Apprenticeship allows you to earn money while learning the trade from qualified ironworkers (called journeypersons). It combines classroom study with on-the-job experience, and gives you the opportunity to learn first-hand from experienced ironworkers.
Apprentices and journeypersons earn higher wages, find work more easily and enjoy more respect on job sites. Being part of an apprenticeship program tells your employers and co-workers that you’re committed to your trade.
As an apprentice, you’ll be expected to:
- be willing to learn
- attend all in-class sessions
- work well on the job as part of a team
- develop safe work habits
- perform a day’s work for a day’s pay
In return, you can expect the following:
- In most apprenticeship programs you will spend 80% of your time on the job, being paid while you work towards your journeyperson certification.
- You’ll spend the remaining 20% of your time learning in class. The classroom sessions will complement what you learn working on job sites, and will provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in ironworking.
- Depending on the project and the jurisdiction, there will be one to five journeyperson ironworkers for every on-site apprentice ironworker. Journeyperson ironworkers act as mentors and will teach you every aspect of the trade.
Most ironworker apprenticeship programs have three levels. You graduate to the next level based on the number of hours you’ve worked and the successful completion of the required technical courses.
The length of time it takes to complete all three levels of an apprenticeship varies across Canada. Generally, it takes a minimum of three years. This includes:
- at least 4500 hours of working on the job
- several weeks of in-class technical training
- a final certificate exam
Related work experience or completion of an ironworker program at a technical institute may reduce the time required to complete your apprenticeship.
Once you complete your apprenticeship, you will be certified as a journeyperson ironworker to work in your province.
Red Seal Certification
As a journeyperson ironworker, you can apply for Red Seal Certification.
Each province and territory sets its own standards for certifying ironworkers. This means that certification in one province may not allow you to work in others.
The Red Seal Program is based on national standards and lets you write an Interprovincial Standards Examination to obtain a Red Seal. Once you have a Red Seal, you can practise ironworking in most provinces in Canada.
Earning Red Seal Certification involves:
- a) graduating from a recognized provincial apprenticeship program, or
b) earning a journeyperson certificate from your province, and
- passing the Interprovincial Standards Examination for ironworking
The Red Seal examinations are administered through provincial certification and apprenticeship offices. For more information, click on one of the following links:
Costs and earnings
Depending on where you apprentice, wages start from about 50% to 70% of a journeyperson ironworker’s hourly rate and increase during your apprenticeship until you reach the full rate. That’s right—as long as you continue to meet the requirements of your apprenticeship program you’ll receive regular pay raises!
Apprenticeships cost very little. Generally, tuition for in-school technical training is $200-$500 per year, depending on the province. There are additional expenses for books and other materials, but the cost of training is more than offset by your earnings.
Technical training is offered at many public and private institutions, as well as through labour organizations. It’s your responsibility to choose a training institution and to register for courses.
For more information on in-class apprenticeship training, contact one of the following institutions:
How to register
Each province has its own apprenticeship program and regulations. In general, you must:
- be at least 16 years of age
- have completed Grade 10 or the equivalent (most employers prefer to hire high school graduates)
- be in good physical condition
To enter an apprenticeship program, you need an employer who will sponsor you. To find a sponsor and register as an apprentice, you can either:
- arrange employment through a labour organization, or
- contact an employer directly
If you choose to contact an employer directly, it’s up to you to request that you be registered as an apprentice. You will also have to ensure that your hours on the job are counted towards your apprenticeship.
In Alberta and Quebec you are required to register as an apprentice before you can start work. In all other provinces, apprenticeship is voluntary for ironworkers*.
For more information on apprenticeship programs in Canada, contact your provincial government office of apprenticeship and training:
*If you live in Yukon Territory and want more information on how to participate in an ironworking apprenticeship program, contact the British Columbia government office of apprenticeship and training. If you live in the Northwest Territories or in Nunavut, contact the Alberta government office of apprenticeship and training.
For more information on getting started as an ironworker, you can register in the Resources section of this Web site. From there, you can download the employee guide Ironwork Getting Started to read useful tips on finding work, preparing for an interview and what to expect on the job.
If you’re in high school, it’s not too early to start thinking about a career in ironwork. Secondary School Apprenticeship Programs (SSAP) are offered in most provinces. They let you get a head start on a construction career while you’re in high school. Through on-the-job training, many of these programs allow you to earn credit towards both your ironworker certification and your high school diploma. Some of these programs also offer scholarships and awards for eligible students.
Whether you qualify for these programs depends on what province you’re in. In most provinces you have to be at least 16 years old and have completed Grade 10.
SSAP involves an agreement between you, your employer and your school. Your work hours will depend on the agreement, but the options include:
- working as an apprentice for one semester, and going to school the next
- working half a day, and going to school the other half
- working during the summer, and on holidays and weekends, and attending school during the regular term
- working one or two days a week, and going to school the other days
If you’re already working part-time in construction, you may be able to register as a secondary school apprentice—ask your school’s career counsellor if the work you do qualifies.
If you take Career and Technology Studies (CTS) classes in high school, you may receive credits towards an apprenticeship. The same is true for some post-secondary training. These credits can shorten the time it takes to complete an apprenticeship and become a certified journeyperson.
For information on Secondary School Apprenticeship Programs, click on your province:
The Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP) lets you start apprenticeship training and earn wages while you’re completing high school. It also gives you access to other programs, including the Apprenticeship Training Program, Interprovincial Standard (Red Seal) Program, Prior Learning Assessment, and the Qualifications Certificate Program.
The program operates through an agreement between you, your employer and your school. You and your employer must complete an application/contract and send it to the Apprenticeship and Industry Training office to be registered.
Each year, RAP awards 50 Alberta students with $1000 to help them continue in their apprenticeship programs.
The province is pilot testing a new youth apprenticeship program, which may soon provide apprenticeship opportunities to junior high students, starting in Grade 7.
For more information, check out Apprenticeship and Industry Training.
The Senior Years Apprenticeship Option (SYAO) lets you start an apprenticeship while you are still in high school. It combines regular Senior Years school instruction with paid, part-time, on-the-job apprenticeship training.
To qualify, you must be at least 16 years old. You must be taking core subjects S1-4, have completed S2 and be enrolled in an approved Manitoba S3 or S4 program.
You also need a qualified and insured employer. The SYAO coordinator will work with you, your employer and your school guidance counsellor to ensure that you meet the academic requirements to graduate, and to schedule work time when you are not taking classes.
For more information, talk to your school guidance counsellor or click here.
New Brunswick’s Youth Apprenticeship Program (YAP) is open to high school students completing Grades 10 or 11. The program gives you the chance to combine high school classes related to your career interests with on-the-job experience in the same field.
If you’re accepted into the program, you will work two summers for a minimum of 200 hours each year and receive a minimum of 100 hours of employability skills training. The training is delivered by professionals in the business community and takes place outside of regular school hours.
YAP provides you with a Record of Achievement that’s valuable as proof of your experience when you enter the workforce. Completion of the program also guarantees you a seat at the New Brunswick Community College or preferred status at the University of New Brunswick in a program related to your work experience.
Nova Scotia is launching a youth apprenticeship program in 2006. The program will be open to high school students who are 16 years of age and older. Through the youth apprenticeship program, you will be able to work towards an apprenticeship while you’re in high school.
For more information, contact the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Workforce Development.
The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) is a year-round co-op work/study program for high school students. OYAP lets you work as a registered apprentice while you complete your Ontario Secondary School Diploma.
To qualify you must:
- be entering Grade 11 and be at least 16 years of age
- have completed 16 credits with a 70% average
- maintain a 70% average while you are in the two-year program
Prince Edward Island
The Accelerated Secondary Apprenticeship Program (ASAP) is Prince Edward Island’s youth apprenticeship program. It provides high school students with an opportunity to get a head start on their post-secondary apprenticeship training. Through a combination of on-the-job experience and course work, you can make money in the trade of your choice while earning credits toward both your apprenticeship and your high school diploma.
To qualify, you must be at least 16 years of age, enrolled in high school and employed full- or part-time in a designated trade.
Quebec offers more than 450 vocational and technical education programs, which prepare students for the labour market in 21 sectors. The programs operate under the apprenticeship system and include at least one session of on-the-job training. Some alternate between classroom and workplace training; others include workplace experience at the end of in-school training.
Vocational education teaches general work skills to help you succeed in your career. It is offered in public and private secondary schools. Technical education teaches you the skills you’ll need to work in the trades. It is offered in CEGEPs and private institutions.
For information on vocational and technical training (VTT) in Quebec, ask your school counsellor or visit the Quebec Ministry of Education, Leisure and Sport’s Inforoute FPT website.
Under the Saskatchewan Youth Apprenticeship program, students receive apprenticeship credit and work experience. The program is comprised of three levels of challenges, which can be completed during grades 10, 11 and 12.
To qualify, you must be at least 15 years of age and meet one of the following criteria:
- experience with part-time or seasonal employment
- registered in a trade-related Practical and Applied Arts (PAA) course
- registered in a PAA survey course with at least one third trade-related content
- registered in a trade-related locally developed course
- registered in Career and Work Exploration 10, 20 or 30
Apprenticeship initiatives for people in Aboriginal communities
In addition to the programs listed above, there are many initiatives across Canada designed to introduce people in Aboriginal communities to apprenticeship.
The Aboriginal Human Resource Council is developing new ways to increase skills and training opportunities. You can contact the Council for information on Aboriginal apprenticeship programs across Canada.
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) has launched a five-year initiative called the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership Program (ASEP). ASEP is targeted at developing the skills of Canada’s Aboriginal workforce, promoting maximum employment for Aboriginal people on major construction projects across Canada. The program will receive $85 million in funding from both government and private sector partners.
To learn about provincial projects that are supported by ASEP, contact HRSDC’s national Aboriginal relations office:
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
Aboriginal Relations Office
Gatineau, QC K1A 0J9
A number of provinces have, or are developing, initiatives aimed at improving access to apprenticeship training programs for people in Aboriginal communities. Most of the programs offered are community-based. Some are being developed to incorporate First Nations languages and combine traditional values and practices with the skills required by today’s labour market.
To find out about specific provincial programs, check out the following links and contacts:
The Alberta Aboriginal Apprenticeship Project (AAAP) was established in 2001 to promote apprenticeship and industry training to Aboriginal people, communities and organizations in Alberta. The AAAP currently operates in Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, High Level and Lethbridge.
For more information, call toll free:
1-866-408-1840 (Edmonton office)
1-866-655-2201 (Calgary office)
The British Columbia Construction Association and the Vancouver Regional Construction Association have partnered with several BC Aboriginal organizations as well as major construction employers in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland to train and employ hundreds of Aboriginal workers. The Vancouver Aboriginal Skills and Employment Program (Van ASEP) is a $21 million project designed to create multiple entry points for Aboriginal people to access construction careers, including ironworkers. Through Van ASEP, Aboriginal ironworkers can find work on projects relating to the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre, the Vancouver Port Expansion and the Sea-to-Sky Highway improvement.
For information on how to get involved, contact the VanAsep Training Society.
The Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT), together with the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission, formed the SIIT Joint Training Committee (SIIT JTC) to help qualified First Nation and other individuals enter construction trade apprenticeship programs.
For more information, visit the SIIT Web site.
For more information, you can contact any of the Career Centres listed below and ask to talk to an employment counsellor:
La Ronge: 306-425-5758
Meadow Lake: 306-234-2375
Prince Albert: 306-953-7228
Community pre-apprenticeship training
Some communities offer access to pre-apprenticeship programs, which are available in many provinces. Talk to your local employment officer or employment counsellor to find out about taking pre-apprenticeship training with a group of workers from your community.