The market demand for training in natural refrigerants is rising, with most technicians showing an interest in learning how to safely handle CO2 (R744) and hydrocarbons, according to the Austrian Association of Refrigeration (ÖGKT).
“We’re getting a signal from the market that demand for natural refrigerant training is rising,” said Andreas Klaudus, Deputy Chairman of the ÖGKT. “This wasn’t the case a few years ago.”
Klaudus delivered these remarks alongside Harald Erös, the association’s Founding Member and Chairman, during their presentation in the training panel at the ATMOsphere (ATMO) Europe Summit 2023. The conference took place September 19–20 in Brussels and was organized by ATMOsphere, publisher of R744.com.
According to Klaudus and Erös, the ÖGKT, which was officially established in 2019, first started offering natural refrigerant training after seeing a need for apprenticeships and technicians to gain practical experience in flammable refrigerants like propane (R290), as well as other natural refrigerants like CO2. At the time, many of Austria’s institutions were not interested in offering such courses, they explained.
Today, more of the country’s institutions are now on board, and trainees are increasingly interested. However, there are a few institutions that still do not see the need for training on natural refrigerants.
“We’re getting a signal from the market that demand for natural refrigerant training is rising. This wasn’t the case a few years ago.”Andreas Klaudus, ÖGKT
From apprentices to experienced technicians
As detailed by Klaudus and Erös during their presentation, the ÖGKT offers a range of training options for different qualification levels, from apprenticeships to experiences refrigeration technicians and trainers.
To meet growing demand, the association opened its Refrigeration Academy for Training and Education in 2021.
The association’s apprenticeship program introduces a third element to Austria’s dual system approach to vocational training by educating apprentices on the practical handling of CO2 and flammable refrigerants in addition to the standard in-school and in-company training they receive. Each year the ÖGKT provides training for around 300 apprentices in refrigeration and other fields, like heating and heat pumps.
It also offers specialized training courses for hydrocarbons and CO2 for technicians already working in the HVAC&R sector, as well as training and certification for brazing, which is required every three years.
“We are very aware of the legislation in Austria and how to work safely with CO2 and flammables,” explained Klaudus. “We as trainers also have to be trained to make sure we know everything about the latest technologies. We know that we have to learn a lot and be [up to date].”
International knowledge sharing
Beyond Austria, the ÖGKT has worked to facilitate knowledge sharing with stakeholders in other countries. From 2019, the Austrian association has worked with the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to develop workshops on energy-efficient, climate-friendly cooling.
For these sessions, international stakeholders would learn about how to work safely with natural refrigerants at the ÖGKT’s academy in Austria.
In November 2021, members of Pakistan’s Ministry of Climate Change participated in a workshop, in which they learned more about CO2-, propane- and ammonia (R717)-based systems.