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The Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH) has welcomed the immediate support provided for industry in the Federal Budget 2022–23.

A dominant theme in this year’s Budget has been the need for a stronger workforce.

The government has announced a raft of skills and education initiatives, including an additional $2.8 billion to support Australian apprenticeships, a 120 per cent tax deduction for small business to invest in employee training and programs attract more women to trades and STEM professions.

AIRAH CEO, Tony Gleeson, said the skills shortage is one of the most pressing issues facing industry.

He said although enrolments in VET courses are on the rise, completion rates are down.

“More than a third of apprentices fail to finish their studies,” Gleeson said.

“We also know that learning does not end when someone finishes their formal qualification, particularly in the HVACR building services industry.

“Rapid advances in technology have made it vital for workers to undertake continuing professional development. The new tax incentives will facilitate this.”

Gleeson said the Budget offers some positive signs for those working to make the built environment more sustainable including those working in the HVACR industry.

“Almost a quarter of Australia’s electricity is used by cooling and heating so we have a key role to play in reducing emissions and reaching net zero by 2050,” he said.

“AIRAH strongly supports the government’s commitment to low-emissions technologies, as well as its investment in the circular economy.”

According to Gleeson, it is crucial to get the details right.

He said some of the novel technologies targeted, such as carbon capture, could be considered long bets with plenty of risk.

“The government’s role is not to gamble. Existing technology such as heat pumps, better insulation, higher-quality building envelopes, as well as improved standards, codes and compliance, are proven and ready to serve us. Let’s put them to use,” he said.

Gleeson has also praised the focus on resilience in the Budget, including a $6 billion investment in disaster recovery.

“It is pleasing to see the government preparing for future waves of the virus, particularly over the coming winter,” he said.

“However, given the lessons we have learnt about airborne transmission, and the role of ventilation in preventing the spread not only of COVID-19, but of other diseases and pathogens, we would like to see a more comprehensive program for improving indoor air quality,.

“As well as affecting the health and wellbeing of Australians, the pandemic has caused major upheavals to supply chains, putting additional stress on the building and construction industry.

“We are heartened to see the government recognising supply chain issues, and developing programs to build manufacturing capacity within Australia. “

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