Getting to Know Sontay Academy Trainer Andy Camsell
Andy Camsell, Technical Director at Novus Controls Ltd started his journey as a trainer with Sontay Academy in 2016 and has played a pivotal role in educating future generations entering the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) and climate control industry. We sat down with Andy for a deep dive into the path that has led him to Sontay Academy, and what he enjoys the most about his role.
Q: Please introduce yourself and tell us about your experience in the building controls and Building Energy Management System (BEMS) industry.
A: It pains me to count backwards in this way but come July 2023, I would have been working in the building services industry for 35 years. I started as an air conditioning engineer as a fresh-faced 16-year-old with three piercings in my left ear, a piano tie and a funky perm. I worked on mechanical systems for ten years gaining experience in fitting and maintenance on a host of air, water and cooling systems. Whilst working on various projects, I started to see that control systems were changing and that control panels were being equipped with a thing called a building management system.
Q: What attracts you to the building controls industry?
A: I had just lugged a full-sized oxy-acetylene rig up two flights of stairs. When I reached the plant room a guy was standing there with a small laptop bag, some screwdrivers and an electrical test meter. He wasn’t wearing filthy overalls and didn’t smell of oil, so I thought that is the job for me! I had many connections in the industry and a great guy, Roy Elliott at Riema Controls set me up with a training position, and I have never looked back. I then progressed onto senior engineering roles, some project management roles and a stint as Technical Manager at Sontay before starting my own business in 2006.
Q: Why did you want to be a trainer at Sontay Academy?
A: I had always liked the idea of being a trainer but had no formal teacher training or teaching qualifications. Sontay were just starting up the academy when an old colleague contacted me out of the blue and asked whether I’d be interested in running the first Sontay BCIA training courses. I was well aware this was something I had to agree to straight away, before working out how I was going to do it later. I am so thankful I did, I love the interaction with the engineers in the classroom, and the best part of it all is that I get to learn from the students too when they tell me about solutions to challenges they have faced.
Q: Now for a few fun, quickfire questions! What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: I have a vlog on Youtube - Whingy Old Git. I don’t get enough time to do it but I do enjoy it.
Q: Who inspires you?
A: My three daughters. They have all overcome huge challenges in their lives, whilst also being great advocates for women’s rights and the LGBT+ community. Their struggles as young women and their support of their LGBT+ friends have made me see the world differently and have inspired me to think about how I speak and behave in a very male-dominated industry.
Q: What five guests would you invite to a dinner party? Dead or alive…
A: Firstly, I would definitely want my wife Claire there, thirty odd years we’ve been married and I would never hear the end of it if I didn’t invite her! Seriously though, she has been my rock through everything; it would be a rubbish dinner if she wasn’t there.
Secondly, Jacina Arden as she is the most amazing leader of our time.
Thirdly, Tony Benn. He was very much involved with the post-war rise of socialism and was responsible for one of my favourite philosophies: when we’re at war we always find money for bombs. During peacetime, we should act with the same tenacity and find the money for hospitals and schools and social care.
Next, I’d invite Peter Kay, some people are just funny.
Lastly, Stephen Fry. A man with the most brilliant mind and complex personality, I think he would be a very interesting and funny person to talk to.
Q: Bonus question…tell us an interesting fact about yourself!
A: I once made it rain inside the North American gallery in the British Museum.