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Good foundations critical for the industry


By Benjamin Brits

Getting into the industry through an opportunity that was presented in his early career has kept Brendan O’Donoghue’s interest for more than 20 years and counting.

August 2021 personality profile sponsored by:

O’Donoghue recalls his early years: born in East London, whereafter he moved to Durban for the first part of his childhood, and most of his life to-date he has been living in Gauteng.

His journey to get to the HVACR sector he says was one of those situations where you are not quite sure what you want to do with your life at such a young age – and originally at the time the prospect arose to enter the field, he was busy studying electronics.

“An opportunity opened up for me to do an apprenticeship. My father John O’Donoghue who was with Airomatic at that stage, made a compelling case that it would be good to at least have something to fall back on – even if I didn’t further any career path in the HVACR industry after I was qualified, and so I took up the offer.”

O’Donoghue’s hobbies and interests outside of work include his enjoyment in getting in his daily dose of Crossfit and participating in mountain bike rides and runs every so often.

His most significant achievement to-date, as he candidly suggests, is “remaining sane while having his own business for the past 21 years” and dealing with all the different variables that come with the contracting game.

“It is always a great achievement to build up a company where we originally started working out of a garage, and used the domestic rooms as offices, eventually building the business up to, at some stage, more than a 60 staff compliment. We have grown over the years to be able to offer work on a national basis, across border, and we have our own call centre.”

One thing O’Donoghue would suggest to better the industry is most definitely to change the culture of the sector to get it back to how it used to be – good technical training and doing modules in each aspect of the trade as he had to do during his apprenticeship.

“We have to get back to the basics, do the groundwork. This is a trade with many trades in one, plumbing, electronics, electrical, high pressures, and so on. It is therefore of utmost importance that we skill our staff in the best possible way. You cannot do a few HVAC courses and deem yourself a qualified technician, as you see today. We spend a significant amount of money each year on skills development and safety awareness with our staff and we do our best to up-skill everyone at our organisation. This is something everyone should be implementing, not only for the upliftment of the sector but for overall quality.”

Considering his future view of the HVAC sector, O’Donoghue, says that if we (as the drivers of the industry) don’t enforce the simplest things like safe handling of refrigerant gases, being associated to (and members of) some sort of governing body that enhances the sectors we work in, have the required accreditation to sign off a CoCs after the work has been done and which we are responsible for – then he believes there are big openings in the industry for failure. Further, the sector will see more and more unskilled, sub-standard workmanship that carries no guarantees – and this is bad for everyone.

“This is possibly where the equipment manufacturers and suppliers should also step up and make sure that their dealers are credible and reputable enough, with the correct skilled staff to carry out repairs and installations of their brands. You wouldn’t use an unregistered company to sign off your LPG installation or use an electrician that is not registered with ECSA and is not certified to issue COCs – why should our industry be any different?” he concludes.