'Manufacturers should take a lead on training'

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Published: 27 June 2017


​Toshiba is now one of the largest providers of air conditioning training in the country, with almost 5,000 people attending its courses over the past three years. ACR Journal reports on the company’s practical approach and the latest initiatives in development.

“The major air conditioning manufacturers have a responsibility to take a lead on training. It is in everyone’s interests to improve skills and the level of professionalism and competence across the industry.”

So says David Dunn, Director and General Manager of Toshiba Air Conditioning and CIAT Ozonair, who has made training one of the key strategic priorities for the company. It is not just lip service; the manufacturer has invested significant sums in training infrastructure and initiatives, and this continues with a number of fresh initiatives that put training and skills at the centre of its approach to the market.
Since the company announced its intention to set up a series of training centres in 2014, it has established a network of facilities across the UK. The centres are equipped with examples of fully functioning residential, light commercial and the latest VRF systems for hands-on training and diagnostic practice. 

They also have a range of control systems to enable engineers to familiarise themselves with set-up, commissioning and servicing procedures.

Quality
Some 4723 people have attended courses at Toshiba training centres since 2014, making the company one of, if not the largest provider of air conditioning training in the country. And the pace is quickening as the quality of training has become recognised and installers see the competitive and commercial benefits.

There are currently 13 training centres, located at Toshiba’s own offices and distributor locations across the country. A new dedicated CIAT training facility focussing on its own technology is opening shortly at Leatherhead.

The three most popular courses are Air Conditioning Installation and Service, VRF Installation, and Service and Controls. This has been driven to a large degree by Toshiba’s fresh approach to warranty cover, which is now linked to installer skills and competence rather than of size of spend.

David Dunn said: “The industry’s approach to warranty cover over many years has traditionally been based on how much a customer spends with the manufacturer. This is unhelpful and illogical, as in practical terms what matters for warranty purposes is the technical proficiency of the installer, and how competent they are in carrying out installation, commissioning and on-going servicing of the equipment.”

The Toshiba scheme recognises this, and gives due weight to the level of technical training and competence of installers, translating this into a commensurate level of warranty cover.

Hands-on
Under the scheme, to achieve the highest level of cover, a seven-year enhanced warranty, installers must be F-Gas registered, have successfully completed three relevant Toshiba training courses, and file commissioning and maintenance reports for a project online.

Alongside theoretical and hands-on training, the company also offers a programme of CPD modules. These are aimed primarily at consultants and system designers wishing to keep abreast of the latest technology and changes in legislation, but are open to all.

The focus is on improving understanding of system design and correct application of technology, and ensuring clarity on and compliance with changes in legislation affecting the industry.

In addition to courses on the fundamentals of air conditioning, there are modules on the application of air-cooled VRF systems, and the use of mechanical and natural cooling systems.

A course provides an update on the latest heat pump technology, aimed at those wanting to keep abreast of recent innovations and how to apply them to deliver high performance and optimum efficiency for clients.

Skills
There is a session dedicated to understanding how refrigerant leak detection pump down systems work, and how to ensure they comply with current legislation regarding refrigerant in occupied spaces.

It explains how designers and installers can demonstrate compliance in relation to BREEAM credits, as well as conformity with British Standard EN378.

In line with the increasing attention being given to energy performance, there is a module dedicated to the practical aspects of applying SEER and COP calculations to VRF systems (in line with Part L of the Building Regulations, 2nd tier document). It also covers the application of the Simplified Building Energy Model (SBEM).

Looking to the future, the company has a number of initiatives underway to extend its training offering. It is developing a programme of online courses, to give people the opportunity to update their skills at a time, place and pace to suit them and their business. These should be rolled out later this year.

It will allow people to log onto an online training portal and complete selected courses at their own speed. They will move from section to section, by successfully completing an examination at the end of each module. Once the course modules are complete, people will receive a certificate.

Excellence
It is also establishing three mobile training facilities, with working air conditioning rigs, that can be transported to customers’ locations around the country, to give hands-on experience in installation, commissioning and servicing. These are expected to be operational soon.

The mobile units are based on Toshiba air conditioning training rigs used to train and test SkillFRIDGE candidates. Toshiba is lead sponsor of SkillFRIDGE, the national skills competition designed to reward excellence and drive up standards across the ACR industry.

David added: “SkillFRIDGE is a fantastic initiative. It incentivises and rewards trainees, the industry’s life blood and potential leaders of tomorrow, in pursuit of excellence. It is very much in line with our own focus and priorities as a company.

“Improving skill levels is a key strategic issue for the industry. As a leading manufacturer we are committed to playing our part to help achieve this. It is obviously in our interests as a manufacturer to raise the level of technical proficiency among contractors, but also opens up new opportunities for installers while delivering major benefits to end users. The range of initiatives we are pioneering will hopefully stimulate progress in this area and raise the bar for the industry as a whole, to the benefit of all.”

For more details and to book courses, email Toshiba Training Administrator Nathan Ormson or call 0870 843 0333 (Option 7).