Apprenticeship is a way to learn job skills while you work and earn good wages. It combines classroom study with on-the-job experience that lets you earn while you learn a skilled trade. An apprenticeship program leads to professional certification as a journeyperson.
To enter an apprenticeship program, you need to have an employer who will sponsor you. There are a number of ways to find a sponsor and register as an apprentice:
- go through an apprenticeship and training committee
- arrange employment through a labour organization
- contact an employer directly
Each province/territory and trade has its own apprenticeship program and regulations. In general, to become an apprentice, you need to complete grade 12 or equivalent (some trades don’t require Grade 12, but many employers prefer high school graduates).
Depending where you apprentice and which trade you are training for,
- it can take from one to five years to complete your program and become a certified journeyperson;
- you’ll spend about 80% of that time learning on the job; and
- you’ll spend the remaining 20% of your time studying in a classroom or shop setting.
In some trades, you must be certified or registered as an apprentice in order to work. These are called compulsory trades. Other trades, called voluntary, offer apprenticeship programs and certification for people who want to improve their skills, employment opportunities and earnings. For details about specific trades and occupations, go to Pick a career.
Apprenticeship or industry training agreements have to be registered and your employer has to document the training you complete on the job.
Technical training for the in-class part of apprencticeship is offered at many public and private institutions. It’s your responsibility to choose a training institution and register. You’ll also have to work with your employer to schedule your classroom studies at appropriate times.
The apprenticeship system in Canada is promoted and supported by the non-profit organization, Canadian Apprenticeship Forum.
For more information on becoming an apprentice, contact your provincial or territorial government office of apprenticeship and training. Click here for a listing of offices.
Depending on where you apprentice and the trade you’re learning, you will earn from 30% to 50% of a journeyperson’s wage during your first year as an apprentice. In most programs, your pay will increase each year until you’re certified.
You will have to cover all or part of the cost of your classroom studies, so when you’re “shopping” for a school be sure to compare tuition fees, travel and living expenses, and other expenses such as books and service fees.
Apprenticeships cost very little. Generally, tuition costs for in-school technical training are $100-$800 per session, depending on the trade and the province or territory. The cost of training is also offset by your earnings. According to the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, an apprentice learning a construction trade usually works for about 80% of the year.
You will probably not be paid while you’re doing classroom studies, but you may qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits and some employers will “top up” EI benefits.
Because they earn while they learn, most people completing apprenticeship programs have much lower debt loads than university graduates entering the workforce.
Each province and territory sets its own standards for certifying skilled construction workers. This means that certification in one place may not allow you to work in others.
The Red Seal Program uses national standards and lets you write an Interprovincial Standards Examination to obtain a Red Seal. The Red Seal allows you to practice your trade anywhere in Canada.
More than 80% of skilled construction workers are employed in Red Seal trades. The federal government is working to expand the use of Interprovincial Standards and to streamline the development of new Red Seal programs.
Earning Red Seal certification involves the following:
- a) graduating from a recognized provincial or territorial apprenticeship program, or
b) earning a journeyperson certificate from your province or territory, and
- passing the Interprovincial Standards Examination for your trade
The Red Seal exams are administered through provincial and territorial certification and apprenticeship offices.
Red Seal certified trades
Click on any of the following construction careers for more information:
Most provinces and territories offer secondary school apprenticeship programs (SSAP), which let you get a head start on a construction career while you’re still in high school. Through on-the-job training, many of these programs allow you to earn credit towards both your certification and your high school diploma. Some of these programs also offer scholarships and awards for eligible students.
Whether you qualify for these programs depends on what province or territory you’re in and what construction trade you’re interested in. In most provinces and territories, you have to be at least 16 years old and have completed Grade 10.
SSAP involves an agreement between you, your employer and your school. Your work hours will depend on the agreement, but the options include the following:
- working as an apprentice for one semester,and going to school the next
- working half a day and going to school the other half
- working during the summer, and on holidays and weekends, and attending school during the regular term
- working one or two days a week and going to school the other days
If you’re already working part-time in construction, you may be able to register as a secondary school apprentice – ask your school’s career counsellor if the work you do qualifies.
If you take Career and Technology Studies (CTS) classes in high school, you may receive credits towards an apprenticeship. The same is true for some post-secondary training. These credits can shorten the time it takes to complete an apprenticeship and become a certified journeyperson.
For information on secondary school apprenticeship programs by province/territory, click here.
In addition to the programs listed above, there are many programs across Canada designed to introduce Aboriginal Canadians to apprenticeship.
The Aboriginal Human Resource Council is developing new ways to increase skills and training opportunities. You can contact the Council for information on apprenticeship programs for people in Aboriginal communities across Canada.
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) has launched an initiative called the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership Program (ASEP). ASEP is targeted at developing the skills of Canada's Aboriginal workforce, promoting maximum employment for Aboriginal people on major construction projects across Canada.
To learn about provincial projects that are supported by ASEP, contact:
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership (ASEP)
140 Promenade du Portage, Phase IV
Gatineau, QC K1A 0J9
Tel: (819) 997-8677
A number of provinces are developing, or already have, initiatives aimed at improving access to apprenticeship training programs for Aboriginal Canadians. Most of the programs they offer are community-based. Some are being developed to incorporate First Nations’ languages and combine traditional values and practices with the skills required by today’s labour market.
To find out about specific provincial programs, click here.
The Government of Canada's Apprenticeship Incentive Grant (AIG) is a taxable cash grant available to registered apprentices once they have successfully completed their first or second year (level) of an apprenticeship program in one of the Red Seal trades. For a complete list of trades in Canada that have a Red Seal trade designation, visit the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program Web site.