Raising natural refrigerant training standards is central to Box Hill’s education center in Melbourne, Australia.
At the Technical and Further Education (TAFE) Institute in Box Hill, Melbourne, senior educator Len Raines is well aware that the skills shortage for natural refrigerants (natrefs) is a problem in the industry.
Box Hill’s state-of-the-art Refrigeration and Climate Control Centre of Excellence (RCCC) has been in operation for 18 months and includes an integrated technology hub (ITH) with 37 mobile workstations called PODs (Professional Organisational Development).
The PODs are supplied by various suppliers and give the school flexibility and the capability to train students in hydrocarbons and CO2 refrigerants.
"When you see the PODs it's pretty amazing. They're really as you would see in a supermarket simulation,” Raines said to Accelerate Australia.
Bridging the natural refrigerant knowledge gap
Raines admits, "the knowledge of most of the students coming in on natural refrigerant technology [is] not great”. But he insists that courses like the Certificate III in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning and CO2 and hydrocarbon modules are helping address the knowledge gap.
They have several course on offer, including the Certificate III in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning – taking 3 years – 1060 hours, the Certificate III in Engineering – Mechanical Trade (specialising in refrigeration and air conditioning) – taking 3 years – 980 hours and the Certificate III in Appliance Service - 3 years – 1060 hours.
The facility boasts over 300 students (and growing) and enables them to get real-world experience with natural refrigerants within the safety of the institute. The state government subsidises all apprentices with students needing an employer to enter the trade.
Taking the fear out of hydrocarbons
In the third year of the RAC and the engineering courses, students can take electives and OH&S training in CO2, ammonia and hydrocarbon refrigerants while the Appliance Service certificate offers hydrocarbon competency only.
Raines said providing a course for students on hydrocarbon refrigerants required a slightly different approach. “I feel when I deliver the hydrocarbon course I have to take the fear factor out a little bit, once you do that the students are fine.” The hydrocarbon course includes one day of occupational health and safety and one day of workshop practice.
Importance of training for employment cannot be overestimated
“They don't get a certificate but they are up-skilled. Companies like Coles, an Australia food retail chain, will be asking these students: 'Have you passed your CO2 competency or have you passed your hydrocarbon competency?'
City Facilities Management and Coles recently installed a hydrocarbon water loop system in their Coburg North store in Australia. They sent their qualified tradespeople to the RCCC to gain hydrocarbon competency.
For in-depth interviews with all these figures, click here to read the full story in the winter edition of Accelerate Australia & NZ.