doing my head in!” You never learn anything if you don’t ask and so many people fall at the first hurdle because of this.

3. Try and apply everything learnt in the classroom to your job – Try to understand why you’re learning the theory of certain things.

While only a selection of people may currently be knowledgeable in this area, it’s something which affects every single one of us on a day-to-day basis.

For this reason, it’s vital that more individuals like James continue to master their craft on this expert apprenticeship.


Are you interested in an apprenticeship? Has James’ story inspired you to pursue a similar path? Follow the links below to find out how to get started.

Published: 8th February 2023
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