After consulting extensively with members in the Province of Nova Scotia over the past two years, HRAI has submitted an official application to the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Authority (NSAA) for the establishment of a residential trade focused on the unique needs of the residential HVAC sector.
A major surge in the popularity of residential heat pumps throughout the region, driven in part by utility and government programs aimed at shifting energy use patterns, has exposed a skills gap between what the market needs and what the HVAC industry is currently able to deliver. The current minimum regulatory requirement in the region for residential HVAC work is the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Trade (except Newfoundland where it is not compulsory) but in recent years the supply of RAC Mechanics is far below what is needed to meet market demand. In the view of contractors in the region, the scope of training for this trade also exceeds the competency requirements for the residential sector.
For these reasons, it was proposed by the Atlantic Region Council at the 2020 HRAI Contractors Town Hall Meeting that a new trade should be established to serve the needs of the residential sector in the region. It is proposed that his trade be established as a stand-alone trade but also as a stepping stone to the refrigeration and Air Conditioning Trade following the same approach that has been implemented in other provinces (MB, ON) and is currently being explored in BC. It is similar in principle to the two-level designation for gas technicians which exists in all provinces.
Establishing this trade designation will not only serve a specific need in the Atlantic region for skilled workers and protecting consumers; it will create the potential for a “Red Seal” designation in the future, which will enhance labour mobility options, creating benefits for this region and the rest of Canada.
Acting on the guidance of the NSAA, HRAI actively engaged member contractors and all affected stakeholders in Nova Scotia via a series of in-person and virtual meetings and workshops. While there are lingering concerns for some stakeholders about what the introduction of a new trade will mean, there is now a broad base of support within the region for this initiative. It is important to note that approval of the application by NSAA will lead to a new round of consultations facilitated by the agency, so the industry will have additional opportunities to comment.
The application was filed through the “Atlantic Apprenticeship Council,” which includes membership from all four Atlantic Provinces. This means that, while the initial focus is on Nova Scotia, HRAI will follow up with direct appeals to the apprenticeship authorities in New Brunswick, PEI and Newfoundland. Again, the ultimate goal will be to create a “red seal” designation for this trade, which will allow for inter-provincial mobility of qualified workers.