09 Jan 2020 Story

Bhutan’s First Batch of Refrigeration and Mobile Air-Conditioning Students

Thimphu, December 2019  ̶   Under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the technicians who work in refrigeration and air conditioning play a major role because they handle the refrigerant gases that are controlled under that international environmental agreement. Since the quality of their work directly affects their country's compliance with the Montreal Protocol, it is crucial that the workforce is skilled and well-trained. To this end, the National Ozone Unit (NOU) in Bhutan's National Environment Commission developed a fully-fledged Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) curriculum for the trade of Refrigeration Air-Conditioning (RAC) and Mobile Air-Conditioning (MAC) servicing technicians, and the course was adopted by the Ministry of Labour and Human and Resources that manages the country's TVET programme. UNEP OzonAction is proud to have contributed to the development of this curriculum. The two-year course was launched in September 2019 with ten enrolled students, who have now graduated to become the first TVET-trained RAC and MAC servicing technicians in Bhutan.

As a country that consumes low volumes of the controlled substances, which include hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), Bhutan has a relatively small baseline consumption of HCFCs and the demand is only in the RAC servicing sector. However, with the recent economic development and urbanization, the use of refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment and of vehicles with air-conditioning has been increasing. The demand for HCFCs and HFCs is thus expected to grow in the coming years under a business as usual scenario.

Previously, there were no formal courses provided within the national qualification framework of Bhutan that focused specifically on RAC and MAC. Based on the survey conducted under the Enabling Activities for HFC phasedown Project, among 150 refrigeration servicing technicians currently in Bhutan, 80% have not received formal training in RAC and MAC; the remainder received training under mechanical engineering courses in the technical training institutes of Thimphu and Samthang.

Strengthening the capacity of the RAC servicing technicians is a key activity under the country's HCFC Phase-out Management Plan (HPMP). As the HPMP lead agency, UNEP OzonAction assisted the NOU with the development of the TVET curriculum and the assessment package for RAC and MAC, while UNDP as the HPMP cooperating agency procured training tools for the two selected technical training institutes to conduct practical sessions under the courses.

The new training programme has already made a difference in the graduate's lives. This is what one of the students, 20-year-old Kinley Tshering, had to say about it: “I was motivated by my uncle and aunts who are the engineers and they recommended me to join this course. They see a lot of potential in this area”. During winter holidays, student get internships with private servicing sector companies to gain hands-on practical experience. Students recently submitted a proposal for the repair and upgrading of old refrigeration and air-conditioning units and won an interest-free loan from a local non-for-profit organization to develop and test entrepreneurial skills as part of the training.

The launch of this course is also significant given the Government's current interest to build an agile and relevant technical vocational training and skills development system in the country. This course, which is provided by one of the leading public technical training institutes, showcases how the TVET system can be more forward-looking in responding to the upcoming needs of industry and mainstreaming environmental sustainability into TVET.

During the mission of UNEP OzonAction CAP to Bhutan in December 2019, further needs in this area were discussed with the representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Human and Resources, the Technical Training Institute and the NOU at the National Environment Commission. It was agreed that the course material needs to be updated to align it with the objectives of the Kigali Amendment and to include the safety and energy efficiency aspects of refrigerant handling. More work stations need to be added in the training institutions for the practical sessions. There is also a need to develop a "Recognition for Prior Learning" for practising technicians since the Government is planning to introduce a mandatory certification for safe handling of refrigerants.

The Government of Bhutan is now a party to the Kigali Amendment with the submission of the instrument of ratification on 27 September 2019. These students will be the first generation of systematically-trained technicians who will help the country to progress with the safe adoption of HFC alternatives in the country.

For further information:

Ms. Liazzat Rabbiosi
Programme Officer for South Asia Network
UNEP Office for South-east Asia
Bangkok, Thailand
Email: [email protected]