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Skills to chill

The future skill needs of the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration industry in Australia was explored by industry representatives at a roundtable discussion in Sydney on 30 August. Leaders from peak industry organisations came together to ensure the future workforce of the industry is highly skilled and professional, safe, and environmentally effective.

Discussions focused on skill shortages and the impact of changes in technology, equipment, controls and handling of new generation refrigerants on the skills needed by the industry’s workforce.

The roundtable considered how the Certificate III in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration should be developed to ensure it meets the needs of industry. It was agreed that the qualification needed to include basic skills to install, diagnose, commission (transferable skills), and cover electrical safety, technology skills, monitoring ‘real time’, and maintenance requirements.

Looking forward five years, the roundtable agreed that the industry needed to upskill its workforce to future proof against disruptive technologies including digital systems, drones, robotics, automation, big data, diagnostics, and cyber security.

The industry leaders were brought together for the roundtable by Australian Industry Standards (AIS) on behalf of the Electrotechnology Industry Reference Committee (IRC).

Phil Wilkinson, executive manager – government relations and technical services at the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH) said “the roundtable was fantastic in that it brought all the elements of the industry together to build trust and create an arena for dialogue. The collaboration of key industry stakeholders and leaders in a robust but convivial atmosphere enabled everyone’s concerns and needs to be heard. We were able to reach a very definite direction about the next stage of developing the new Certificate III.

“AIS went above and beyond in its role as an SSO to act as an independent facilitator, bringing everyone together but operating at arm’s length. It was tremendously valuable.”

The Roundtable was attended by representatives from Australian Refrigeration Council, Refrigerants Australia, Refrigerant Reclaim Australia, NECA, Oomiak (Representing RWTA), Coles, AIRAH, Australian Refrigeration Association, Air conditioning and Refrigeration Equipment Manufacturers Association (AREMA), ETU, Department of the Environment and Energy, Refrigeration & Air-conditioning Contractors Association, and the Department of Education.

The outcomes and decisions from the round table discussions will be captured in a recommendations paper and submitted to the IRC for their review and consideration. The IRC will direct and commission the relevant Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to undertake the review of the Cert III Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Qualification.

The handling of refrigerants and the carrying out of work using refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment is considered high risk. As such, the Electrotechnology industry is highly regulated and only individuals who have a Refrigerant Handling License can carry out this work.

There is current a gap identified in the industry with regards to the handling of A2 category refrigerants and recovery of refrigerants from decommissioned equipment. To address this the Australian Industry and Skills Committee has commissioned a project to develop two new Units of Competency in the UEE Electrotechnology Training Package. This project will be undertaken at the same time as the review of the Cert III. These two units aim to ensure safe handling and recovery of A2 category refrigerants:

For more information and updates on this project please subscribe on the AIS website.