What do you make of all this talk of a skills shortage crisis crippling the nation? Businesses are reporting difficulties filling skilled labour gaps – a problem exacerbated since the commencement of the pandemic and, in part, also due to a lack of skilled migration and a steady decline in apprenticeship numbers.
So what does this mean for Australia’s HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) industry? One industry body is flagging genuine concern for the sector. Let’s explore why.
The challenges facing the HVAC profession
The HVAC industry workforce is ageing and there are not enough younger people coming through the ranks to fill the void. And that has the Air Conditioning and Mechanical Association of Australia (AMCA) concerned.
The industry body that represents HVAC businesses says career expos are promoting plumbing and electrical over HVAC as a future pathway for school leavers – “and it is time we changed this,” it said.
AMCA said it was working on a program to showcase the industry to students, Vocational Education and Training co-ordinators and parents in a bid to inspire interest in mechanical services apprenticeships.
The future was once bright – but is it still?
It wasn’t too long ago the HVAC industry was embracing a thriving future with a steady growth in volume of about 7% year on year. Researchers predicated the market would reach a value of $3 billion by this year (2022), thanks to government construction projects and a rise in residential and commercial development that was generating a higher demand for HVAC installations.
But since that evidence was presented in 2018, the industry has been plagued by a global pandemic, supply chain issues, an ageing workforce and a decline in apprenticeship numbers. So what is the state of play today?
Apprenticeships on the rise
It’s not all doom and gloom for the HVAC industry. As AMCA highlighted, more needs to be done to train a new generation of HVAC technicians to replace retiring workers. And fortunately, that work is being done.
The Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH) offers a variety of courses and scholarships to encourage more people into HVAC, because “the skills shortage is one of the most pressing issues facing our industry.”
Recently, a Certificate III in Air Conditioning and Refrigeration was named one of the top 20 most popular qualifications in NSW. And apprenticeships are currently fee-free – a measure that was introduced in a bid to plug the skills gap.
Is it working?
About 80,000 people are said to have taken up the free TAFE positions since 2019 and more were made available in the recent state budget.
But AIRAH warns that while enrolments are up, completion rates are down.
To combat this, the federal government is considering reducing the length of apprenticeships from four years to two.
How rewarding is a career in HVAC?
Very. HVAC systems are an integral part of any building. The indoor air quality relies on an efficient system and there would be no HVAC industry without the professionals to keep it running.
The work is interesting and varied. For example, Ausmech Air specialises in commercial air conditioning installation and maintenance for a variety of sectors, particular health, aged care and education. And with changing technology and a new focus on environmental sustainability, we’re finding energy efficient solutions that reduce energy use and lower carbon emissions too.
Find out more about what we do here.