All about familiarity at Grimsby Institute

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Published: 22 April 2021


Senior trainer consultants Mark Denford, left and Jason Clarke

It's been a strange year for everyone. However, at the Grimsby Institute, senior trainer consultant Mark Denford and the team have spent the time executing plans for maintaining high training standards to make sure they were in an even stronger position for the return of students.

The Grimsby Institute has a long affiliation with the refrigeration sector; providing industry-related education since 1967 in the port town synonymous with fishing. It has continued to develop during changing times, maintaining its status as one of the most prominent refrigeration and air conditioning training facilities and attracting students from all over the UK. 

Having joined the teaching staff just over a year ago, Denford, a former student of the Institute, has been making an impression on the department, "creating a structure that will improve the familiarisation students have with what they will experience in the industry".


Always improving

"We are constantly making changes across the department," said Denford. "Our workshop area now includes dedicated FGAS test bays, four brazing stations, 12 cold rooms; two of which are set up for assessment, various air conditioning split system configurations, an air-cooled liquid chiller, and a water-cooled version. We have created an industrial refrigeration area that includes star delta wiring areas and an ammonia refrigeration plant.

"The teaching facilities have been improved to include more working examples of equipment. It gives us the option to simulate a wider variety of faults and system configurations that would normally take too long to set up and achieve the real-life results that we would need. Currently, we are changing over our cold rooms to contain multi-evaporator systems because this provides the students with a more practical way of learning more complex systems and increase their exposure to equipment that they will be tested on."

Michael Haslam, Year 1, JD Cooling

The Institute offer a range of courses for various skill levels, from an Introduction into Air to Water Heat Pumps and Hydrocarbon Safe Handling through to the Level 3 Refrigeration Air Conditioning & Heat Pump Engineering technician. There are plans to also develop offerings for both ground and air source heat pumps to meet the growing demand from the heating sector and "to meet the requirements of producing more multi-skilled engineers".

Remote leaning

Speaking about the impact of the national lockdown, Denford said: "We usually have 40 students enrolled each year that we split into two groups, but this year we reduced this number to 20 to make it more manageable. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the restrictions in place meant that we needed to adapt quickly to maintain the high level of education that we demand of ourselves. Remote learning was put in place, but it can be challenging to replace the hands-on experience students gain from our workshop.

"Practical exams also had to be delayed with us managing just one assessment, which I believe has been the only one in the country. Attendance for this type of assessment is currently voluntary, and strict distancing rules are in place when they do happen. Of course, we completely understand that students may feel anxious about taking part in face-to-face situations and have supported them through that however we can."

Newly installed star-delta and direct online electrical panels


Industry Support

The contributions received from the refrigeration and related sectors have been "outstanding", with Mark and the team "blown away by the support".

"Organisations from all different sectors have donated equipment and resources," he said. "These include leak detection systems, air conditioning, close control systems, tools, magazine subscriptions, free memberships from the Institute of Refrigeration, talks from REFCOM around F-gas legislation and Kriwan about the importance of motor protection. It provides our students with the best possible chance of developing whilst here and gives them familiarisation of brands and organisations from the industry."

The future looks bright for the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning department at the Grimsby Institute. Denford and his team are working hard to develop the service they can provide whilst also focusing on the small areas sometimes overlooked, such as maintenance, electrical testing stations and modern system integration methods. With the majority of students now originating from air conditioning backgrounds, it is the training staff's intention to produce qualified students that have been taught "old fashioned values with advanced techniques", providing a "logical approach to familiarisation".

Available courses at the Grimsby Institute

  • Basic Air Conditioning Installation and Commissioning
  • Introduction to Air to Water Heat Pumps
  • City & Guilds 6090-50 Standard Refrigeration Air Conditioning & Heat Pump Engineering Technician  
  • City & Guilds 6090-30 Level 3 Diploma in Refrigeration & Air Conditioning 
  • City & Guilds 6187 Hydrocarbon Safe Handling 


A special thank you to the following organisations who have donated equipment or resources:

  • Air Conditioning Accessories / Yellow Jacket - Donation of digital gauges and sponsoring the department's Most Improved Apprentice of the Year award.
  • Airedale – Donation of a 26 kW close control system with humidity control 
  • AMP Air - Donation of Panasonic air conditioning systems 
  • Aspen Pumps Group - Donation of a wide range of tools, pumps & cleaning products, air conditioning accessories
  • Cool Solutions Distribution - For donating various Toshiba Air conditioning systems
  • Institute of Refrigeration - For supporting our apprentices with free introductory membership to the IOR 
  • Kriwan - Donation of motor protection modules and oil management
  • TQ Environmental - Donation of fixed and handheld refrigerant leak detection systems 

Ellis Barker, Year 3, Rescue Refrigeration


Training the next generation

"My college experience so far has been very educational and exciting; the tutors at Grimsby Institute are very helpful and have a lot of experience. The practical side of the course is enjoyable and informative. One of our tasks was a single-phase rig build where you can braze, silver solder, pipe an evaporator and build a single-phase panel from scratch using a wiring diagram you draw yourself. Tasks are also made more exciting by turning them into a competition where you can win prizes that are tool-related – very helpful for when you start building up your tool bag. I am currently in my second year of the course and have already seen so many changes and advances both in and out of the classroom."

Jacob Clunan - Year 2 
JGR Refrigeration & Air Conditioning

"The Refrigeration and Air Conditioning course at the Grimsby Institute is great. Tutors such as Mark Denford and Jason Clark give every student who attends the best chance of being the best in our field. The facilities are currently being improved with new units, tools, and other important equipment.  I think it is a good course all round. I'm hoping to achieve my goals and get my Level 3 in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning."

Harry White - Year 2
Climate Control

"Since I've started at the Grimsby Institute, it has helped me become much more confident when working on sites overall. Especially in electrical fault finding, with learning how to read electrical diagrams and putting this into practice on equipment in the workshop. Training how to find an electrical fault that has been put on the system has built up my knowledge and confidence. Without Grimsby Institute I would have struggled on sites as it's helped me learn and understand about electrics and how to work safely. I now feel much more capable when problem solving faults as I understand how each component in refrigeration works."

Adam Dart - Year 3 
JD Cooling