Harmonization of Red Seal Trades

What is this term that everyone is throwing around on the Red Seal Program? “Harmonization” is all over the media these days regarding Red Seal trades and the department of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC – formerly HRSDC) is responsible for getting this done through the Red Seal Secretariat to help provide workers for industry.

Harmonization to ESDC is about having every provincial government office and college/training institution across Canada doing the same thing in every province/territory as far as delivery and administration of their Apprenticeship training programs and how they recognize certifications from other provinces and recognition of skills for people to challenge the Red Seal for any particular trade. In essence this was always the intent of the Red Seal program. What has happened over the past twenty years or so is that provinces and territories have strayed from the national program and developed their own models for certification and delivery of training. Every province/territory is responsible for their training and certification programs and they do it in twelve different ways to end up at the Red Seal standard. What ESDC is trying to do is a sincere attempt to fix the problems with the existing system that inhibits Canadians travelling to other jurisdictions looking for work whether they are Journeypersons or Apprentices.

Harmonization to the UA is about having every local and employer and jurisdiction (meaning government) accept our Journeypersons and Apprentices that show up to go to work in another province without any barriers/retesting/downgrading of qualifications ie: third year Apprentice paid 2nd year rate due to provincial requirements. The different policies in the provinces have resulted in barriers that should not exist based on the original intent of the Red Seal program. We are working with ESDC in trying to change this situation.

Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) are the focus of many of our members now and this is part of our discussion with government officials and ties in with the assessment process for trades. We have been lobbying the government for years about problems our members have when travelling in search of work and they have listened and are working with us on a solution. The inclusion of people that want to challenge the Red Seal for pipe trades and receive recognition for their level of Apprenticeship they have obtained, or Journeyperson status includes people coming from other countries in search of work as well. TFWs also deserve an opportunity to have an assessment of their skills on a level playing field with resident Canadians, and we want to ensure that this happens in an equitable way, that does not displace resident Canadians in search of work.

There is also another piece to this harmonization that affects our industry and is the part that we are working closely with ESDC and the Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada. Assessment models for the trade in the past have always been based on how you perform when you take the written Red Seal test for the trades (in most cases but not welding for example which has a practical test as well). We have always said that our industry needs more than that, in the form of a practical test overseen by an expert in the trade. This would mean that a Steamfitter will oversee the assessment of a person challenging the Steamfitter exam based on their work experience and training, and not have an administrative person or someone from any other trade doing this assessment. This can happen sometimes and we can’t afford to have a non-tradesperson doing these assessments. The big difference from the existing model today will be that the cost of assessing people would go way up and this is always a major consideration for everyone involved. The UA is continuing to work with ESDC, the Red Seal Secretariat and MCAC on the development of this model that will be used as a template for future development of the assessment process for Canadian tradespersons, and some provinces are already doing pilots in their jurisdiction.

Harmonization is an attempt to revise the original Interprovincial Red Seal model without losing the original intent of the program which is to provide the qualified tradespeople that industry needs to build Canada. Remember that this program has not been revised for several decades and change does not always come easy especially on a national level. The UA will continue to work on this to ensure that we get the best results for our members in the future.

Contributed by: UA