Apprenticeship 101

Thinking of a career in the trades or curious about finding more? Here’s a quick way to find out more about apprenticeship in Canada.

Build a Strong Foundation

Start here: Learn your Apprenticeship Terms

Apprenticeship

Apprenticeship is a workplace-based program that teaches people the skills they need in the trades to achieve competencies and perform tasks to industry standards. Typically, an employer sponsors the apprentice. On-the-job, the apprentice works under the direction of a journeyperson. The training combines alternating periods of on-the-job (80 to 85%) and technical training (15 to 20%).

Requirements for each trade vary, but most trades require six to ten weeks of technical training each year. Technical training can occur at a college, a union training centre, a private trainer, or online. While at technical training, apprentices may be eligible to receive Employment Insurance benefits. Most apprenticeship programs are four years in length. Once the apprentice has completed the required hours or modules for the trade, the apprentice can challenge the exam for the Certificate of Qualification for the province/territory. There are many benefits to this form of training including earn while you learn, certification, good pay and exciting career opportunities.

Apprentice

An apprentice is hired by an employer, works with a journeyperson in order to learn a trade, and is officially registered with their province or territory. Apprentices are responsible for going to their technical training and completing all the required assignments and examinations. Apprentices are paid employees who may also receive Employment Insurance benefits and federal or provincial/territorial grants.

Journeyperson

A certified journeyperson is recognized as a qualified and skilled person in a trade, and, therefore, entitled to the wages and benefits associated with that trade. A certified journeyperson is allowed to train and act as a mentor to a registered apprentice. Journeypersons can sign off on whether apprentices are achieving their key competencies on-the-job and play an important role in developing apprentice skill sets.

Skilled Trades

Skilled trades generally represent occupations in the construction, manufacturing, transportation, and service sectors. A cook, an automotive service technician and a carpenter are all defined as skilled trades occupations. Check out your province/territory to find out which trades are recognized in your jurisdiction.

Apprenticeship Authorities

Apprenticeship authorities exist in every province and territory. Their role is to administer trades training. They are involved throughout the apprenticeship process. Apprentices and employer sponsors officially register with the apprenticeship authority and, throughout the apprenticeship, the training provided must adhere to the standards set up by the province or territory. Individuals who have prior experience or learning to be assessed should speak to the apprenticeship authority, which may determine that previous work experience and training can be applied to an apprenticeship. At the end of the training, it is the apprenticeship authority who administers the examination process and issues the Certificate of Qualification from the province or territory.

Log Book

The log book is often required to track on-the-job training and competencies as they are developed.

Red Seal Program

The Red Seal is recognized across the country as industry’s standard of excellence and enhances the mobility of journeypersons. In Canada, there are 55 Red Seal trades. A Red Seal designation means industry has come together to determine a common set of standards and competencies for a trade and that common definition has been accepted by at least two provinces and/or territories. In most provinces, a 70% pass mark on the Red Seal Inter-provincial examination serves as a final assessment on which a Red Seal endorsement is earned and affixed on the provincial certificate. Since it is a commonly recognized designation, the Red Seal facilitates being able to find work in other provinces or territories. To find out more about the program and which trades are designated Red Seal, see www.red-seal.ca.

I want to become an apprentice

How do I become an apprentice?

In most provinces/territories, you need to find an employer willing to hire you as an apprentice. Employers can be identified through networking, job fairs, advertisements and job banks. It is also a good idea to approach employers in the trade you would like to pursue and ask about opportunities to apprentice with them. Your employer must officially register you as an apprentice in that trade with the provincial/territorial apprenticeship authority. Academic requirements vary by trade and province/territory, although Grade 12 is recommended for most. The Ellis Chart provides educational requirements for a variety of trades and jurisdictions. As a registered apprentice, you will be expected to attend technical training as well as learn skills on the job. Apprentice responsibilities include finding an employer, registering, showing up for work on time, working with a mentor to develop and improve skills, going to technical training, doing paperwork associated with a logbook and Employment Insurance, and writing tests and assignments.

How long does it take to complete an apprenticeship program and become a certified journeyperson?

Duration of training varies depending on the trade and the province or territory, but many trades are designed to be completed in four years. Most of the training - on average about 80 to 85% - is provided in the workplace. Normally, an apprentice works for 40 to 44 weeks a year and goes to technical training for six to ten weeks. According to the 2007 National Apprenticeship Survey, the average time to complete an apprenticeship program is five years. The delay may be attributed to busy periods at work, which make it more difficult for apprentices to attend technical training on a prescribed timeline.

What happens when I complete my training?

An apprenticeship program has been completed once the apprentice has attended all the technical training sessions, worked the prescribed number of hours on-the-job, met the required competencies, and passed all required exams. The provincial/territorial government then issues a Certificate of Apprenticeship. Once the apprenticeship is complete, the individual can then write the Certificate of Qualification examination.

What is a compulsory vs. a voluntary trade?

To work in a compulsory or mandatory trade, you must be a registered apprentice or certified journeyperson.

In the case of voluntary trades, no certification is required. This means an individual can legally work in the trade without a Certificate of Qualification.

Industry committees, in partnership with the provincial or territorial government, determine which trades are compulsory or voluntary. Check out the Ellis Chart to see what trades require certification and which ones do not. Apprenticeship programs are available in both compulsory and voluntary trades.

How do I get my Certificate of Qualification?

An individual wishing to become a certified journeyperson must write a provincial/territorial examination. If s/he passes, a Certificate of Qualification is earned, which means the person can legally work in the trade as a journeyperson. This certification is legally required in provinces/territories where the trade is compulsory. In cases where the trade is voluntary, certification is not required, though it is often viewed as an indication of achievement among employers in the sector. The Ellis Chart indicates which trades have apprenticeship programs and whether the trades are compulsory or voluntary in a particular jurisdiction.

What is the Red Seal Program?

The Red Seal is recognized across the country as industry’s standard of excellence and enhances the mobility of journeypersons. In Canada, there are 55 Red Seal trades. In 2009, 81 per cent of all active apprentices in Canada were pursuing Red Seal trades. A Red Seal designation means industry has come together to determine a common set of standards and competencies for a trade and that common definition has been accepted by at least two provinces and/or territories. In most provinces, the Red Seal Interprovincial examination serves as a final assessment. With a 70 per cent pass mark, the Red Seal endorsement is affixed to the provincial certificate. In Alberta, Québec and the territories, the individual writes a provincial/territorial exam and then the Red Seal exam. If they pass the additional exam, they receive the Red Seal endorsement on their certificate. The Red Seal gives workers a competitive edge, as employers often seek this designation when hiring journeypersons. Since it is a commonly recognized designation, the Red Seal facilitates being able to find work in other provinces or territories. Find out more about the program and which trades are designated Red Seal.

What resources are available to help prepare for Red Seal exams?

Sample questions are available online. You can also obtain a copy of the National Occupational Analysis (NOA) for the Red Seal trade in question, which provides an exhaustive list of tasks and sub-tasks that a fully competent journeyperson in that trade would be expected to know. Questions asked on the Red Seal examinations are restricted to the scope of the tasks and sub-tasks identified within the NOA.

Why isn't my trade Red Seal?

It is the industry's responsibility to submit a request for the designation of a trade under the Red Seal Program. A jurisdiction will only consider a trade for designation if an extensive industry base exists, thereby supporting the need for training. A Red Seal designation means industry has come together to determine a common set of standards and competencies for a trade and that common definition has been accepted by at least two provinces and/or territories.

How much does an apprentice earn?

For most trades, apprentices are paid a proportion of the journeyperson's wage. The proportion generally increases for every year/level the apprentice progresses in the apprenticeship program. In some jurisdictions, these proportions are set out in trade regulations.

What financial assistance can I receive as an apprentice?

Apprentices are eligible for a variety of grants and other supports. In the Red Seal trades, once the first and second year levels are completed, many apprentices are eligible to receive the Apprenticeship Incentive Grant (AIG) from the federal government. If they complete the program and achieve certification, they are also eligible to receive a federal government completion grant. See the Service Canada website for more information.

Apprentices in Red Seal and non-Red Seal trades may also be eligible to receive provincial or territorial grants where they are available.

What is a designated trade?

A trade defined in regulation and for which an apprenticeship program is established is referred to as a "designated trade." Trades are designated by the provinces and territories as part of their overall responsibility for education and apprenticeship training.

How do I get more information?

Each province and territory has its own system for recognizing and accrediting trades training. Contact your local apprenticeship authority.

I want to hire an apprentice

For tools and resources designed to help you establish an apprenticeship program, refer to the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum’s Employer Toolkit.

What are the benefits to an employer who sets up an apprenticeship program?

There is a strong business case for setting up an apprenticeship program. According to our Return on Training Investment research, apprenticeship shows a positive return on investment, for many trades within the first two years. Employers also have the opportunity to develop a new generation of workers with the skills they need, who understand their systems and know their clients. The knowledge passed along from journeyperson to apprentice helps ease the impact of retirements from the skilled trades and ensures employers have skilled employees trained to their own standards. Good apprenticeship experiences create loyal and productive employees, giving businesses a competitive advantage and helping them attract and retain excellent employees. Those are important advantages.

Employers who hire apprentices are running profitable businesses. For every dollar invested in an apprentice, employers receive a return of a $1.47.

What are my responsibilities as an employer?

An employer’s obligations are to:

  1. Complete the employer part of the contract and send the final document to the local apprenticeship authority to ensure the individual is officially registered as an apprentice.
  2. Provide a certified journeyperson to supervise the apprentice and sign-off when the apprentice has met skill requirements.
  3. Provide a variety of work experiences and tasks so the apprentice can achieve the required competencies for the trade.
  4. Pay the apprentice’s wages (usually set at a rising percentage of the journeyperson wages).
  5. Arrange for the apprentice to have time for technical training (usually six to ten weeks) at each stage of the program.
  6. Keep accurate records of the on-the-job training hours and type of work – usually in an official record book or log.

Are there any government programs available to help me cover the costs of an apprenticeship program at my workplace?

Employers who hire apprentices are eligible to receive the Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit from the federal government.

Your local apprenticeship office can best advise you on the other programs or services that may be available in your province or territory.

Where do I go to receive more information about the requirements to hire an apprentice?

Contact your local apprenticeship office for detailed information relating to regulations and requirements in your jurisdiction.