What's an Apprenticeship?
Apprenticeship is a form of post-secondary training that teaches the skills and competencies necessary to perform tasks to an industry standard. Apprenticeship training provides the opportunity for hands-on learning under the direction of a certified journeyperson, with the ability to earn while you learn. The training combines alternating periods of on-the-job (80 to 85%) and technical training (15 to 20%). Technical training can occur at a college, a union training centre, a private trainer or online. Once the apprentice has completed the required hours and/or modules for the trade, the apprentice can write a certification exam. Apprenticeship is regulated by the provinces and territories, creating 13 unique systems geared to the labour market needs and conditions in each region of Canada.
Canada also has a standard of excellence known as the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program. It is offered in 55 trades. Through the Program, tradespersons obtain an endorsement on their provincial/territorial certificates by successfully completing an interprovincial exam, making it easier for them to move between provinces or territories, and employers.
How long does it take to complete an apprenticeship program and become a certified tradesperson?
The length of the training varies depending on the trade, but generally takes between 2 and 5 years. Most of the training is provided in the workplace. Normally, an apprentice works for 40 to 44 weeks a year and goes to school for a six-to-eight week “block” of training.
How much does it cost to complete an apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships cost very little compared to most post-secondary training options. Tuition costs vary depending on the trade and the province/territory. There may be additional costs for books, equipment, tools and living expenses. However, apprentices are paid during their on-the-job training. There are also a number of grants and tax credits available to reduce the cost of apprenticeship training. Consult your local apprenticeship office to learn more about both federal and provincial/territorial supports.
Another big benefit of apprenticeship training is that it allows apprentices to “earn while they learn,” significantly reducing student debt loads. University under-graduates left school with an average debt load of $25,000 in 2005, with much higher rates of debt in the eastern provinces. As paid employees, apprentices are generally able to cover their costs without substantial student debt.
Does an apprentice receive an income while attending a technical school?
If apprentices have been employed for long enough to qualify, most are eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) while they are in school. Some employers pay their apprentices while they’re in school, or “top up” EI benefits so apprentices continue to receive the equivalent of their wages while they’re in school. It is recommended that apprentices have this discussion with their employers upfront. Apprentices serve only one two-week waiting period per apprenticeship and are not generally required to wait in subsequent training periods. It is important to understand the regulations surrounding Employment Insurance eligibility, so be sure to contact Service Canada for more information.
Are apprenticeships regulated by the government?
Apprenticeship programs are regulated by provincial and territorial governments. Each province and territory is responsible for deciding whether a trade is designated “compulsory” or “voluntary.” If a trade is compulsory, legislation generally requires someone working in that trade to be a qualified journeyperson or an apprentice working under the supervision of a journeyperson. This typically comes into play in areas involving public safety (i.e. an electrician). Check with your provincial/territorial apprenticeship authority to learn more about designated trades in your jurisdiction.