2 Learning Task 2: Describe the Red Seal Program

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What is the Red Seal Program?

The Red Seal program is the Canadian standard of excellence for skilled trades, setting common standards to assess the skills of tradespersons across Canada. The program has been in existence for over 50 years and is administered by each of the designated provincial and territorial apprenticeship authorities under the guidance of the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship (CCDA). The formal name of this program is the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program.

The Red Seal is not a certificate. It is an endorsement that is affixed to a provincial or territorial trades certificate upon successful completion of all provincial requirements and the Red Seal exam. It is available in 57 different trades, and over 625,000 tradespeople in Canada have obtained the Red Seal Endorsement (RSE) to date. The top 10 Red Seal trades based on endorsements issued to date are:

  1. construction electrician
  2. automotive service technician
  3. carpenter
  4. industrial mechanic (millwright)
  5. plumber
  6. welder
  7. heavy-duty equipment technician
  8. cook
  9. steamfitter/pipefitter
  10. truck and transportation mechanic
Resources icon. A listing of all Red Seal trades can be viewed at: Red Seal Trades

Importance of the Red Seal

The Red Seal is important because it provides a standard of competency that is recognized across Canada and is respected in a number of other countries. It denotes that an individual has the knowledge and skill sets for accomplishing work in their trade.

Once you have received your Red Seal endorsement, you may use the RSE acronym on your résumé, business cards, and promotional information.

Red Seal Exam

The Red Seal exam is administered to determine whether apprentices and experienced tradespeople meet the Canadian Red Seal standards. The examinations are developed for each of the Red Seal trades with the assistance of industry trade experts from across the country and are based on the Red Seal Occupational Standard (RSOS). (More information on the RSOS is provided below.)

To qualify to write a Red Seal exam, an individual must have fulfilled all requirements set out by their provincial/territorial apprenticeship authority. The criteria for eligibility to write the exam differ from one trade to another and depend on the type of applicant (e.g., apprentice, trade qualifier/challenger, journeyperson).

The Red Seal Endorsement Official Mark on a provincial/territorial trades certificate signifies that you have completed the Canadian recognized standard of competency in your trade. In some cases (e.g., in British Columbia), the Red Seal exam is taken in lieu of a provincial exam in the final level of the apprenticeship training. In other provinces or territories the exam may be taken in addition to other provincial requirements.

To receive your Red Seal endorsement, you must achieve a mark of 70% or higher on the Red Seal exam. If you are unsuccessful in passing the exam, you must wait a set period of time before your next attempt. The waiting period is determined by the individual province or territory.

Should you be unsuccessful a second time, you will be required to follow a course of study as defined by your jurisdiction (province or territory) prior to any subsequent attempt.

Red Seal Occupational Standard (RSOS)

The first National Conference on Apprenticeship in Trades and Industries, held in Ottawa in 1952, recommended that the federal government be requested to cooperate with provincial and territorial apprenticeship committees and officials in preparing analyses of a number of skilled occupations. The Red Seal Occupational Standard (RSOS) document for each trade is the basis for the Red Seal Program. Every RSOS provides a comprehensive analysis of a trade completed by a committee of industry experts, and is representative of all jurisdictions. The standards have the following objectives:

  • to describe and group the tasks performed by skilled workers;
  • to identify which tasks are performed in every province and territory;
  • to develop instruments for use in the preparation of Interprovincial Red Seal Examinations and assessment tools for apprenticeship and certification authorities;
  • to develop common tools for apprenticeship on-the-job and technical training in Canada;
  • to facilitate the mobility of apprentices and skilled workers in Canada;
  • to supply employers, employees, associations, industries, training institutions and governments with analyses of occupations.

Structure of the standard

To facilitate understanding of the occupation, the RSOS standards contain the following sections:

  • Description of the trade: An overview of the trade’s duties, work environment, job requirements, similar occupations and career progression
  • Essential Skills Summary: An overview of how each of the 9 essential skills is applied in the trade
  • Trends in the trade: Some of the trends identified by industry as being the most important for workers in the trade
  • Industry Expected Performance: description of the expectations regarding the level of performance of the tasks, including information related to specific codes, regulations and standards that must be observed
  • Language Requirements: description of the language requirements for working and studying in this trade in Canada
  • Pie Chart: a graph which depicts the national percentages of exam questions assigned to the major work activities
  • Task Matrix and Examination Weightings: a chart which outlines graphically the major work activities, tasks and sub-tasks of this standard and their respective exam weightings
  • Major Work Activity (MWA): the largest division within the standard that is comprised of a detailed description of each of the trade tasks and their skills.

At the end of each RSOS is a series of appendices that include:

  • a list of acronyms
  • all of the tools and equipment required for a trade
  • a glossary of terms associated with the trade

The Red Seal Occupational Standard (RSOS) was introduced in 2015, and they replaced the previous National Occupational Analysis (NOA) as each trades standard was updated.

Other RSOS products

The RSOS includes features that support the development of informational, learning, and assessment products that encouraged greater consistency in provincial and territorial apprenticeship programs. Some of the elements that were previously in the NOA have been recreated as separate informational learning or assessment products. Some of these additional products that are available for each trade may include:

  • Trade Profile, a quick snapshot of all trade activities in the standard.
  • Ellis Chart compares apprenticeship programs across all Canadian jurisdictions
  • Curriculum Outline, which organizes the knowledge elements of the RSOS and provides recommendations for training levels.
  • On-the-job Training Guide
  • Essential Skills Outline, the most important essential skills for each sub-task have also been identified
  • Red Seal exam breakdown, provides a list of the number of questions in each task and sub-task
  • Exam sample questions

Resources icon.To view an example of all of the resources available, visit the designated trades web site and select a trade: Red Seal Trades

Self-test icon.Now complete the Learning Task Self-Test.

Self Test

Self-Test 2

  1. The Red Seal program is the Canadian standard of excellence for skilled trades in Canada.
    1. True
    2. False
  2. The Red Seal program does not set common standards to assess the skills of tradespersons across Canada.
    1. True
    2. False
  3. The Red Seal is a certification issued by the Canadian government.
    1. True
    2. False
  4. How many Red Seal trades exist to date?
    1. 10 to 20
    2. 50 to 60
    3. More than 100
    4. All trades are Red Seal
  5. All provinces and territories use the Red Seal exam in their final level of apprenticeship training for Red Seal trades.
    1. True
    2. False
  6. When do apprentices receive the Red Seal endorsement?
    1. After they have passed the exam with a grade of 70% or higher
    2. Automatically upon completion of the final level exam of the apprenticeship training
    3. After they have successfully completed the Red Seal exam and all other requirements for their apprenticeship
    4. After they have successfully completed the Red Seal exam and the score has been passed on to their jurisdictional authority
  7. The Red Seal Occupational Standard (RSOS) is a comprehensive analysis of a trade completed by industry experts in the trades and with representation from all Canadian provinces and territories.
    1. True
    2. False
  8. What section of an RSOS depicts the national percentages of exam questions assigned to the major work activities?
    1. Trade Profile
    2. Essential Skills Summary
    3. Trends in the trade
    4. Pie chart
  9. An Ellis Chart for a trade compares a number of different aspects of trades training and delivery between which regions?
    1. Between Canada and the United States
    2. Between North America and the rest of the world
    3. Between Canadian provinces and territories
    4. Between Canadian regions (e.g., Atlantic Canada, Western Canada)
  10. Which of the following is NOT included in the appendix of an RSOS?
    1. List of acronyms
    2. List of tools and equipment
    3. Dress code
    4. Glossary of terms

See the Answer Key in the back matter of the textbook for self-test answers.

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