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Refrigeration and Air-conditioning

Overview

This page provides information and data on the Refrigeration and Air-conditioning sector, which is a component of the Electrotechnology industry.

The Refrigeration and Air-conditioning sector includes the installation, maintenance and repair of both domestic and commercial refrigeration and air-conditioning. The Refrigeration and Air-conditioning workforce is employed in industries such as Construction Services and Repairs and Maintenance.

Vocational education and training (VET) is required for Refrigeration and Air-conditioning sector related occupations such as:

  • Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanics
  • Electrical or Telecommunications Trades Assistant.

Nationally recognised training for the Refrigeration and Air-conditioning sector is delivered under the UEE Electrotechnology Training Package.

For information on Electrical Services, Electrical Engineering, Industrial Control, Electronics and Computers and Renewable and Sustainable Energy sectors please visit the respective pages.

Information sourced from the Electrotechnology IRC's 2018 Skills Forecast.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

IRC and Skills Forecasts

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

Overall, the employment level for Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanics increased between 2000 and 2018, with a further increase projected until 2023. A large proportion of Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanics are employed in the Construction Services, and Repairs and Maintenance industries (approximately 37% and 35% respectively).

Training trends

Training snapshot

There were approximately 7,500 program enrolments in Refrigeration and Air-conditioning related qualifications during 2017, and just under 2,200 completions. Both program enrolments and completions increased substantially between 2014 and 2017. 

During 2017, over two thirds (69%) of enrolments were in the Certificate III in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration, with the intended occupation of Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanic. A further 29% of enrolments were in the Certificate II in Split Air-conditioning and Heat Pump Systems training towards the intended occupation of Electrical or Telecommunications Trades Assistant.

For enrolments during 2017, provider type varied significantly between different qualifications. For example, for the Certificate II in Split Air-conditioning and Heat Pump Systems the majority of training (82%) was delivered by private training providers, whereas for the Certificate III in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration, most of the training (86%) was provided by TAFE institutes.

In 2017, the funding source for subjects differed substantially by provider type. The majority of subjects provided by TAFE institutes (87%) and Universities (100%) were government funded, whereas most subjects delivered by private training providers (94%) were on a domestic fee for service basis.

Students who enrolled in 2017 were mainly from Queensland (39%), New South Wales (28%) and Victoria (15%).

After reaching a low of 974 in 2012, apprenticeship commencements have increased steadily to approximately 1,650 in 2017. Apprenticeship completions increased between 2011 and 2014, before declining the following year, however they have increased over the last two years to just over 650 in 2017. All apprentices in training as at December 2017 were training towards the intended occupation of Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanic, with most of the training reported from the eastern states.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s VET Students by Industry.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of total VET. If you are prompted to log in, select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

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Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

According to the Electrotechnology IRC's 2018 Skills Forecast,  Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Technicians were reported by employers as being in shortage during the previous 12 months. The most frequent reasons identified by employers for the shortage were as follows:

  • Ageing workforce/current staff retiring
  • Cost/time to achieve the required qualification
  • Wages/salaries considered too low
  • Unattractive job/poor industry image
  • Competition from other organisations.

A shortage of Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanics in some states and territories was also reported in Labour Market Research conducted by the Department of Jobs and Small Business during 2017. Reasons employers cited for unsuitability of applicants included insufficient sector-specific experience, and lack of appropriate qualifications or licensing.

The Electrotechnology IRC Skills Forecast 2018, reports that the government plans to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are used as an alternative to CFCs in refrigeration.  Instead of HFCs, more environmentally friendly synthetic and natural refrigerants, will be used in new refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment. These new refrigerants are potentially more flammable, or operate at higher pressures than HFCs, creating demand for new knowledge and skills in utilising these substances within the Refrigeration and Air-conditioning workforce. Consequently, the 2018 Skills Forecast has identified air-conditioning and refrigeration as a priority skill for the Electrotechnology industry over the next three to five years.

According to the Environmental scan 2015, by E-Oz Energy Skills Australia, the switch to more environmentally friendly refrigerants, will require a significant increase in the numbers of the air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanic workforce, as installing alternative refrigerants will require new plant and significant retrofit. Also, as these new refrigerants have the potential to be more flammable, the workforce will require training in new work practices.

For an analysis of Electrotechnology IRC priority skills and job vacancy data, see the Electrotechnology industry cluster page.

Links and resources

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2018, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal  

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2023
    • 3421 Airconditioning and Refrigeration Mechanics.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018, Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 - EQ08, viewed 1 November 2018 <http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/6291.0.55.003May%202018?OpenDocument>

  • Employed total by ANZSCO 4 digit occupation, 2000 to 2018, May Quarter
    • 3421 Airconditioning and Refrigeration Mechanics.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by 4 digit VET-related occupations, and 2 digit level industries to identify the distribution of VET-related occupation workforce across industry sectors.

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET Students and Courses from the following training package or qualifications:

UEE Electrotechnology Training Package

  • Certificate II in Split Air-conditioning and Heat Pump Systems
    • UEE20111 - Certificate II in Split Air-conditioning and Heat Pump Systems
    • UEE20107 - Certificate II in Air-conditioning Split Systems
  • Certificate III in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration
    • UEE31307 - Certificate III in Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning
    • UEE32211 - Certificate III in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration
  • Certificate IV in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Servicing
    • UEE40511 - Certificate IV in Electrical - Air-conditioning Split Systems
    • UEE42711 - Certificate IV in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Servicing
  • Certificate IV in Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Systems
    • UEE42911 - Certificate IV in Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Systems
  • Diploma of Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Engineering
    • UEE51211 - Diploma of Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Engineering
  • Diploma of Engineering Technology - Refrigeration and Air-conditioning
    • UEE51111 - Diploma of Engineering Technology - Refrigeration and Air-conditioning.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 program enrolments
  • 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 subject enrolments
  • 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill-sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

UEE – Electrotechnology Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2010 to 2017 commencements
  • 2010 to 2017 completions 
  • 2017 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2017 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.
Updated: 17 Dec 2018
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