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Refrigeration presents very cool career path

A successful UK-based refrigeration and air conditioning entrepreneur and one-time WA State Apprentice of the Year category winner, Stephen Orlando has come a long way since his 1980s studies at South Metropolitan TAFE’s Carlisle campus.

Having forged a hugely successful business, Orlando Refrigeration & Air Conditioning, he has become a highly regarded industry professional, outspoken advocate for the value of high quality training in the industry, and an international promoter of the career paths that industry training at SM TAFE can present.

Mr Orlando started his career in Geraldton and Perth working on domestic fridges, freezers, evaporative coolers, small commercial display cabinets, packaged air conditioners and supermarket equipment. Today he is running a thriving business with major contracts across Great Britain, having trained in the United States on frequency controlled centrifugal chillers and controls, in Germany on lithium bromide absorbers, and Italy on ammonia absorption heat pumps. 

Mr Orlando said the industry had matured into a complex and challenging field of engineering and offered today’s students exciting, varied, challenging and rewarding career options.

“The training at SM TAFE is truly world-class and is also interchangeable with the industry requirements of other countries, including the United Kingdom,” Mr Orlando said.

SM TAFE offers air conditioning and refrigeration qualifications ranging from certificate II pre-apprenticeships to more specialised diplomas and advanced diplomas at its Carlisle campus. 

Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics work with the cooling and heating systems that regulate indoor temperature. Work can involve maintaining and repairing individual units, all the way to engineering elaborate cooling systems. Mechanics install, service and repair cooling systems, including split systems, and work with heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) systems.

Mr Orlando said the industry offered the potential for unlimited professional development and training.
“From fairly humble beginnings in my apprenticeship days, three decades on I’m still learning and honing my skills,” he said.

“Whether it’s data logging and oscilloscope diagnostics, or repairing CNC oil-cooling plants, three- and four-stage cascade freezers that chill down to minus 200 degrees Celsius, centrifugal chillers, pumped glycol systems, or split systems and cold rooms, there is no end to the skills a young technician today can acquire or the career goals they can pursue.”

Completion of the Advanced Diploma of Engineering (HVAC) equips graduates with specialist skills in heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and opens up job possibilities such as a mechanical design engineer, sales consultant or project manager.

The entry-level MEM20105 Certificate II in Engineering (Mechanical Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Pre-Apprenticeship)(opens in a new tab) greatly enhances the prospect of securing a refrigeration and air conditioning apprenticeship. Certificate III, IV and diploma courses are also available.(opens in a new tab)

When asked if he had any advice for prospective tradies considering a HVAC-related career, Mr Orlando stressed the need to strive for the best and carve your own path.

“Find something niche in your chosen field that not too many people do, study and learn every aspect of it, and become the best at it,” he said.

“With big companies having offices all over the world, internal transfers could present great career opportunities.“ I never get bored; there’s always something to learn or something new to tackle.”