How Long Does It Take to Get a Red Seal Certificate?

Red Seal trades are a major part of Canada’s push for stronger infrastructure. The Red Seal program awards certified tradespeople with qualification certificates that allow them to work anywhere in Canada—even outside their territory of endorsement. A Red Seal endorsement opens up greater flexibility for members of different trades but, after a lengthy apprenticeship, you may be wondering just how long the Red Seal program takes.

From completing your time as an apprentice to studying for the Red Seal examination, here’s what you need to know about the program.

The Apprenticeship

Most commonly, if you’re pursuing a Red Seal trade, you’ll undergo an apprenticeship that lasts, on average, three years. This time is spent learning the ins and outs of the trade. It’s a combination of continued education as well as practical, hands-on experience. Of course, for skilled trades, it might seem easier said than done to find the right program. Many individuals turn to the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship, a government agency that can make placement a more streamlined process. This is because the council is directly behind the management of the program.

Of course, you may be wondering if it’s possible to obtain Red Seal certification if you don’t complete an apprenticeship. Since the Red Seal is moderated by a federal government body, the apprenticeship is, in fact, required. No matter if you live in British Columbia or Nova Scotia, you won’t be able to obtain Red Seal endorsement without the prerequisite qualifications. Of course, becoming an apprentice isn’t all that’s asked of you if you’re looking to take the Red Seal exam.

Finding Employment

Even if you’ve completed your apprenticeship already and have received territorial certificates of qualification, you won’t be able to register for the Red Seal examination quite yet. In fact, the process almost always requires one additional step: finding employment. It doesn’t matter if you intend to start your own shop or work as a free tradesperson in the future. To receive Red Seal endorsement, you’ll need to be sponsored by an employer first. Commonly, you can do this concurrently through your apprenticeship but you’ll want to verify with your employer ahead of time

A part of the reasoning for employer sponsorship is to ensure that you’ve completed a certain number of hours in the workforce before you seek endorsement. Finding an employer is often as simple as checking with a local employment agency. Since the Red Seal was developed as a way to bolster Canada’s skilled trades, qualified workers are always in demand.

Exam Applications

Once you’ve completed the previous steps and you’ve obtained territorial certificates of qualification, you can apply to write the Red Seal certification exam. You’ll apply either through your provincial or your territorial apprentice certification office. The test is typically proctored by an administrator of the Red Seal program. If you’re concerned about being able to fund exams or you need additional grant money to stay afloat during your apprenticeship period, there are several Canadian grants and credits that can assist you during this step as well. One popular one is the Canada Apprentice Loan that operates similarly to a student loan and is designed to assist you with the completion of your program.

After you’ve applied for the exam, your final step is to take it and pass it. Once you’ve acquired your Red Seal, you’ll never have to pursue renewal and your seal will not expire.

The skilled trades are more important to Canada’s infrastructure and economy now than ever. By pursuing the Red Seal endorsement, you’re informing employers and other tradespeople that you’re a master of your trade. It’s a great way to open doors and can help you secure a prosperous future.

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