“I’ve heard that there is a “Red Seal” available for welders and fitters.  How does this differ from passing welding tickets?”

In the Canadian educational system, each province or territory has the authority and responsibility for apprenticeship training and trade certifications.  To improve the opportunity for tradespersons to move from one province/territory to another jurisdiction, and have their journeyperson certification recognized, fifty-four trades have a national training and qualification standard.  This Canadian national standard is known as a Red Seal endorsement.

In the welding, metal fabrication, and construction fields, the common related Red Seal trades are:

  • Welder 

  • Metal Fabricator (Fitter)

  • Boilermaker

  • Steamfitter/Pipefitter

  • Ironworker

  • Sheet Metal Worker.

There are trades that within a province/territory are compulsory.  This means that to practice that trade within the jurisdiction the worker must be a registered apprentice or a journeyperson.  For example, Alberta lists Welder as a compulsory trade, while it is voluntary in Nova Scotia.  Other trades on the list above may be compulsory or voluntary, depending upon the jurisdiction.

While there are some differences from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, each provincial training standard must meet the national standard for the apprentice to reach the Red Seal level.  At the completion of the apprenticeship there is a theory exam that has a minimum passing grade of 70%.  This Certificate of Qualification (CofQ) test demonstrates that the journeyperson not only has the skills, but also the knowledge, to practice the trade.  

A journeyperson trade qualification differs from a welder’s qualification test where skills are tested to qualify the welder to weld a particular product such as a pressure vessel or structure with a particular process.  For example, a Welder or Boilermaker can hold a Red Seal in their trade and have no welding qualifications (or ‘tickets’); on the other hand, a Welder can possess a dozen welding qualifications and not have a Red Seal.

The standard route to reach the Red Seal is through an apprenticeship.  Here, most of the learning is on-the-job under the mentorship of a journeyperson.  Formal schooling is also part of apprenticeship where both theory and practical learning are covered at a college or union training centre.  There are many colleges in Canada that offer pre-apprenticeship programs that cover some of the in-school training prior to the start of a formal apprenticeship.

For skilled workers who have years of experience, or training and experience from other countries, there are pathways to achieve the Red Seal as a “trade qualifier”.  To achieve this the applicant must have well-documented experience in the full scope of the trade.  The challenger will prepare for the theory test on their own, for example in welding by using resources available through CWB – Education.  One twist in this process for the Welding trade is that in most jurisdictions there is a practical test as well to demonstrate welding and fabricating skills, including layout and thermal cutting.  (Apprentices who take the standard route are exempted from this extra practical test since they demonstrate these skills in school.)

You can learn more about the Red Seal program by researching red-seal.ca or contacting the apprenticeship training authority in your home province/territory.  For each trade there is a document called a Red Seal Occupational Standard (RSOS) available online that details what a journeyperson is expected to know and the skills that they must possess.

Jim Galloway, RSE* is a Professor of Welding Engineering Technology & Trades at Conestoga College in Cambridge, Ontario. In addition to other qualifications, he holds a Red Seal as a Welder.   Jim also volunteers on several CSA Technical Committees related to welding safety, electric welding machines, and welding filler metals.  (*Note: RSE acronym indicates a holder of a Red Seal Endorsement.)

The information provided is intended for general interest, to educate and inform our audience. The CWB and those providing feedback to the questions do not take any responsibility for any omissions or misstatements that could lead to incorrect applications or possible solutions that industry may be facing.

How-It Works content is submitted by Industry experts to the CWB Association and does not necessarily reflect the views of the CWB Group. When testing for CWB Certification or CWB Education, please refer to CWB Education textbooks or CSA standards as the official source of information.