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Red Seal Program Provides a Career, Not Just a Job

February 27, 2020

Red Seal JourneypersonsFor anyone in the skilled trades or the construction industry in Canada, the Red Seal validates a standard of excellence and proven skills.

“Employers can be confident in the skills of the apprentices and certified tradespeople available in the workforce. They know they have been put through a comparable training program, and are accountable to the same standards,” said Michael Barnett, Chair of the Stakeholder Relations Committee of the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship (CCDA) in an article for Powering Communities. The CCDA runs the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program. Tradespeople from electricians to plumbers to machinists achieve Red Seal status when they pass the exam.

Bill Pearse, business manager for IBEW Local 115, believes that the Red Seal program is good for electricians and end users alike. “The Red Seal upholds the integrity of the trade. It helps ensure safety standards and ensures customers get properly trained people doing quality work.”

“It’s something to be proud of, it makes the skilled trades valuable. You can use the designation “RSE” (Red Seal Endorsement) after your name,” says Dave Graham, Training Director of Local 804. “There’s also a gamification value there, if you like badges. But it does bring credibility to the trade.”

Surviving Economic Volatility

Demand for construction tradespeople can ebb and flow with economic prosperity. With a Red Seal certification, an electrician can travel to other provinces to work instead of having to find another career, ensuring a good supply of certified electricians across the country.

Helping trained electricians stay in the trade is more important than ever now that the Baby Boom generation is starting to retire.

“Things were slow here in Kitchener at one point and I went to Fort St. John in Northern BC to work on a gas pipeline project for Shell,” says Peter Caesar, a master electrician and trainer with IBEW Local 804. “No one area is always busy, and it’s also a good option in case you ever have to relocate for your family.”

Many electricians have worked in other provinces over the course of their careers. “I’ve travelled in Ontario, and we’ve had people from Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia. We can go where the work is,” says Pearse.

An Ontario Without the Red Seal

Without the Red Seal, the electrical trade would lose its most enthusiastic evangelists: the electricians themselves.

“If it was cancelled, I don’t know that I’d be able to recommend becoming an electrician to young people,” says Caesar. “There would be less pay and safety standards. You’d just be working, not working towards building a career.”

Bill Dodge, Training Director for Local 115, agrees. “If we want to attract new apprentices, we should try not to devalue the trade— in fact we should try to make it more attractive.”

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