National Apprenticeship Survey: Canada Overview Report 2015
Section 5 Certification

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Certification marks the final step in apprenticeship programs and signals that apprentices are ready to enter the workforce as skilled tradespeople. Apprentices typically register for an apprenticeship program in order to obtain a provincial or territorial certificate of qualification (CoQ)Note 1 and become a journeyperson in a trade. In Canada, the title of “journeyperson” is the highest level of qualification in the skilled trades; this designation is generally used to identify those who hold a CoQ. Most apprentices who complete an apprenticeship program also have certification. However, individuals can also obtain certification as trade qualifiers without necessarily pursuing or completing apprenticeship programs. These workers can apply for certification and write or “challenge” the exam for trade qualification, thereby obtaining a CoQ. Many apprentices in designated Red Seal trades also seek a Red Seal endorsement. The Red Seal program has developed interprovincial standards which allow journeypersons the ability to practice a trade in any province or territory where the trade is designated, without having to write additional examinations.

The 2015 NAS asked apprentices a number of questions about the certification process. This section highlights data from the survey on the number of apprentices who acquired certificates and whether they received Red Seal endorsements. It also explores apprentices’ reasons for such decisions as completing a Red Seal Program without pursuing a Red Seal endorsement.

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The certificate of qualification (CoQ) is obtained after an apprentice has completed all requirements of the apprenticeship program, such as in-school technical training and required workplace hours. In most cases, an apprentice is required to take a qualification exam. This standardized exam is determined at the provincial / territorial level. Final certification examinations are common in apprenticeship programs, but may not always be required for some trades.

Trade qualification is a process of certification that recognizes an individual’s work experience through documented hours worked in the trade in lieu of completing an apprenticeship program (Employment and Social Development Canada 2014).

Red Seal endorsement is acquired through the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program, which is administered in each province or territory in accordance with standards determined by the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship. Most jurisdictions use the Red Seal examination as the final trade certification examination. While the Red Seal examination is not required for trade certification in Alberta and the three Territories, the majority of apprentices in those jurisdictions write the examination. In Quebec, apprentices in the construction industry must pass a provincial summative examination to achieve trade certification; only certified journeypersons in Quebec are eligible to write the Red Seal examination.

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Key findings

In addition to information about whether apprentices had obtained certification in a trade, the 2015 NAS asked questions pertaining to apprentices’ Red Seal endorsement if an apprenticeship was in a Red Seal trade. Red Seal endorsement is intended to improve the mobility of certified journeypersons across Canada, allowing journeypersons the ability to practice a trade in any province or territory where it is designated. As reported in section 2, the majority of apprentices (78.2%) were registered in a Red Seal trade (refer to Table A.2.5, Appendix A).

The vast majority (95.2 %) of apprentices who had completed a program reported that they had received a CoQ in a trade (see detailed results in Table A.5.1, Appendix A). Among apprentices who discontinued an apprenticeship program between 2011 and 2013 then later re-registered and completed it, 91.0% had obtained a CoQ.

NAS apprentices who did not have a CoQ were also asked whether or not they had attempted the qualification exam. Seventy percent of completers who did not hold a CoQ in a trade had, nonetheless, attempted a qualification exam.

Certification in Red Seal and non-Red Seal trades

The certification status of apprentices who completed their apprenticeships between 2011 and 2013 is reported by Red Seal trade status in Table A.5.2 (Appendix A). These results are also presented in Chart 5.1, below. Among completers, 72.8% were registered in an apprenticeship for a Red Seal trade and had obtained a CoQ, while an additional 22.4% received a CoQ in a non-Red Seal trade.

Chart 5.1

Data table for Chart 5-1
Data table for Chart 5.1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 5.1 Percent (appearing as column headers).
Not in Red Seal trade,
does not have Certificate of Qualification
In Red Seal trade,
does not have Certificate of Qualification
Not in Red Seal trade,
has Certificate of Qualification
In Red Seal trade,
has Certificate of Qualification

Results for completers whose apprenticeships were in a Red Seal trade are presented in Table A.5.3 (Appendix A). Of those completers who received a CoQ in an apprenticeship training program, more than three-quarters (79.0%) had obtained a Red Seal endorsement at the time of the survey, while about one in five (21.0%) did not have a Red Seal endorsement.

About half of completers in a Red Seal trade who had both a CoQ and a Red Seal endorsement had obtained a Red Seal endorsement by writing a separate exam (51.2%), while the Red Seal endorsement for the remaining apprentices (44.8%) came with a CoQ (Table A.5.3, Appendix A). Few completers in the NAS population, who had a Red Seal endorsement, had obtained this designation by submitting their grades after receiving a CoQ (3.5%).

Among apprentices who completed an apprenticeship in a Red Seal trade but did not obtain a Red Seal endorsement, more than half (58.0%) did not intend to apply for the endorsement at the time of the survey. The primary reason cited for not applying for Red Seal endorsement was not needing this type of certification (56.9%). More than one-quarter (27.2%) cited “a lack of interest” as a reason for not pursuing Red Seal endorsement.


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