The basics of apprenticeship
Apprenticeship is an agreement between an Apprentice who wants to learn a trade, and an employer who needs a skilled worker. Apprenticeship is a proven industry-based learning system that combines on-the job experience with technical training to produce a certified Journeyperson.

The "Apprenticeship" system has its roots in history. For centuries, skilled tradespeople had an obligation to teach their craft to the young. After an Apprentice had satisfactorily completed the full term of training and had demonstrated his ability, he became a "Journeyman", meaning he could then travel from one job to another working for day wages.

Today, all Apprentices are registered with the BC government via the Industrial Training Institute to ensure that all rules governing Apprenticeship apply. CMAW apprenticeship counselors will assess your employment history to determine if the proper on-the-job training has been provided. Apprentices must be working in their chosen trade and become registered with us to access CMAW-Apprentice training. The process of becoming enrolled as a formal apprentice is called 'indentureship'.

Why it's important
While you don't legally have to be government-certified to work in a trade, many employers in BC will only hire Tradesmen who hold formal qualifications. Many will insist on a Certificate of Qualification (formerly known as a TQ or a trade qualification) as a condition of employment.

If you work in another trade, but never had formal Apprenticeship training or Journeyperson certification, you may be eligible to write the examination, depending on your training and work experience. Generally, six years of full-time experience is required. CMAW Canada is here to help you through members at your union local office.

Getting your tradesman ticket
Apprenticeships in all trades vary in length. You will work on construction sites with qualified journeypersons who will show you how to work safely, how to use tools of the trade, and how to complete work tasks. You must come to work regularly, be on time, and be willing to work and learn. You will attend full-time technical training each year (length depends on your trade). Additional part-time and full-time courses are available at no cost, for all CMAW craft worker supplied trades.

The Interprovincial 'Red Seal' Program
At the end of your apprenticeship you will receive a Certificate of Apprenticeship and your Certificate of Qualification. All western provincial governments use the Interprovincial Standards Examination for certification purposes, which means if you successfully complete your hours worked and pass the written exam, you will automatically get the Interprovincial Red Seal. This allows you to work in your trade anywhere in Canada. It's also recognized around the world.

Education and Training requirements
Completion of an apprenticeship is the common requirement for all trades. Recommended level of education prior to beginning an apprenticeship is Grade 10 or equivalent, with English, mathematics and science, but Grade 12 is preferred by most employers.

Apprenticeships vary in levels of technical training.

The advantages of being a Union Apprentice

  • Union Apprentices have an opportunity to be placed by the union on a wide variety of construction projects while working for different union contractors.
  • Wages and working conditions are clearly spelled out in a standard agreement
  • When a union Apprentice is laid off due to a lack of work, his / her apprenticeship is not in danger of cancellation.
  • Union Apprentices receive a cash bursary while attending school.
  • The Standard Agreement sets out a ratio of Apprentices to Journeymen to ensure Apprentices are hired and trained.
  • The procedure for starting an apprenticeship and being hired is straightforward and public - it's not a case of who you know.
  • If you choose to indenture directly with your employer instead of the CMAW Local, there are many obstacles to watch out for. For example, if you leave your employer, you have to ensure that the government apprenticeship office will accept credits from your next employer. You must also notify your government apprenticeship counsellor each time you change employers and you must complete formal transfer papers. If you've indentured with CMAW, you will receive assistance with all of these complex procedures.

Wages: earn as you learn
CMAW Apprentices earn according to guidelines outlined within the collective agreements. Once indentured, an Apprentice starts at a set % of a Journeyperson's wage. This increases over the duration of the apprenticeship term. As a union Apprentice you will have medical and dental benefits, an industry pension, travel allowances, a form of wage loss insurance and life insurance in addition to the regular benefits such as Employment Insurance (EI) and Canada Pension.

Can Women be apprentices and tradespersons?
Yes! A number of women are now working very successfully as journeypersons and Apprentices. The union, the construction industry, and contractors are encouraging women to start a career through trade apprenticeship. It is not easy for women to start in construction but there is support and help from the union, other trades people, apprenticeship counselors and other apprentices.

If you are currently indentured...
Contact your Local Union. They can give you more information on the union apprenticeship program and help you transfer over if that's what you want to do.

Contact us for more information on becoming an Apprentice:
If you live in the Lower Mainland, call 604-437-0491. In Alberta, contact Local 99.

BC Apprenticeship Info

Alberta Apprenticeship Info