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Compulsory And Non-Compulsory Red Seal Trades

By: Ronda Payne

Published On: February 21, 2020

People who work in trades in Canada are aware that to move ahead and create a positive, progressing career, becoming certified is an excellent idea. In order to take advantage of all the job opportunities and possibilities available, proof of your ability in your trade is essential.

Interestingly, the province of BC has had as many as 11 compulsory trades. Compulsory means that there is a requirement for a person working at a journeyperson level to have certification for their trade through their provincial or territorial registration body. In 2002, the provincial government of BC eliminated this requirement for trades to be compulsory.

BC’s certification standards

BC is the only province or territory in Canada that does not have compulsory trades. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that certification is optional for all people in their trades. For those in unionized environments, working for particular companies or working on contracts for various projects, being certified is mandatory in order to obtain the job. Thus, as indicated above, career prospects are far better for those who move their way through apprentice programs, earn their journeyperson certification and progress to taking a red seal exam and earning that certification. Job prospects will be severely limited for most, if not all, trades without certification.

Additionally, those without red seal certification are not able to move across the country for other job opportunities. This ability to relocate is one of the benefits of taking a red seal prep course and earning the certification as a result. So, in addition to being able to move across the country without having to get recertified, other benefits include: having the proof of achieving an advanced level in your trade and proving to others in the industry that you know your stuff.

Taking red seal exam prep courses are a great idea for those who have been working at their trade for a long period of time yet have not gone through an apprenticeship program or earned their journeyperson certificate. Taking an exam prep course allows a tradesperson to do their red seal exam preparation to challenge the red seal exam and potentially earn their red seal certification. Red seal exam preparation includes all of the aspects of a trade that are required in order to perform the entire trade at an advanced level. Essentially a red seal certification puts a tradesperson at a level equivalent or higher to a journeyperson.

Provinces and Territories with Compulsory Trades

With BC being the only province that has no compulsory trades, it’s interesting to look at what’s happening in other parts of the country. Alberta has 18 compulsory trades, Saskatchewan has 5, Manitoba has 7, Ontario has 10, Quebec has more than 20, New Brunswick has 12, Prince Edward Island has 6, Nova Scotia has 18 and Newfoundland and Labrador has 3. Territories don’t include compulsory trades on their government websites, yet in Nunavut two trades – construction electrician and gas fitter are noted as compulsory on one organization’s website.

Alberta has long been considered the leader among the provinces and territories in their program. Saskatchewan has electrician, hairstylist, plumber, refrigeration and air condition mechanic and sheet metal worker as their certified trades. In these trades, there is a six month grace period to work before entering into the registered apprentice program which may create greater success in the provinces' trades because of the ability to “try it out” before entering the program.

In Manitoba, one of the seven certification-required trades (electrologist and esthetician) isn’t a red seal trade. This includes nail technician and skin technician.

In Quebec, the compulsory trades system works differently from elsewhere in the country. Certification is based on the type of work an individual does and the equipment they use. Rather than calling it compulsory certification on some trades, Quebec has “competency certificates” in the automotive service industry and the construction industry.

New Brunswick added four trades to their compulsory designations in 2014. These include steam fitter – pipe fitter, construction boilermaker, mobile crane operator and sheet metal worker. While the province doesn’t list hairstylist or cosmetology as being compulsory, there is a requirement to hold a valid licence with the Cosmetology Association of New Brunswick. The situation is similar in Prince Edward Island and in Nova Scotia.

The scenario is less clear in Newfoundland and Labrador. Different organizations list different trades as being certification-mandatory. Ontario is also interesting with its scenario where different organizations have different requirements and various bodies note some trades are certification-compulsory, but there is a different requirement from other organizations.

Benefits of BC’s Program

Certainly, it can be said that BC’s program is simpler. It’s much easier for all trades to know that there is no requirement for certification than to wonder which body has a compulsory standard and which does not. This also makes it much easier for individuals to make their move into a trade by knowing where the standards start and end. This does not, in any way take away from the importance of certification and the need for red seal certification in BC.

In fact, because there isn’t a certification requirement in BC, there are many individuals who are experienced in their trades but don’t have any certification. This gives them the ability to look to opportunities like red seal exam prep courses to give them the information and training they need to challenge the red seal exam for their trade. This allows those with experience and skills to apply that information to certification without completing an apprenticeship program. While they may have all the knowledge they need to do the job completely, it is often important to do red seal exam preparation in order to fully grasp the theoretical portions of the trade and understand the requirements of the exam.

Taking a red seal exam may be daunting, but the benefits by far outweigh the challenges when one considers what they can do with their red seal certification. Plus, the majority of red seal prep courses are taught by professionals who have been in their occupation for many years and understand how a red seal certification can advance your career, giving you invaluable input and feedback.


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