• RAC technician.
    RAC technician.

The Australian Refrigeration Council has used licensing data to provide an interesting snapshot of Australia’s refrigeration and air-conditioning industry.

ARC general manager of compliance & training, Rod Cumming.
ARC general manager of compliance & training, Rod Cumming.

In a seminar session at ARBS 2024, ARC general manager of compliance & training, Rod Cumming, said licence numbers have increased beyond 140,000.

That is a lot of technicans and RAC businesses. In fact, the ARCtick licensing scheme is the largest of its type nationally for any industry.

Cumming said numbers have increased by 7,000 year on year.

He said this growth has occurred despite significant changes in refrigerants and technology.

“Around 20 per cent of our permit holders are businesses with a Refrigerant Trading Authorisation (RTA) and the other 80 per cent are individual technicians with a Refrigerant Handling Licence (RHLs),” Cumming said.

“When we break this down into mobile and stationary sectors, we see that RTA numbers are very similar, while the stationary sector has about 50 per cent more RHLs than the mobile sector.”

In the first half of this calendar year, Cumming said the total number of new permits issued was almost 5,000.

“It’s particularly encouraging to see that more than half of these are new trainee applications which represents a healthy stream of apprentices entering our industry,” he said.

“This growth in trainee (or apprentice) numbers is not new – numbers from the past five years show a very positive growth in RAC apprenticeships, to the point where last year we issued well over 5,000 trainee licenses.”

Cumming said it is a similar story with gender diversity.

“The number of women in our industry has more than tripled in the past three years and is more than eight times what it was just five years ago,” he said.

“Not surprisingly, more than 55 per cent of women in RAC are under the age of 29.

“The skew for men is not quite as young – but still, 64 per cent of men in our industry are under 44 years of age.

“That is a much younger workforce than many people think.”

So, what are the challenges ahead for the RAC industry?

“There are many of them but the RAC industry is well versed in change. We have been doing this since the phase-out of CFCs back in the 1990s,” Cumming said.

“As we look ahead, we as an industry need to see the value and importance of upskilling ourselves.

“This all comes at a time when governments are actively encouraging people to enter the clean energy sectors – and RAC is one of them.

“Identifying the skills and competencies necessary for the net zero RAC technician is an immediate challenge.”

Cumming said that ARC undertakes 5,000 audits per year and this will increase to 10,000 in the very near future.

ARC field officers visit RTA holders to check compliance in their refrigerant records, cylinder maintenance and risk management plans.

“If anyone has slipped up its almost always the paperwork like refrigerant records so most issues are resolved quickly,” he said.

“Our officers are there to help not punish.”

Last year ARC also investigated 200 complaints.

“In real terms, ARC cannot fix everything that is wrong with this sector, and neither can we claim ownership of all that it good,” Cumming said.

“But our performance during the last 19 years of operating in partnership with industry and government is recognised internationally as world class.

“Our challenge now and into the future is to evolve from success to significance.”