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Eurovent's MEP course seeks to address knowledge gaps in the Middle East's HVAC industry

Markus Lattner, managing director, Eurovent Middle East. (Image source: Eurovent)

This month, Eurovent Middle East launched an MEP course to train engineers and technicians. Technical Review Middle East caught up with the companys managing director, Markus Lattner, to hear more about the course and trends he sees arising in the industry. Read on: 

Teachnical Review Middle East (TRME): What are the gaps in employee skills that you are witnessing in the industry?

Markus Lattner (ML): We see engineers who work on outdated standards and technicians who never received training on HVACR installations. The issues are manifold in their root causes and effects, but all have the effect that we lose a considerable amount of energy due to substandard designs, installations, and operations. 

The shortage of adequately trained technicians is not only causing operational inefficiencies but also jeopardising the safety and well-being of stakeholders involved in building operations, considering the prevalence of outdated HVAC systems in many buildings. The disconnect between academic education and practical industry needs further exacerbates this issue. For instance, topics like filtration receive minimal attention in HVACR engineering programs, leaving graduates ill-prepared for real-world challenges. While some private companies recognise this gap and attempt to bridge it through voluntary classes, a more comprehensive solution is needed.

Efforts should be directed toward ensuring formal technical education is accessible to existing technicians, particularly the underpaid blue-collar workers. These technicians, often expatriates, possess valuable hands-on experience but need support to gain more theoretical knowledge. Introducing formal education tailored to their needs could unlock their potential in a way that benefits the individuals and the industry. There is an urgent need to strengthen the human resource ecosystem, and given the ageing built environment in the Middle East, retrofits have a strong potential to improve safety, economy, and viability. Additionally, new technologies and innovations are entering the market, and stakeholders would benefit from receiving specific training to ensure they can design, operate, and maintain these systems in the safest and most sustainable way possible. 

TRME: What are the subjects that eurovent's MEP course will cover?

ML: We will start with technical training for installers and service technicians and several knowledge development programs for engineers. To begin with, we will have a basic and advanced HVAC technician programme, which caters to the people's respective experience levels. We have an F-Gas certification course, providing specific training on refrigerant handling, both for fluorinated gases and natural alternatives.

On the knowledge development side, the academy offers an IAQ Management course to meet stakeholder requirements at three levels, starting with IAQ Supervisor, IAQ Manager and IAQ Specialist, considered the most advanced level. Furthermore, we will have a comprehensive course on air handling units, perhaps the most complex type of equipment in an HVAC system due to its many components and configurations. A clear understanding of their interdependency and functions is essential to ensure the cooling system's efficiency as a whole.

TRME: When it comes to maintenance procedures, how can the new course help professionals? 

ML: As an industry association, our members are well aware that correct maintenance, repairs with qualified spare parts, and adherence to manufacturers' recommendations are crucial to ensuring the reliability, longevity and performance of products. Certified courses can bring both sides, the manufacturer and the installers, together in a structured way, elevating manufacturers' recommendations and giving maintenance personnel reliable qualifications to fulfil their role more effectively.

Finally, proof of qualification can be an essential tool. Speaking from the perspective of clients, such as building owners or FM companies, if they must decide who to contract for their maintenance work, they can make this proof of qualification a requirement to make sure they are getting the most qualified people for the job, and for the trained professional, it helps justify their costs. 

TRME: How can cooling, refrigeration and ventilation be made more efficient?

ML: We must consider that we are discussing two sides of the same coin. The UAE and the rest of the world are struggling to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are further aggravated by refrigerant leakages and CO2 emissions due to fossil fuel power generation. HVACR systems where, for example, refrigerants are leaking not only directly impact the ozone layers but also operate less efficiently, consuming more energy and, thus, producing higher CO2 emissions.

Therefore, skilled labour is critical to ensuring such systems are installed and maintained in the most efficient and sustainable way possible. The industry has invested billions of dollars in R&D over the years, and we have technology available which allows us to run at half the energy cost than just a decade ago. However, these efficiency improvements are wasted if systems are not adequately designed, installed, operated and maintained. 

TRME: What international standards should Middle East companies adhere to? 

ML: I believe what is more critical for the Middle East is to work towards setting minimum standards concerning the code of conduct or best practices, keeping in mind the region’s unique requirements and drawing from international knowledge and expertise. An example of what this could look like is ensuring that a minimum number of people in a company have the necessary qualifications to carry out a specific work. If we continue losing out on contracts due to price dumping, enabled by the total absence of such minimum requirements, then we will never achieve efficiency targets and cost savings.

People should always keep in mind that cheap is always more expensive. I see too many installations across the region which came at the lowest cost but are inefficient and unreliable, often leading to breakdowns within a few months of operations due to bad quality. So, whatever the saving was in the beginning, it will cost way more in the end than opting for higher quality right from the start. 

And this is the same with people. A trained and educated workforce will ultimately do more business and achieve higher savings, ensuring a return on the initial investment cost from training.