The unemployment rate in the trades is at a 20-year low in Nova Scotia. Industry experts believe that in order to sustain current levels of employment, three to four thousand new tradespeople are needed in this province alone! (

• In the next two decades, 40% of new jobs will be in the skilled trades and technologies. In 1998, that number was less than 20%. (

• Only 48% of Canadians are accepted in college or university. Young people need to consider all of the options on the road to a career. There are great options, such as apprenticeship, that can provide the training to build a successful career. (statistic from: Dr. Jean Marmoreo, “School’s ending, but the pressure’s only starting”, May 15th 2004, Globe and Mail)

• Each time apprentices successfully complete their theory training, their rate of pay gets higher. (

• The construction industry employs 900,000 Canadian men and women in about 50 different trades. (

• By 2020, Canada will be facing a labour shortage of nearly 1 million workers. ( )

• Many more people in the skilled trades are retiring than are entering the system. The hardest-hit industries will be manufacturing, construction, petroleum production and transportation. (

• In 2004, only 1/3 of students could define a journeyperson and fewer than 40 percent believed that apprentices required employment. (Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Board Youth Decision Survey 2004)

The Youth Decision Survey was done to gain information about the way the skilled trades are perceived and how youth are making decisions regarding their careers.  It showed that the perception of post secondary education is changing.  The 2009 Youth Decision survey showed us that among the parents who responded, 45% preferred that their children goto Community College. University had 47% of parents' preference.  However, 60% of the students believed that their parents wanted them to go to university. 

83% of the students surveyed beleived that there are good jobs in the skilled trades, and even more (97%) teachers and parents agreed.

For more results, view the whole report: Youth Decision Survey Report


What is apprenticeship?

Apprenticeship is a training and working program that follows a program of levels to gain all skills required and eventual certification in a trade.  In trades that have an apprenticeship path, all levels have been defined and the apprentices learn skills and trade knowledge appropriate to their current level.  Technical training is offered for part of the year to ensure the knowledge for the level is covered after the apprentices have worked 2000 hours at each level.  Following each segment of 2000 hours and technical training, apprentices can write the final exam for that level.

For more questions about Apprenticeship that are not answered here, please go to the apprenticeship page.

Why is apprenticeship different than a job?

Apprenticeship begins with an agreement between the apprentice and the employer.  Included in the agreement is the commitment of the apprentice to continuous learning, direct supervision by a certified tradesperson, and regular progression of skills and wages. 

Employers outside an agreement are not always required to promote their employees, pay them according to the skills they practice, or offer training to progressive skills.  Employees outside of an agreement are not required to progress and accept new skills.  Neither are they usually required to attend training in order to continue their employment. 

Apprenticeship leads to certification.  What is the main benefit of certification for the apprentice?

Certification leads to more pay and more flexibility in the trade.  There are trades in which it is mandatory to be an apprentice or to be certified in order to be working in that trade, the compulsory trades. 

Non-compulsory trades do not require apprenticeship or certification, but even within those trades there are more opportunities to work with employers who have chosen to require certification as part of their demands.  The other future benefit is gained if a non-compulsory trade later becomes compulsory.  The certified tradesperson is prepared for that transition.

How much will it cost to gain certification?

Apprentices working are paid throughout their time at the job.  It is possible to apply for EI while you are doing the in-class training.  Financial incentives distributed upon application after finishing each level exist that will cover the costs of tuition.  There is consequently very little outstanding cost to the apprentice.

How long does it take to gain certification?

It depends on the trade, and the rate at which the apprentices complete each level.  Most trades have 4 levels.  Refer to our list of trades at the apprenticeship page for information on your chosen trade. Each group of technical training is designed to be taken after at least 2000 hours of level-relevant work experience, approximately equivalent to 1 year of full time work. 

How can I become an apprentice in a compulsory trade if I cannot find an employer who will hire me with no experience?

Authorized training facilities, such as NSCC and various other organizations, offer pre-employment trade training that not only gives you some of the theory behind the trade, but also hours of credit toward your certification.  Some of the pre-employment programs have some work terms to give you work experience as well.  This is a way of beginning your training even though you are not employed.

What is a youth apprentice?

A youth apprentice is 16 to 19 years old.  Youth apprentices can start gaining hours toward their certification.  They do not attend the technical training until they are 20 years old.  While in high school, youth apprentices can work part time and full time during the summer or school breaks.  Youth out of school can also work full time.  Apprentices need to have completed Grade 12 or have their GED, so the youth apprenticeship program was designed to support people who are interested in beginning their career early before or shortly after their graduation.

Youth apprentices are supervised on a one-to-one basis by certified tradespeople and are paid like other workers for their hours. 

What are ways to start exploring the trades if you have not decided which trade in which you want to apprentice?

Schools offer O2 and Co-operative education programs that give students exposure to various trades.  If the conditions are met, up to 300 hours of co-op term time can be accumulated toward certification.  Other programs such as the Building Futures for Youth program have been developed to give students exposure to construction trades.  Schools may also use funding available to provide exploratory activities such as industry tours, inviting industry representatives speak to classes or completing projects at the school or in the community in which students can see the trades in action.

Participating in these programs can also provide an opportunity to network with future and potential employers as well. 

How do I know what I am supposed to be learning at each level?

All the designated skilled trades have been defined.  That means the skills and knowledge required for each level has been defined and mapped out.  The resulting Red Seal documents that show the organization of the trade are the National Occupation Analysis (NOA) for each trade.  These are available at the Red Seal page.

What if I try a trade and don’t like it? Can I get certified in another trade even if I finish the first one?

You can try another trade; some trades are related so you may have credit toward the next trade.  At the very least you have made a career decision based on knowledge and experience. 

If you complete one trade you can expand your skills with another.  You can only go through the certification for a trade one at a time, but some are related to other similar trades and you are able to take some of the training credits with you.  Your certification in a trade will remain even if you are training in another.  Getting two trades means more training time, but it also means more flexibility in your working career.