Why the sky's the limit for Luke Haile


18 April 2023
Luke Haile of Lightfoot Defence has already earned extensive industry recognition

ACR Journal caught up with 2022 RACHPskills competition winner Luke Haile to talk about his career to date and a growing collection of industry awards.

Hi Luke, congratulations again on your most recent accolade; it’s an outstanding achievement.  Tell us, when you are not collecting awards, what do you do for your day job and how did you come to be in the refrigeration sector?

I work as a Junior Technical Engineer at Lightfoot Defence Ltd. The company specialises in designing, manufacturing and installing refrigeration and air conditioning equipment for the maritime, military and commercial sectors. Engineering and the sciences behind it have always appealed to me. So when my school encouraged a week’s work experience, I approached Lightfoot Defence. The week was such a success that on day 4 (and at the age of 14), the MD offered me an apprenticeship, subject to the successful completion of my upcoming GCSEs. I started with the company in September 2019 and commenced my diploma at Eastleigh College the same month, obtaining my F-Gas in the spring of 2020.

What does your current role involve?

Having completed my apprenticeship, I am now putting into practice the skills I gained during training. Primarily I am in a workshop, building and servicing our aerospace integrated service units. 

My responsibilities include the quality control and stock management of all refrigerants and gases within Lightfoot, building machinery to deadlines and helping out when needed with the onsite breakdown and maintenance repairs of our equipment. This equipment services the Eurofighter Typhoon jets and Apache helicopters, so it is paramount that they are kept in top condition. 

I have also been asked to assist with the future recruitment of an apprentice, having recently been through the process myself. So no two days are ever the same.

Luke competing in the RACHPskills finals

Tell us how you became involved in the RACHPskills competition and what you took away from the experience.

I entered in 2021, but the event was unfortunately cancelled due to Covid. I entered again the following year, competed in Spring 2022, and was the overall winner of my regional qualifier round. The national final was held in November over three days at Barking & Dagenham College. Winning the gold medal came as a shock to be honest, because I knew the competition was close. I have now been selected for Team UK Worldskills 2024, which takes place in Lyon, France.

Between now and then, I commence 18 months of specialised training, which I am really looking forward to as I believe it will boost my knowledge and help my development and career.

During the competition, it’s difficult not to look at others and see how far they have got. I would advise anyone else taking part not to get preoccupied with others but to focus on the task at hand. Also, it’s a cliché, but always read the question properly and follow every instruction. Attention to detail is so important and gains the all-important points. Preparation and having the correct tools on competition day, laying out and having everything to hand reduces stress and time. Running out of time can be an issue but cutting corners isn’t the answer. Reaching that stage, mentally being prepared is important, and getting sufficient rest between competition days allows you to be ready to tackle that daily assignment.

I have been lucky to have won RAC IOR National Student of the Year, ACR Journal Trainee of the Year, ACR News Trainee of the Year, BESA winner of regional heats of Worldskills UK, Gold medal winner of RACHPskills and now been selected for Worldskills Team UK.

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Luke enjoyed success at the ACR Trainee of the Year Awards in 2021

I have demonstrated that I can transfer skills from the classroom to the workshop and believe I am the only person to achieve all these successes.

What’s next for you?

I have started my HNC in mechanical engineering to gain entry to university, and I plan to keep working on my hands-on abilities until I can progress to a management-style role. I also intend to remain in the military sector and the vast research and development opportunities that come with it.  

What do you see as the challenges facing the industry?

The industry has to face up to its part in global warming and continue to strive for greener solutions.
I believe the Industry needs to attract future apprentices by focusing on young school leavers. It needs to be an attractive career, and with a mix of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and scientific knowledge, it is an exciting future. Increasing the profile of the industry via STEM in schools will appeal to all budding engineers.

Who have been the most influential people in your career, and what advice would you give someone starting in the RACHP industry?

I feel exceptionally lucky to be nurtured in a company where my line manager, Joe Mills, has a wealth of knowledge. Eastleigh College has supported me, and without lecturers like Shaun Creech and all the tutors, I wouldn’t have progressed in the competition.

I would like to also mention my school design technology teacher, Mr Dew, for all the time he invested in helping me and giving me the confidence to apply for an apprentice role. 

I also would like to acknowledge Mark Forsyth for all his endeavours in RACHPskills; he works tirelessly to make the competition so successful. Fujitsu was phenomenal with sponsoring the event and extremely generous with the corporate event to announce the results, as well as the team sharing knowledge with us on training days. 

Tell us a little-known fact about yourself that would surprise other people

I was raised abroad from the age of four in a military family living in some amazing places like Brunei, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Meeting the Sultan of Brunei, visiting the Edge of the World and seeing the Tree of Life were some of the highlights. I grew up with air conditioning at home in every room; life without it would have been pretty much impossible out there!

 I work with wood and resin in my spare time and have been commissioned for projects, including a river table. Crafting at home, I appreciate good quality tools and am an advocate for investing in great calibre equipment.

Luke enjoys working with wood and resin in his spare time