Finishing an apprenticeship, to starting a business.

In 2005, Ben was only 17 when he completed a Certificate III in Engineering Mechanical Trade (Refrigeration and Air Conditioning) with Community Solutions, known then as TORGAS.

Now at 34, Ben is the founder and owner of BMS Refrigeration and Electrical in Kirwan, North Queensland.

Humble beginnings as an apprentice.

At 17, Ben wanted to be a mechanic like his Dad, but his Dad wanted before for him. He encouraged Ben to look for something that was mechanical but less dirty.

He went into Community Solutions wanting to be a chef but his field representatives, Kylie and Tahnee, gently encouraged him to try refrigeration instead, as they knew he liked mechanics.

“Community Solutions really helped influence the direction I was going with my life. I didn’t know at the time how much I’d love refrigeration, but it was the best of both worlds, electrical and mechanical.” Ben said.

Ben loved it so much that in 2009, he was awarded Most Outstanding from Community Solutions, having completed his apprenticeship in only 3 years and 2 months, almost a year faster than the norm.

Making career changes over time.

Over the next 12 years, Ben spent time working as a concreter, refrigerator mechanic, and electrical supervisor and even worked in a bottle shop for a while.

“Everyone goes ‘Oh you moved around a little bit, but with refrigeration, every aspect of the trade, you must get your head around, otherwise you’re literally stuck in one part of the industry,” Ben said.

Ben also completed an apprenticeship in Electrical Fitter Mechanics and found he was able to increase his client base by merging the two trades. Something that is not common in the industry, “Most people do electrical, then specialise in refrigeration,” Ben said.

However, Ben found value in going against the grain.

“It was beneficial to me and made me a better tradesman in the electrical industry. Going from refrigeration to electrical, I love it, I love every part of it. I could now turn a normal fan into a generator.

Image of Ben & his work vehicle, who went from an apprentice to business owner.

Training the next generation

In 2019 Ben was poached by a plumbing and electrical company to be their electrical supervisor and over 3 years he helped build the business from $20,000 to $2.5 million profit. This experience gave him the knowledge, confidence and networking to launch BMS Refrigeration and Electrical.

“When people think of fridgies, they think we just fix fridges and air conditioners, but commercial refrigeration is huge. We work in cold rooms, massive supermarket fridges and multi-story chillers.” Ben said.

Ben has found the industry challenging at times so ensures he pays it forward with his own apprentices, encouraging honest, two-way communication.

“I didn’t like the culture and the way a lot of the guys were being treated at times, but it taught me how not to speak to my guys.”

Ben learnt from his own experience and is a dedicated mentor to his apprentices.

“By the time they’re finished they should be better than me. Every bit of my knowledge I’ve instilled into them. As we grow, everything expands, and we adapt. He tells them: “You should be adapting quicker, and I should be trying to chase you down.”

Ben’s advice to new apprentices

“Turn up on time. On-time means 15-20 minutes early. Put your phone in the glove box and be present. Turn up, don’t just show up. Companies are looking for that eagerness, they want to know you’re really dedicated.

Ben is still friendly with his TAFE teachers, often consulting each other on industry matters. Community Solutions also remains one of his long-term clients.

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