There are over 200 skilled trades or occupations in Canada. Occupations are classified by each province as either compulsory or voluntary. Generally, compulsory occupations require workers to be certified or registered as apprentices in order for them to practice in the occupation. Voluntary occupations often will also have certification and apprenticeship to indicate the level of competency of the holder. Although workers are not required to be registered or certified in order to practice in the voluntary occupations, in order to be an apprentice and work in the in these trades, apprentices must be employed with a certified journey person. Most trade programs in Canada take approximately two to four years to complete and they combine approximately 80% paid-on-the job training with 20% technical or in-school learning.

International students can pursue a trade in various ways:
  • By enrolling in a secondary school apprenticeship program that either a) combines workplace-training with specific technical training that leads toward employment upon graduation or b) that can be used as credit toward the requirements for an apprenticeship program.

  • By enrolling in an entry-level trades training program (ELTT) that provides introductory skills geared towards direct employment in trades-related occupations. In addition, credit towards technical training is granted for those who go on to become apprentices.

  • By enrolling in a formal apprenticeship program.

While in secondary school, students accumulate up to 500 hours of workplace training combined with class-room instruction. Upon successful completion of the program, students can apply for credit towards the requirements for an apprenticeship.

Entry-level trades training programs (ELTT) or pre-employment trades training programs provide introductory skills geared towards gaining direct employment in trades-related occupations. In addition, credit towards technical training is granted for those who go on to become apprentices. The programs vary from twelve weeks to ten months in length and provide the individual with an opportunity to acquire basic skills and knowledge required to work in industry in entry level positions. Students wishing to access entry level trades training may do so without a connection to an employer or industry. After the initial training period it is up to the students to search for employment in their industry of choice. International students need to make sure their study and/or work permits allow them to undertake this component of the program. In some trades the entry level training may be applied toward the first year requirements of an apprenticeship.

Apprenticeship is a combination of on-the-job training and advanced technical training, provided at a post-secondary institution: a technical institute, college or university. Apprenticeship programs are administered by individual provinces through formal written agreements between an employer, an employee and the province. For most trades, the apprentice must complete up to four years of training, although the exact amount of time varies depending upon the trade. Technical training takes place each year of the apprenticeship and varies from four to ten weeks, depending on the trade. After each year of training the apprentice will write a test before he or she can proceed to the next level or year of training. Upon completion of the apprenticeship, a candidate will become a certified journeyperson.

Candidates who pass an interprovincial trades qualification exam will be awarded a Red Seal Certificate which allows them to practice their trade across Canada. However, international students who intend to stay and work in Canada must contact Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to find out about all the specific regulations concerning eligibility to work.