Most everyone has heard of Red Seal chefs—it’s a designation often touted by restaurants to indicate the skills and qualifications of the chefs who prepare a restaurant’s (or institution’s) food. But, the Red Seal program goes far beyond just cooking. Red Seal certification also includes tradespeople across Canada and there are many reasons why someone in the plumbing trade would want to be Red Seal certified.
The trades’ Red Seal program was once known as the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal program, which perhaps better described the fact that the program ensures those certified meet the national trade standards and are qualified to work in any province (or territory). As a partnership between provinces (and territories) and the federal government, the Red Seal endorsement earned by tradespeople after completing the Red Seal exam is applied to their provincial (or territory) trade certificate.
The Red Seal Trade Certification, which was created in 1952, applies to 55 different trades in Canada, including plumbers.
Plumbers are constantly in high demand. Not only are they necessary for the water and drainage systems on new residential and commercial projects, they are also needed for renovation work and repairs (the urgency in the repair aspect of the job makes for excellent job security, but comes with the downside of calls at strange times when someone’s toilet water supply pipe bursts). With demand for plumbers on the rise due to increasing plumber retirement, having Red Seal certification will prove your dedication to the occupation as well as your skills and education.
Is a Red Seal Plumbing Certificate Mandatory?
Plumbers in BC can work without Red Seal Certification, but having a Red Seal plumbing certificate comes with a number of advantages.
A Red Seal endorsement:
- Allows journeyperson plumbers to train apprentices in the trade
- Shows excellence in training and skills to potential employers or clients (telling a client that you have a provincial/territorial certificate of qualification as well as Red Seal certification makes a strong impact in the same way dining at a Red Seal chef certified restaurant does)
- May allow for a higher salary
- May allow those running their own business to attract higher quality candidates for job openings
- Gives the plumber a sense of pride in their occupational accomplishments
- Gives plumbers flexibility in the ability to work throughout Canada
Ultimately, this means that the plumber comes with certainty that they have been tested, trained and certified to have a level of knowledge and competency defined by their industry. This certification is recognized coast-to-coast and proves skill and ability without the need for any further exams needed in order to practice the trade anywhere in Canada. While the Red Seal certification is recognized nationally, the exams and certifications are assigned by the province (or territory) you write the exam in.
There is no need to become certified in another province or territory when you have Red Seal certification. If you’re moving to a new province or territory and have a Red Seal endorsement in plumbing, you only need to contact that region’s apprenticeship and certification office in order to have your qualifications recognized.
Another benefit of Red Seal certification in plumbing is that more and more employers are looking for Red Seal certification in their journeypersons in addition to the provincial (or territorial) certification. It gives the potential employer confidence in the basic level of training and skills that come with the employee’s certification. While passing the plumbing Red Seal exam and becoming Red Seal certified is optional, it may be a requirement for certain employers – just as the provincial or territorial certification is a requirement to operate as a plumber.
Financial Assistance on Your Journey to Become a Red Seal Certified Plumber
There are a number of options for financial assistance for apprentices in Red Seal trades through the Government of Canada. These include The Canada Apprentice Loan (which would require repayment), the Apprenticeship Incentive Grant, Apprenticeship Completion Grant and programs through Employment Insurance. Tradesperson’s Tools Deductions of up to $500 allow you to recoup some of the costs of tools required to be a plumber. Finally, your employer may be eligible for the Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit and there are programs offered through ITA and WorkBC in British Columbia.
The Journey to Red Seal Certification
At the start of one’s plumbing career, they are an apprentice. An apprenticeship is the agreement between an employer (at minimum a journeyperson plumber) and someone who wants to learn the plumbing trade. In essence, the apprentice makes money while learning the trade and works towards becoming a certified journeyperson. This includes both on-site hands-on learning and technical apprentice training off the job site.
Generally, the classroom/technical learning begins after about a year of on-site experience.
During the apprenticeship stage, a worker may decide to specialize. Plumbing involves a number of different areas of expertise such as fire suppression, wastewater management systems, drain cleaning, water heating systems and more. Many plumbers also add gas-fitting to their expertise. Gas-fitters are also a Red Seal certified trade, so plumbers may hold certification multiple areas in order to provide a diverse range of services to their customers.
If an apprentice has completed all four levels of apprenticeship training and the required job site hours, they are eligible for a provincial or territorial Certificate of Apprenticeship and a Certificate of Qualification. This process usually takes about four or five years.
At this point, they can then also apply and take the exam for the Red Seal endorsement as a certified journeyman in the plumbing trade. If they pass, they can add the Red Seal certification to their provincial (or territory) plumbing trade certificate.
Plumbing journeypersons work with water and drainage systems on their own, whereas apprentices have the majority of their work supervised or double-checked.
Plumbers with 8,340 documented directly-related plumbing trade work experience can challenge the Red Seal exam just as provincial and territorial certification exams can be challenged by those with a certain amount of on-job experience.
Being a plumber can be hard work, but one with great job satisfaction. To be able to fix a customer’s pipes that have burst, or see a new water-filtration system up and running in a commercial development can make the work to become Red Seal certified worth the effort.