Refrigeration is one of the youngest trades, and therefore needs all the effort and tools it can get to ensure the future tradesmen in the industry get the training they deserve.
At the Kingswood Campus of Nepean TAFE in Western Sydney NSW, the responsibility for this falls on the Head Teacher for Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Trades Steve Smith who, with his dedicated team, ensures the next generation get the training they need to prepare themselves for the workplace.
Up until the mid 1960s, most professionals in the industry were self taught, due to the lack of a supporting education infrastructure. The increasing demand for air conditioning and refrigeration systems eventually drove the need for qualified individuals, with one of the first courses in Australia being set up in 1964.
The industry has grown rapidly since then. Refrigeration courses are now a standard offering for most technical qualification providers.
Under Steve's guidance, Nepean TAFE provides comprehensive training in the fields of refrigeration and air conditioning, ensuring graduates are equipped with everything they need to work in the industry.
With courses that cover everything from initial component selection through to servicing of an end product, students emerge with a well-rounded perspective on the equipment and procedures they will eventually face in the workplace. A balance of theory and practical training is important in achieving this result.
Steve believes there are many benefits for choosing TAFE over competing organisations. Its longevity is a key feature, especially when combined with extensive financial investment and support from major industry players.
Firms who have supported TAFE include Temperzone, Actron Air, Daikin, Fujitsu, Panasonic, Skope and Testo. The lessons taught by TAFE are not limited to young Australians straight out of school either, with a range of ages from 15 to 50-year-olds present in the courses.
While the majority reside in the 16 to 20 years age group, there are plenty of "journeymen", older students who may be looking to refresh, retrain or learn a new trade entirely.
The jewel in Nepean TAFE's crown for these students is a fully functioning supermarket refrigeration system running the latest in carbon dioxide cooling technology.
The tools of the trade
A number of Testo products are used in the programs at TAFE, giving students first-hand experience with the tools of the trade. Some of the products used include digital service gauge manifolds and vacuum measurement gauges, all indispensable in ensuring an air conditioning or refrigeration unit is operating correctly.
Steve also notes the usefulness of a thermal imager, which has the excellent ability to show students how excessive heat can cause machine failure.
Testo is notable for supplying digital gauges, which as a whole are still finding their feet in the market, where they compete alongside more traditional analogue equipment.
"I bought my first set 8 years ago and I love them", says Steve. "They tell you far more than a normal set of gauges would".
With the latest devices already in the hands of the next generation of tradesmen thanks to TAFE, the future of the refrigeration industry is looking bright.