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

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

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

Overall, the employment level for Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanics almost doubled between 2001 and 2021. There was a sharp increase from around 25,400 in 2018 to 36,400 in 2019, however employment levels in 2021 have declined slightly to 30,200. Projections indicate that employment levels by 2025 will return to figures similar to the spike seen in 2019, with 34,800 projected by 2025. 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 7,670 program enrolments in Refrigeration and Air-conditioning related qualifications during 2020. Program enrolments have increased in 2021, up from 7,220 in 2019 to a new five year high. Completions increased to 2,060 in 2021 following a fall in 2019 after peaking at 2,400 in 2018.

During 2020, approximately three quarters (73%) 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 (25%), 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 2020, training 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 (87%), whereas for the Diploma of Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Engineering and the Certificate III in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration, most of the training was provided by TAFE institutes (92% and 81% respectively).

In 2020, the funding source for subjects differed substantially by provider type. Subjects provided by TAFE institutes (94%) and Universities (99%) were predominantly Commonwealth and state funded, whereas most subjects delivered by private training providers (83%) were on a domestic fee for service basis.

Students who enrolled in Refrigeration and Air-conditioning related qualifications during 2020 were mainly from New South Wales (34%), Queensland (29%) and Victoria (17%), while training was largely delivered in Queensland (41%), New South Wales (32%) and Victoria (14%).

After reaching a low of approximately 970 in 2012, apprenticeship commencements increased steadily to a peak of roughly 1,660 in 2017, followed by a slight decline to around 1,550 in 2018. Though numbers increased in 2019 to 1,600 this has fallen again in 2020 to 1,580. Apprenticeship completions increased between 2011 and 2014, before declining the following year, however they have continued to gradually increase since then to almost 790 in 2020. All apprentices in training as at December 2020 were training towards the intended occupation of Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanic, with training mainly reported by New South Wales (42%), Queensland (26%) and Victoria (18%).

For more data specific to your occupation, industry group or training package, visit NCVER’s Data Builder.

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.

The Electrotechnology IRC’s 2020 Skills Forecast reports that the government decided to reduce hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions from January 1 2018, with a long term target of reducing HFCs by 85% by 2036. 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 safely using these substances within the Refrigeration and Air-conditioning workforce.

The South Australian Training and Skills Commission’s Construction, Mining & Energy Workforce Insights report found that while Employers reported attracting many applications for their advertised vacancies for air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics, they were unable to recruit sufficient suitable workers due to lack of specific experience.

According to the Electrotechnology IRC’s 2020 Skills Forecast, skill development is required across the industry to ensure understanding and knowledge of the associated risks with new technologies and to ensure adequate safety training in the operation, installation and maintenance of these updated systems. In order to meet the skill requirements of these alternative refrigerants, the UEE Electrotechnology Training Package Release 2 will contain updated Refrigeration and Air Conditioning qualifications, Skills Sets and Units of Competency.

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

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

IRC and skills forecasts

Electrotechnology IRC

 

Relevant research

Budget 2019-2020: Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow: Skills Package Fact Sheet – Australian Government

Construction, Mining and Energy Workforce Insights - South Australian Training and Skills Commission

Elevating our Education – Australian Institute of Refrigeration Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH)

Environmental scan 2015 - E-Oz Energy Skills Australia

Review of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Programme – Department of the Environment and Energy

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Air-conditioning and Mechanical Contractors Association

ANZETA Electrotechnology Training Alliance

Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air-conditioning and Heating

Australian Refrigeration Mechanics Association

Energy Skills Queensland

Future Energy Skills

Master Electricians Australia

National Electrical and Communications Association

National Electrical Switchboard Manufacturers Association

NSW Utilities & Electrotechnology Industry Training Advisory Body

Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors’ Association Australia

 

Regulatory bodies

Australian Refrigeration Council

Electrical Regulatory Authorities Council

Electrical Safety Office QLD

Energy Safe Victoria

NT WorkSafe

Safe Work Australia

SafeWork SA

SafeWork NSW

Worksafe Tasmania

 

Employee associations

Communications Electrical Plumbing Union

Electrical Trades Union

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal  

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2025
    • 3421 Airconditioning and Refrigeration Mechanics.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ08 - Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, viewed 1 August 2021 https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2021

  • Employed total by ANZSCO 4 digit occupation, 2001 to 2021, 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

  • Advanced Diploma of Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Engineering
    • UEE62511 - Advanced Diploma of Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Engineering
    • UEE62520 - Advanced Diploma of Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Engineering.
  • Advanced Diploma of Engineering Technology - Air-conditioning and Refrigeration
    • UEE62420 - Advanced Diploma of Engineering Technology - Air Conditioning and Refrigeration
  • 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
    • UEE20111 - Certificate II in Split Air-conditioning and Heat Pump Systems
    • UEE20120 - Certificate II in Split Air-conditioning and Heat Pump Systems.
  • Certificate III in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration
    • UEE31307 - Certificate III in Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning
    • UEE32211 - Certificate III in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration
    • UEE32220 - Certificate III in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration.
  • Certificate IV in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Servicing
    • UEE40511 - Certificate IV in Electrical - Air-conditioning Split Systems
    • UEE40520 - Certificate IV in Electrical - Air-conditioning Split Systems
    • UEE42711 - Certificate IV in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Servicing
    • UEE42720 - Certificate IV in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Servicing.
  • Certificate IV in Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Systems
    • UEE42820 - Certificate IV in Air-conditioning Systems Energy Management Control
    • UEE42911 - Certificate IV in Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Systems
    • UEE42920 - Certificate IV in Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Systems.
  • Diploma of Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Engineering
    • UEE51211 - Diploma of Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Engineering
    • UEE51220 - Diploma of Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Engineering.
  • Diploma of Engineering Technology - Refrigeration and Air-conditioning
    • UEE51111 - Diploma of Engineering Technology - Refrigeration and Air-conditioning
    • UEE51120 - 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:

  • 2016 to 2020 program enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 subject enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 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:

  • 2011 to 2020 commencements
  • 2011 to 2020 completions 
  • apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2020 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.
Updated: 28 Oct 2021
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