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New skills and updated qualifications to revise training requirements for Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (RAC) technicians are provided in a report released by Australian Industry Standards last month.

The 2020 Electrotechnology Skills Update, which is published every three years to identify skills in demand and to update VET qualifications, said three trends are impacting the RAC workforce.

These are Internet of Things (IoT) technology, solar installations and natural refrigerants.

The report said IoT technology has led to a massive uptake of smart devices at home which is why electrotechnology workers will need to be upskilled.

There has also been an increase in solar installations which is set to double le by the mid 2020s.Renewable technologies are projected to create more than 60,000 jobs in the next decade.

As these technologies develop further, Electrotechnology workers will need the necessary skills for the installation and maintenance of solar systems. Another skill that will be in high demand is the ability to work with natural refrigerants.

The federal government has set a target to reduce HFC emissions by 85 per cent by 2036.

Skill development across the Electrotechnology workforce will be needed to ensure understanding and knowledge of the associated risks with new refrigerants and to ensure adequate safety training in the operation, installation and maintenance of these updated systems.

Many of the new skills technicians need today are included in the new Certificate III in Air Conditioning and Refrigeration.

It follows a review of the UEE11 Electrotechnology Training Package which was first endorsed in 1999. Many of the units in the old training package were based on modules developed 30 years ago.

While the basic fundamentals remain the same, there has been many changes in technology, equipment, standards, work practices and refrigerants.

The knowledge and skills required to be a RAC technician today are dramatically different to those of 30 years ago.

The new version of Certificate III has a final implementation date of October 2022.

One unit currently in development covers the maintenance of fire dampers, smoke dampers, smoke and heat vents and air handlers.

Technicians will be able to maintain air handling equipment for fire and smoke control systems. The new unit will be submitted in July 2021.

Another skill set in demand covers the installation, commissioning, servicing and maintenance of Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) air conditioning systems.

These systems are typically installed with an inverter added to the compressor to provide variable motor speed rather than just on/off operation.

VRF units work only at the needed rate allowing for substantial energy savings at load conditions. 

VRFs come in two system formats, two pipe and three pipe systems. They have Heat Recovery (HR) features allowing these systems to simultaneously heat certain zones while cooling others.  A typical VRF system is complex especially the control systems.

Recent disasters such as Grenfell Towers in the United Kingdom as well as building fires in Australia have led to regulators revising standards and regulations in the building sector.

This has influenced many of the units currently in development. Every commercial building higher than three stories must be designed, installed and maintained in accordance with stringent codes and practices.

Technicians who do the maintenance on emergency lighting and alarm systems, must be competent to do the work safely. As a result a new unit of competency has been proposed covering the maintenance of emergency lighting and alarm systems.

To ensure the implementation of the new course is consistent across the entire country, assessment tools are being developed by a representative group of refrigeration and air conditioning (RAC) teachers known as the RACTA (Training Alliance).

Currently the Alliance has 67 members representing almost all of the RAC trade teachers in Australia from both public (TAFE) and private Registered Training Organisations (RTOs).

RACTA is seeking support from industry to ensure the tools meet the needs of employers.

Interested parties should contact Steve Smith at the Superior Training Centre.

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