Red Seal Trades: Answers to 5 Common Questions

Red Seal HairstylistGoing into a designated Red Seal trade can be an excellent career option. Why? Because Canada needs a lot more skilled tradespeople in order to remain globally competitive. In fact, certified journeypersons play a crucial role in the growth and vibrancy of the nation's economy.

But many employers find it hard to fill their job openings. They want to hire well-qualified workers. And that means they need an easy way to recognize them. As a result, having a Red Seal endorsement is often the best credential a tradesperson can possess. It is widely accepted by Canadian employers as proof of skills within a particular trade.

Of course, getting that stamp of approval first requires getting appropriate training. For Red Seal occupations, that involves being a registered apprentice. It's the standard route taken by thousands of people who want to establish a reliable career.

For example, in 2014 alone, more than 451,000 apprenticeships were registered across the country. And a lot of them were for people seeking to change their careers to something viable and satisfying. Check it out: About 43 percent of the registrations were for adults aged 30 and older. And roughly 18 percent were for those above age 40.*

Clearly, lots of people have recognized the employment possibilities that such a vocational path can offer. And they've noticed that you can start taking advantage of some of those opportunities at almost any age.

So why not explore this option a little more? Here are answers to five commonly asked questions:

1. What Exactly Is the Red Seal Program?

It's one of the ways that Canada helps ensure that people have the opportunity to:

  • Learn trade skills that closely match the needs of today's employers
  • Move anywhere in the country with confidence that those skills will be recognized

Officially known as the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program, it provides a system for industries to define common, Canada-wide skill standards. Through the voluntary program, a provincially certified tradesperson can receive an official endorsement that signifies that his or her knowledge and abilities meet the national industry standard.

At last count, the program included 55 different trades—occupations like automotive service, the electrical trade, carpentry, air conditioning technology, and culinary arts. Each one is deemed a "designated Red Seal trade."

In Canada, about 77 percent of all registered apprentices are in a Red Seal vocation.**

2. How Does the Process Work?

Red Seal HairstylistBefore you can get a Red Seal endorsement, you first need to earn a Certificate of Qualification (or equivalent) from your province or territory. And, unless you already have a lot of experience in your chosen trade, this is usually only achieved by completing a registered apprenticeship.

So, with some exceptions, the whole process generally works like the following for anyone who is new to the trades:

  • You find an employer willing to sponsor your apprenticeship. (You can sometimes stand out if you already have a little schooling or experience in the field you've chosen before approaching potential sponsors.) Your sponsor will agree to provide you with paid on-the-job training.
  • You register as an apprentice with your provincial or territorial training authority.
  • Depending on your trade and prior level of experience, you go through two to five years of training. Typically, most of the learning process happens in your sponsor's workplace. The rest of it happens in a classroom environment at an approved school.
  • You take and pass exams at each level of training, followed by a final certification exam to receive your provincial qualification as a journeyperson.
  • You pass the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Examination for your trade, which is usually administered through your province's apprenticeship office.

One of the benefits of undertaking and completing an apprenticeship in a Red Seal occupation is that you can qualify for up to $4,000 in grants*** from the Government of Canada.

3. Why Should I Pursue a Red Seal Endorsement?

Red Seal ChefEarning your provincial Certificate of Qualification is terrific, even if you live in a region where your trade isn't regulated. After all, most employers prefer to hire people with verified credentials. But if you want to move to a different part of Canada, it can be a real advantage to have an extra mark of distinction.

The best way to ensure you can work in the location you want is to obtain a Red Seal endorsement. It is the only qualification that can provide you with automatic acknowledgement of your skills in any Canadian province or territory where your trade might have regulatory requirements. In short, it's all about giving you mobility.

But it's also a signal to employers that you can provide excellent workmanship. It gives them assurance in your abilities—which can give you a major edge in the job market.

4. Where Do I Register for an Apprenticeship in a Red Seal Trade?

You go to the office in your region that's responsible for handling trade certification. Each province and territory has one. Here are a few examples:

5. Which Schools Can Help Me Get Started?

Canada is home to lots of vocational schools that specialize in helping people get valuable training. In fact, you might want to look into these culinary and skilled trades programs—from baking and pastry to electrician and HVAC courses, and plenty in between. It's a good way to begin narrowing down your options.

* Statistics Canada, website last accessed on September 8, 2016.

** Red Seal Program, website last accessed on September 6, 2016.

*** Employment and Social Development Canada, website last accessed September 8, 2016.