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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 2019 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 2019, with a sharp increase from around 25,400 in 2018 to 36,400 in 2019. Levels are however, predicted to decline slightly between 2019 and 2024. According to the 2016 census 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 7,150 program enrolments in Refrigeration and Air-conditioning related qualifications during 2018, and just under 2,230 completions. Both program enrolments and completions have decreased in 2018 after peaking at approximately 7,510 enrolments and roughly 2,330 completions in 2017.

During 2018, close to three quarters (71%) of enrolments were at a certificate III level, specifically a Certificate III in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration which had the only intended occupation of an Airconditioning and Refrigeration Mechanic. The majority of remaining enrolments occurred at a certificate II level (27%), primarily the Certificate II in Split Air-conditioning and Heat Pump Systems with the sole intended occupation of Electrical or Telecommunications Trades Assistant.

For enrolments during 2018, provider type varied significantly between different qualifications. For example, for the Certificate II in Split Air-conditioning and Heat Pump Systems most of the training was delivered by private training providers (83%), whereas for the Certificate III in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration, most of the training was provided by TAFE institutes (84%).

In 2018, the funding source for subjects differed substantially by provider type. Subjects provided by TAFE institutes (91%) and Universities (100%) were predominantly Commonwealth and state funded, whereas most subjects delivered by private training providers (92%) were on a domestic fee for service basis.

Students who enrolled in 2018 were mainly from New South Wales (33%), Queensland (30%) and Victoria (17%).

Training was mainly delivered in Queensland (37%), New South Wales (31%) and Victoria (15%).

After reaching a low of approximately 970 in 2012, apprenticeship commencements increased steadily to a peak of roughly 1,660 in 2017 but have declined slightly to around 1,550 in 2018. Apprenticeship completions increased between 2011 and 2014, before declining the following year, however they have increased over the last three years to almost 730 in 2018. All apprentices in training as at December 2018 were training towards the intended occupation of Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanic, with most of the training reported in New South Wales (44%), Queensland (24%) and Victoria (18%).

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s VET Students by Industry. If you are prompted to log in, select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

According to the Electrotechnology IRC’s 2019 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
  • Competition from other organisations
  • Wages/salaries considered too low
  • Geographic location of the vacancy.

This skills shortage has been recognised at Federal level, with the Budget 2019-2020: Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow: Skills Package Fact Sheet highlighting that Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanic has been included on the list of occupations eligible for additional apprenticeship incentive payments, meaning employers and apprentices will receive monetary incentives, and for employers this is above and beyond what is currently offered as a part of existing standard employer incentives.

The Electrotechnology IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast reports that the government started to phase down the implementation of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) at the beginning of 2018, HFCs are synthetic greenhouse gases mainly used in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment. 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 and toxic to humans and operate at higher pressures than HFCs, creating demand for new knowledge and skills in utilising these substances within the Refrigeration and Air-conditioning workforce.

According to the article Elevating our Education by the Australian Institute of Refrigeration Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH), the rapid advances in technological innovation has left the Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Training Package in need of a thorough revision. The sheer scale of training required has been acknowledged by the sector, as workers are expected to be skilled in the operation of new and upcoming technology, as well as having the skills to maintain and work on older, outdated systems that continue to operate. This means both old and new technologies must be covered in the training package.

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/UEE11 Electrotechnology Training Package

  • Certificate II in Split Air-conditioning and Heat Pump Systems
    • UEE20111 - Certificate II in Split Air-conditioning and Heat Pump Systems
    • UEE20106 - Certificate II in Air-conditioning Split 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
  • Advanced Diploma of Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Engineering
    • UEE62511 - Advanced Diploma of Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Engineering

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

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

  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 program enrolments
  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 subject enrolments
  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 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/UEE11 – Electrotechnology Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2010 to 2018 commencements
  • 2010 to 2018 completions
  • 2018 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2018 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.
Updated: 31 Mar 2020
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