Skilled trades training in West Quebec

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Today all of Canada suffers from a lack of certified skilled tradespeople. This in spite of the fact that these trades offer above-average pay and can lead to rewarding careers. And a major issue is the training of skilled tradespersons, especially in Western Quebec. To fully appreciate this, a closer look at the 55 Red Seal Trade designation and training options available to residents of Pontiac and surrounding area is required.

Training in the skilled trades usually involves a two-part regime: formal academic training and completion of an approved apprenticeship program. However, as education is a provincial matter, exactly what is accepted as certification varies from province to province. And a tradesperson certified in one area of Canada may not be certified elsewhere. This is where the Red Seals Certification becomes relevant.

The Red Seal Program sets common standards for tradespeople in Canada. Under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship, it is a partnership between the federal government, the provinces, and the territories. However, not all provinces and territories participate in all of the 55 Red Seal trades.

The Red Seal endorsement is an indication that the individual tradesperson has successfully passed the Interprovincial Red Seal examination and has the knowledge required to engage in that trade anywhere in Canada. As mentioned, each province sets its own requirements for certification. Thus, although there are 55 trades listed for the Red Seals certification, only 41 are recognized in Quebec.

But the issue for residents of Pontiac and surrounding area who want certification in any of the 55 trades is more complicated. There are three vocational training centres that are easily available: the Western Quebec Career Centre (Aylmer), Pontiac Continuing Education Centre (Shawville), and Maniwaki Adult Training Centre (Maniwaki). But there is only one Red Seal programme available (welding at the Aylmer centre). Obtaining Red Seal certification in any of the other trades means going to Montreal or Ontario. For most, Ontario (Algonquin College) is the option chosen.

This has certain secondary effects.  First, an apprenticeship is necessary for completion of a certificate. For this, the employer must be registered. So, the student is attending school in Ontario and working for an Ontario company.  Before long, the student begins to ask, “Why not live in Ontario?”. And Quebec has lost another skilled worker.

The second consideration is entrance into the program.  Algonquin College will consider mature students – those 19 years or older – who may not have completed their high school. This is a significant issue in the Pontiac where the percentage of the labour force that does not have at least high school education is well above the average for Canada.

In summary, we (Pontiac, Quebec, Canada) need certified tradespeople but the educational system in Western Quebec is unable to deliver! Perhaps our political and educational leaders could investigate and implement a better (and needed) system for training and certification in the skilled trades.