As the number of CO2 systems in commercial refrigeration continues to expand in Australia, training efforts by technology suppliers are ramping up. Kirby and Beijer Ref are stepping up their efforts with a sale of T-shirts to support an apprentice fund, and the opening up of an academy in Sydney.
Some of these training efforts took place on June 26, the first annual World Refrigeration Day. For example, Woolworths in Australia opened up its plant room doors at two of its supermarkets using transcritical CO2 refrigeration, and saw significant participation among young people interested in the field, helping to reinforce the important role that natural refrigerant systems will play in the future of the industry.
Another initiative launched on World Refrigeration Day in Australia was the Kirby Apprentice Fund. It’s the brainchild of Sydney-based Kirby, a major Australian wholesaler and manufacturer acquired as Heatcraft Australia by Swedish OEM Beijer Ref in 2018 and rebranded as Kirby this year.
The aim of the Kirby Apprentice Fund is to raise funds to support HVAC&R apprentices and “strengthen the technical skills of the HVAC&R industry,” according to a website where apprentices can register to maximize their opportunities from the fund.
“All proceeds raised by the Fund will be used to provide trade tools and skills development training to our industry apprentices,” it adds.
The website announced a few ways to contribute to the fund. One is to buy a T-shirt for $10 from a local Kirby branch (there are more than 65 in Australia), with all profits directed to the fund. The T-shirts carry the message, “strengthening our trade” – the essence of the fund’s purpose.
In addition, the web site says that Kirby account customers will have the opportunity to contribute a “voluntary refrigerant levy” at the point of purpose to the fund, which will also be “fully invested back into the Fund for the provision of tools and training to apprentices.”
Kirby has chosen award-winning apprentice Patrick Brennan to be the face of the Kirby Apprentice Fund Initiative.
New academy for natural refrigerants
Beijer Ref is also pushing for training in more direct ways — especially for natural refrigerant-based systems. Notably, the company plans to open up a Beijer Ref Academy here in Australia, said Inderpal Saund, business development manager APAC for Beijer Ref, at ATMOsphere Australia 2019, held in Melbourne in May.
“We will have that in Sydney where we will have a range of equipment to represent natural refrigerants,” he said.
Saund also spoke about the company’s two-day CO2 training program launched in Australia in July of 2018. The program covers topics such as CO2 safety and handling, system design and benefits, and control logic and installation tips and techniques. Held in classrooms as well as on site, training is targeted at not only contractors and consultants but end users as well.
The course takes groups of mechanics “through plant rooms and actually shared with them the reality of what is happening in the industry,” said Saund. “We did this to give them a good aspect of what we were doing with CO2 and where it is going.”
In the first 10 months of the CO2 training program, Beijer Ref and Kirby offered over 120 hours of courses, training 219 technicians from 60 companies.
Saund stressed that training is an ongoing need, especially with the advent of natural refrigerant technology. “We all need to contribute to this and to educate the industry on actually what is right and what is wrong,” he said. “It’s up to us as an industry; we need to do it.”