A Career in the Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVACR) Industry

Estimated reading time 6 minutes

As in many industries the Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning (HVAC) and Refrigeration industry suffers from a marketplace skills shortage resulting in a shortage of applicants for Refrigeration and HVAC engineer positions.

Gary Piper, Synecore’s Mechanical Director explains: “Air conditioning and refrigeration doesn’t seem to be a trade widely considered by young people when joining the construction industry. I for one fell into the industry, having known someone else who did it. It’s not like plumbers, carpenters and builders, which are renowned jobs in construction, this is a relatively new trade and there is a distinct lack of courses available, so yes there is a skills shortage. Consequently, it can be very difficult to find the right applicant for AC engineering positions with the right attitude.

Now is the time to start encouraging the next generation to consider professions in construction, particularly the HVACR industry. I think schools could do more to educate young people about the various jobs, available in the construction industry and include AC and refrigeration.”

What Is An HVAC and Refrigeration Engineer and What Do They Do?

The word engineer (Latin ingeniator) is derived from the Latin words ingeniare ("to create, generate, contrive, devise") and ingenium ("cleverness"). Engineers invent, design, analyze, build, and test machines, systems, structures and materials to fulfil objectives and requirements while considering the limitations imposed by practicality, regulation, safety, and cost.

An HVACR service engineer carries out a variety of tasks including: the design, installation, maintenance, and repair of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, cooling, and refrigeration systems in buildings like restaurants, offices, schools and hospitals etc.
Some typical day-to-day activities may involve:

  • Working on air conditioning systems from splits through to VRF systems including:
    • surveying sites where cooling systems are to be fitted
    • planning the layout of pipework, ducts and control panels
    • installing components
    • carrying out quality checks to make sure systems are working properly and safely
    • carrying out scheduled maintenance including cleaning, testing and servicing
    • finding and fixing faults
  • Working on commercial refrigeration systems including refrigeration cabinets, walk in cold rooms, walk in freezers, ice machines, blast chillers, and cellar cooling etc. including:
    • site surveys
    • recommendation on the frequency of your commercial refrigeration maintenance visits
    • planning and carrying out scheduled health checks, maintenance and repairs.
  • Safe handling of F-Gas or refrigerants.
  • Advising customers on ways to reduce their energy use.

You can also read more about some of the tasks involved in a Synecore air conditioning Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM) visit that our HVACR engineers carry out.

Skills A Refrigeration and HVAC Engineer Requires

HVAC and Refrigeration engineer’s jobs need to have a variety of skills apart from their technical, numeracy and analytics abilities. These include:

Attention to detail

Attention to detail is vital given the type of work an HVAC and Refrigeration engineer will carry out e.g. handing of F-Gases or refrigerants. HVAC engineers need to be thorough and accurate when they are working. Even minor mistakes can have major consequences.

Problem solving

The very nature of an HVAC and Refrigeration engineer’s role is to problem solve using their technical knowledge. An engineer needs to be able to think critically about the systems they are servicing and maintaining. They need to be able to visualise the system in its individual parts and as a whole to be able to narrow down where problems are occurring and to go onto find solutions.

Documenting work

A vital part of the role is keeping good records of the work that has been completed and what servicing and repairs have been carried out. This is especially true when it comes to ensuring customers are F-Gas compliant which is a legal obligation for any business that operates an air conditioning system with a CO2 equivalent charge of 5 tonnes or more.

Communication skills

HVAC and Refrigeration engineers need to be able to communicate effectively with both customers to apprise them of the work being carried out to the air conditioning or refrigeration systems and any faults that arise. They also need to be able to communicate with their work colleagues to ensure that projects are completed successfully.

Interested in becoming a Refrigeration and HVAC Engineer?

Having read the details above on what an HVACR engineer is and does you may be interested in finding out more about this career. If that’s the case then there are two main paths to becoming an HVACR engineer. They are through:

A City and Guilds course

Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (6187) which focusses on the practical skills and knowledge required to install, service and maintain refrigeration and air-conditioning systems, on successful completion of this qualification the learner will be well equipped to start or progress their career in the refrigeration & air-conditioning industry.

The National Careers Service website lists two courses In England.

North Kent College also lists a Refrigeration and Air Conditioning course.

An Apprenticeship

Apprenticeships are also listed on the National Careers Service website and the site also allows you to find an apprenticeship near you.

Given the lack of young people coming training to be air conditioning and refrigeration engineers and to try to overcome the shortage of suitable applicants Synecore has a number of HVACR apprenticeships.

Synecore’s Mechanical Director, Gary Piper says: “We do encourage apprenticeship schemes. This way we produce a better-quality engineer, who has the right skills and work ethic. Currently we have eight air conditioning apprentices within Synecore’s Primary Service Team.

The apparent skills shortage in HVACR highlights how the construction industry should be doing more to promote mechanical engineering. It is a very rewarding and well-paid profession that doesn’t necessarily rely upon other trades before the installation process, as we can do everything ourselves. Certainly, it is a profession that more young people should be made aware of.”

An interesting fact: Adrian Eade one of the co-founders of Synecore progressed through the industry starting as an apprentice then becoming foreman and contracts manager and Gary Piper, the Mechanical Director at Synecore, spent time working as an apprentice, engineer, project manager and sales manager.


Synecore provide air conditioning and refrigeration installation, service and maintenance to commercial and industrial clients throughout Kent, London and the UK. Contact us today to discuss your requirements and to arrange your free no obligation quote.

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