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Matt's cool career change

For Matt Scott, changing career to become an air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanic was the best decision he ever made.

By TAFE Queensland

Air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics assemble, install, maintain and repair a wide range of industrial, commercial and domestic air-conditioning and refrigeration systems and equipment.

The industry fascinates Matt Scott who decided to change careers to pursue an air-conditioning and refrigeration apprenticeship.

"I was an aircraft sheet metal worker, but I wanted a trade with a broader scope of work and wider opportunities. With refrigeration and air-conditioning there's so much variety and different types of work available," Matt said.

"My job is mobile, so I get to go to different places, on any given day I could be working in Cairns, inland or the Torres Strait. Each job is different as well, so you have to use a lot of skills every day and draw on a wide knowledge base."

"While it can be challenging to learn - because you're always learning to stay current - it is a really interesting trade. I enjoy everything about it," he said.

Matt undertook his Certificate III in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration (UEE32211) training at the TAFE Queensland Cairns campus.

"In class, we did a lot of theory about each component of a refrigeration system, as well as the faults they might have and what the symptoms could be. Then we would go out to the workshop and put that knowledge into practice and actually do and see how systems work and operate," Matt said.

"In the workshop, the apprentices would take turns setting faults and then trying to diagnose the fault and fix the problem. This type of training was really great as it gave us the chance to test our skills."

"The theory and hands-on training that I gained at TAFE Queensland has been very important when I'm out in the field. You can't just be good at the theory or the practical side of things, you need to have a strong understanding of both parts of the job to be able to work effectively," he said.

Matt's dedication to his training earned him the Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Apprentice of the Year title at the Cairns Trade Excellence Awards.

Matt said his award win would not have been possible without the support of his employer, VAE Group.

"VAE employs people from all aspects of the industry from refrigeration techs to electricians, mechanical plumbers and engineers. All of these tradespeople have a lot of experience and have always been willing to share their knowledge and have input into my training. I believe this approach made my apprenticeship at VAE a step above the rest," Matt said.

"My apprenticeship has finished, but it doesn't mean I've learned everything there is to know about my trade. The refrigerants and the systems in my industry are forever changing to become more ozone friendly, so I will definitely be doing more training in the future to keep pace."

According to Seek, air-conditioning and refrigeration workers enjoy one of the highest wages in the trades and services industry, with the average salary increasing by more than 7 per cent between 2018-2019.