Azle High School Refrigeration Tech Course        

By:  Marcos Braz R. Braz, P.E. - February 19th, 2018

Filling the gap

The ammonia refrigeration industry has indicated the need for qualification programs that will sustain the ever increasing need in trained work force in all levels of competence.  

The eternal public misconception of the industrial refrigeration field penalizes end users to manufacturers in finding a competent and trained workforce. Who in our industry has not tried to explain his/her work to a layperson and heard “… oh yes, my home air conditioning" or "the walk-in cooler needs repair or replacement…”?

The ammonia industrial or commercial refrigeration professional works mostly behind-the-scenes while utilizing natural and efficient refrigerants. There is very little initial information and interest from the public, especially the youth, regarding careers in this industry. It is a niche market and extremely important and fundamental for the cold chain which sustains the always growing population moving ever farther from the farm and crops. The point is, so little is known of what we do in this industry.

The typical route to fill technician and engineering positions in the refrigeration industry has been through the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) industry's huge and mature market.  HVAC technical courses are well structured and used as the initial step for industrial refrigeration apprenticeships. The expectation is that their training in HVAC gives them, at least, a basic understanding of the closed loop refrigeration system.   Unfortunately, the gap in knowledge between these two very similar industries is difficult for the growing food industry and industrial refrigeration industry to cope with as they are always in need of fully trained, hit-the-ground-running, refrigeration technicians and engineers.  Training on the job has become commonplace.

As natural refrigerants spread and increase their applications, such as in the commercial field, the industry is further faced with the enormous challenge of a shortage of a qualified work force that can provide the assistance necessary to sustain the industry.  The common saying is that we all are getting older and the talent attraction to our industry is just not up to par.  Every day gets more difficult to find new talent.  

Bridging the gap

Through the outstanding support of the Azle Independent School District, in a small town north west of Fort Worth, Texas, a 30’ x 40’ refrigeration tech building was approved and constructed. Generous donations of time and resources from end users, engineers, manufacturers and contractors completed the lab. Most importantly a curriculum was approved and is under its trial first year. 

Our classes have begun and 12 students have registered for our program in the first semester. They are studying hard to become certified as Refrigeration Technicians and to qualify for RETA’s CARO Certification. They have touched, opened and studied screw and piston compressors, control valves, and hermetic pumps; visited large ammonia industrial refrigeration systems and were also introduced to small critically charged ammonia refrigeration packages. They sure understand the principles of industrial refrigeration systems and the importance of safety while maintaining, operating or designing an ammonia refrigeration system.  

The school board approved the lab construction after a short presentation to the board, provided a competent professor and the program was shown great support from their staff while introducing the course with recognition within the school system.

From conception to completion...

Now with two years of enrollment, check out the success of the program in this video...