More About The Trades

Agricultural Equipment Technician

The life of an agricultural equipment technician isn't glamorous, but it's rewarding. Also known as farm equipment mechanics, ag techs are often responsible for:

  • Maintenance, repair, and overhaul of agricultural equipment such as combines, tractors, and other seeding, tilling, and harvesting equipment
  • Visually evaluating and using testing equipment to determine the cause of failures
  • Disassembling, repairing, or replacing broken units

It's hard work, with plenty of heavy lifting and greasy parts. There's plenty that can go wrong with farm equipment, and Ag techs have to use their heads to solve problems and figure out how best to do repairs. When they're not fixing what's broken, they're assembling new equipment and making sure everything is in working order. They might work in the comfort of a service bay, or under the sun in the great outdoors fixing equipment in the field.

Don't think that agricultural equipment technicians are just mechanics, though. It takes specialized knowledge of a wide variety of specialized equipment, and four years training in an apprenticeship to earn a journeyperson certificate.


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Aircraft Maintenance Mechanic

Aircraft maintenance mechanic might seem like a self-explanatory job description, but the breadth of work that must be performed to keep planes safely in the sky is surprising. That is, until you think about how important the job is.

Often employed by aircraft manufacturers, airports, overhaul bays, and military organizations, aircraft maintenance mechanics are detail-oriented problem solvers. They are responsible for:

  • Testing, repairing, and overhauling aircraft structural and hydraulic systems
  • Visually inspecting aircraft before takeoff and within hours of landing
  • Measuring wear and tear to determine the necessity of repair, and
  • Cleaning, refuelling, changing oil, and generally servicing aircraft

Because it is absolutely imperative to ensure that an aircraft is in prime operating condition before letting it take flight, Aircraft Maintenance Mechanics have to live up to stringent standards set by their country’s relevant aviation agency.

In Canada, a four-year apprenticeship supplemented with mandatory secondary school training courses is required to become an aircraft maintenance mechanic. Several years experience may also earn the candidate accreditation as an aircraft maintenance engineer through licensing by Transport Canada.


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Appliance Service Technician

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Appliance Service Technician (Commercial)

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Autobody / Automotive

At first glance, it can be easy to confuse autobody technicians with automotive technicians. But even though the two are related, they are different enough to be considered separate trades.

Here are some of the key distinctions:

  • Autobody technicians work on the frame and body of a vehicle, using welding guns and metal cutters to shape and repair a vehicle. They work on the exterior of a vehicle
  • Automotive technicians, on the other hand, use computerized equipment to detect and diagnose faults in the internal mechanisms
  • Both perform routine maintenance and evaluation tasks on vehicles according to their area of specialization

Like most other trades, specialized education must be completed before certification in either career can be obtained. The precise requirements vary from province to province, but in general certification can be acquired after two-to-four years’ training at a vocational or technical college.


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Baker

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Boilermaker

You may know it as a shot of whiskey with a beer chaser, but a boilermaker is also a tradesperson that works with gas, dust, and liquid containment tanks (sometimes called pressure vessels). In addition to structural and plate work, boilermakers perform repair and repiping on boilers, tanks, and heat exchangers (among others). They use shears, drill presses, oxy-torches, arc welders, and other specialized equipment to shape metal into pressure vessels for industrial use.

Boilermakers are subdivided into four types:

  • Construction boilermakers work in factories, plants, and refineries where they build, install, operate, maintain, and upgrade pressure vessels
  • Shop boilermakers perform all the same functions, but operate out of a dedicated established shop rather than in a factory or refinery
  • Marine boilermakers work on water vessels such as shipping liners or even the Canadian Navy. In addition to normal boilermaker duties, they may also be responsible for rigging loads and splicing ropes of all types
  • Cement/gypsum/lime/allied boilermakers work in quarries operating heavy machinery. They may also be machinists, electricians, welders, or millwrights

Regardless of the environment they work in, boilermakers go through four years of education as apprentices before earning their status as a qualified journeyperson.


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Bricklayer

Bricklayers may have a job title that’s generally self-explanatory, but most people don’t realize how much more there is to the craft than just sticking bricks together with mortar or cement. Bricklaying is a precision trade that requires strong problem-solving skills and attention to detail. A good eye for proper proportions, colours, and lines is also important. These skills help bricklayers:

  • Ensure that the proper materials are being used for various jobs
  • Use blueprints or sketches to calculate materials needed and build to precise specifications
  • Trim bricks and materials to ensure proper dimensions and fit
  • Use specialized equipment to build structures that are level from corner to corner

Bricklayers don’t just put up walls – they also build decks, patios, and chimneys. For industrial projects, bricklayers help construct furnaces or incinerators, or even install acid tile or acid brick. Furthermore, it’s not just the type of brick that’s important; proper mortar or bonding materials are also key.

Although not every province requires certification for bricklayers, most go through a formal three or four year apprenticeship (depending on the province) at a trade school to earn the higher wages associated with being a certified journeyperson.


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Cabinetmaker

Cabinetmaker responsibilities extend well beyond just building cabinets and closets. After four years of apprenticeship at a trade school and on the job training to become a certified journeyperson, cabinetmakers may build, finish, install and repair furniture and cabinets for commercial and residential uses. All types of furniture may come under their purview, not just wooden cabinets. They may use laminates or other materials to produce a variety of end products, including generic production-line items or custom projects.

Making cabinets and furniture requires detailed planning and precise workmanship using a variety of power- and wood-working tools. Precise attention to detail, reading intricate plans, and performing complex mathematics are all necessary skills for cabinetmakers. They also apply finishing products and materials, depending on the end-product’s intended use and the material it was made with.

Because of this, cabinetmaking tends to be a shop-based profession, although installations sometimes require out-of-shop work. Cabinetmakers often work for millwork companies, furniture manufacturers, or are self-employed contractors serving general construction or trades companies.


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Carpenter

Carpentry as a job is likely the most famous skilled trade, but what exactly does the job description entail?

From massive skyscrapers to tiny residential additions like porches, patios, and decks, carpentry is involved in one way or another. Because their job entails a wide variety of duties, carpenters are the largest trade group among the skilled trades. Their many functions include measuring and marking materials for construction projects, erecting wood or steel building frameworks, and joining structures together. As many would expect, carpenters often work with wood, but their expertise goes beyond lumber; in fact, carpenters work with a wide variety of materials, making them a versatile and heavily-relied upon trade.

Because their skill set can be so diverse, there are plenty of titles for carpenters depending on their expertise or specialization, including (but not limited to):

  • Finish carpenters, who specialize in trim work, mouldings, and other finishing touches
  • Maintenance carpenters, who inspect, maintain, and repair facilities
  • Framers, who focus on the early stages of construction, establishing the skeletal framework that the rest of a building will be constructed around
  • Renovation carpenters, whose skill set is focused on improving existing structures rather than building new ones

Like most trade professions, carpenters study for four years at a trade school alongside their on-the-job apprenticeship training before they earn their journeyperson certificate. In Canada, journeyperson carpenters can earn Red Seal certification, but depending on the jurisdiction, ambitious carpenters may also earn the title of Master Carpenter by challenging formidable tests of their skills and knowledge.


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Cladder

The definition of cladding is a simple one; it’s the act of covering one material with another. This interpretation has serious implications depending on the situation. In the case of coins, it’s just the process of bonding brass plate onto a steel plate is a form of cladding involved in making Canada’s one-dollar “loonie” coin. But in nuclear reactors, it means bonding material onto fuel rods to stop them from contaminating coolants.

Cladding in construction isn’t nearly as explosive, though. For skilled trades, cladding is generally about installing materials onto exterior walls as protective measures against weathering or for aesthetic purposes (or both). Every day, cladders clamber over ladders and scaffolding to affix sidings to buildings and roofs. Sheet metal, vinyl, plastic siding, and all manner of other materials may be involved. In addition to installations, cladders often perform routine maintenance and repairs.

There is a certain amount of overlap between cladders and roofers, even though there are pronounced differences between the two. Roofers might be considered a specialized version of cladding with a limited focus, but in actuality the materials involved often vary widely.


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Communication Technician

A relatively recent addition to the trades when compared to the likes of carpenters or even boilermakers, communications technicians (also called telecommunication specialists or telecomm techs) oversee the wired and wireless infrastructure that has made the information age possible. Running/pulling cable, splicing and terminating it, and installing routers or other important equipment is just part of a communication technician’s job. They also:

  • Plan installations based on customers’ or organizations’ communications purposes
  • Install and maintain both wired and wireless telecommunications devices
  • Troubleshoot and repair networks in the event of service outages, and
  • May install specialized hardware and/or software depending on individual consumer needs

The specialized knowledge required for being a telecomm tech earns them a healthy paycheque, but it’s not without a price, specifically four years of successful training at a recognized trade school to earn certification as a journeyperson. With a certificate under their tool belt, communications technicians usually go on to be employed by large telecommunications or cable companies, though some wind up working for, or even founding, their own smaller subcontracting companies.


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Concrete Finisher

The need for specialized training and skills has cemented concrete finishing as a highly demanded skilled trade. Three years building a rock solid foundation through on the job training coupled with trade school study will earn an apprentice their journeyperson certificate. After a successful apprenticeship, they may challenge a federal exam to earn Red Seal certification and the right to work in most parts of the country. As part of the masonry and plasterer trades, a cement finisher’s job description duties include:

  • Placing and forming concrete according to design instructions and to correct depths
  • Applying a variety of finishes to concrete surfaces, including smooth, rough, patterned, or even coloured (through the application of trowelled dye finishes)
  • Ensuring proper curing of material after laying
  • Repairing, replacing, and resurfacing damaged concrete

Because outdoor concrete work is weather dependent, concrete finishers often work longer hours in the summer, with a reduced work load in during cold seasons. Nevertheless, there is usually year-round work for finishers who chose to be self-employed, but especially for those working with major contractors and construction companies.


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Cook

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Crane / Boom Operator

There’s a lot of heavy lifting to be done on any construction job, and the heaviest lifters of all are cranes and booms. This specialized machinery requires exceptionally skilled tradespeople to safely and properly move large and heavy loads around a site.

Though some institutions and jurisdictions recognize different categories and even sub-categories, there are generally three types of hoisting equipment:

  • Boom trucks are trucks with an extendable boom attached to the bed allowing for access to remote locations. However, they lack the brute strength of their crane cousins, and are at risk of tipping or collapsing due to improperly handled loads
  • Mobile Cranes, also known as stick- or straight-boom cranes, are large, heavy machines that carry much heavier loads than boom trucks. However, their mobility is extremely limited. They can move slowly about a work site, but need to be transported by trailer from site to site.
  • Tower Cranes are what most people think of when they hear the word ‘crane.’ Tower cranes are tall, immobile cranes used for the heaviest, tallest projects.

Moving heavy loads around a job site is a dangerous and sometimes daunting task. Operators might spend all day in control cabs atop high towers, sometimes in treacherous conditions. Because of this, unlike some trades where certification isn’t a requisite to work, all crane operators must undergo apprenticeship training, though Red Seal certification allows for mobility of skills across Canada.


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Electric Motor Systems Technician

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Electrician

Electricians are charged with installing, maintaining, and repairing the electrical systems, circuits, and wiring that makes our modern lives possible. Whether they’re working in residential, commercial, industrial, or even medical buildings, electricians are critical to keeping the volts flowing.

Not surprisingly, this energetic work is highly technical. Electricians don’t just pull wires or cables and hookup fuse boxes – they perform complex calculations, in-depth planning, and use highly specialized equipment, all while abiding by strict regulatory codes. In fact, electrical work is so specialized that in addition to the standard electricians, there are often two other subgroups that are recognized:

  • Industrial electricians focus on large-scale industrial projects such as shipyards, factories, mining, and refineries
  • Power-system electricians focus on power generation and delivery, and usually work in locations with extremely high-voltage equipment, such as power or utility substations

Shockingly, trade certification for electricians isn’t required in every Canadian jurisdiction; beautiful British Columbia and all three northern territories use voluntary certification systems. Nevertheless, virtually all employers require their electricians to have completed an empowering four or five year apprenticeship to earn their ticket or red seal.


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Elevator Constructor

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Floorcovering Installer

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Gasfitter

Gasfitters install and inspect natural gas and propane equipment, ranging from residential furnaces to industrial boilers. Considering they work with dangerous and potentially explosive gases, a gasfitter’s work is much more technical than such a brief description implies. They also:

  • Make sure the proper piping and related materials are used for the size of the job and its final purpose
  • Set up flues and vents for the systems to be installed
  • Perform critical testing and troubleshooting of systems before they are brought online to ensure proper functioning and that all safety standards have been met
  • May also work with other gases such as propylene and butane
  • May work on gas mains and connections between buildings or other large scale projects

Natural gas and propane powered machinery operate at a different intensities depending on the purpose they’re being used for. That’s why gasfitters are often separated into multiple categories, often according to the intensity of the projects they work on and the sheer volumes of gases or propane involved.

Improperly installed or operated piping, boilers, and other natural gas and propane equipment can be dangerous. That’s why gasfitting is a regulated profession in Canada, with apprentices usually needing 3 years work-experience coupled with post-secondary education throughout before earning their journeyperson certificate. Although some provinces do not require certification, a gasfitter’s work is almost always subject to scrutiny by inspectors to ensure everything is up to local safety and construction codes, and interprovincial red seal certification is available.


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Glazier

You’d think it would be easy to see through what glaziers do, but their jobs aren’t as clear cut as just working with glass and mirrors. Glaziers may deal with plastics, laminates, or even granite in their trade. They work on everything from small scale projects like installing decorative windows in cabinets or windshields in vehicles to large construction projects, guiding enormous windows and even single-piece glass walls into place at skyscraping heights.

It’s not just about the glass though; it’s the glazing too. Glaziers coat their surfaces or attach films to make them more resistant to weather, more or less reflective, or even just for decoration.

A three or four year apprenticeship (depending on where you are in Canada) will net a glazier their journeyperson certificate. Like most other trades, glaziers can also earn a Red Seal certificate for interprovincial skills mobility by challenging the appropriate exam. Glaziers need more than just the right ticket though; they need a steady hand and a good eye for straight lines and to detect flaws in the glass they work with.


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Hairstylist

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Heavy Duty Mechanic

Heavy duty mechanics, also known as heavy equipment technicians, usually begin their careers as registered apprentices. Depending on the jurisdiction, apprenticeship training will take 3-5 years, although journeyman tickets are only required for work in Alberta and Quebec. Certification is voluntary everywhere else in Canada, although holding a valid ticket is obviously a significant asset, as is being Red Seal certified to work interprovincially.

Heavy duty mechanics perform a wide variety of tasks, including:

  • Assembling and maintaining heavy equipment.
  • Troubleshooting and repairing faults and other mechanical failures.
  • Using specialized equipment to work with large and oversized vehicles and equipment.

Although there is some overlap, heavy duty mechanics aren't just mechanics that work on large vehicles. Some of the general principles may be the same, but the specific skill sets are very different. Heavy duty equipment isn't just trucks writ large; they have enormous components that require specialized equipment to repair or maintain, and are often highly specialized. Keeping an oilsands bitumen heavy hauler in running order is very different from keeping a cement mixer mixing, and both have little in common with keeping a tower crane in top-notch condition.

With so much diversity, most heavy duty mechanics wind up specializing. However, every jurisdiction in Canada recognizes different standards for how trade specialization are broken down, as well as for what equipment falls under each specialization. Check with the appropriate trade authority in your jurisdiction for more information.


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Heavy Equipment Technician

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Instrument Technician

Instrument technicians are also known as instrumentation and control technicians, or industrial instrument mechanics. Regardless of which variation on the job title they go by, their duties, generally includer:

  • Monitoring and testing equipment for regulating manufacturing processes
  • Inspecting and calibrating specialized troubleshooting equipment
  • Interpreting technical drawings and specifications for proper use of manufacturing or other industrial equipment
  • Overseeing and advising general operators and technicians on equipment use
  • Performing installations and preventative maintenance

Instrument technicians typically work in the industrial sector, monitoring things like material flow, pressure, temperature, and chemical composition, among others. They work in hydro and nuclear power plants, paper mills, mines and quarries, and, unsurprisingly, petrochemical refineriesr.

Despite needing 4-5 years of an apprenticeship in order to be recognized as a journeyperson, certification is voluntary across almost all of Canada (Quebec being the sole exception). Most employers still require the ticket though, and, like most other trades, a Red Seal Certificate allows skills to be transferred across the country.


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Insulator

Insulating is a far more technical job than most people think. Insulators don't just stuff pink fluff into your walls; they have to read technical specifications, and understand the properties of a variety of insulation materials to be able to select the right one for any given job.

  • Thermal insulation prevents or slows the spread of heat or cold from the insulated equipment to surroundings.
  • Fire-resistant insulation is meant to slow the spread of fire, acting as a barrier against flames.
  • Acoustic insulation dampens or prevents the transmission of noise.

Once the appropriate material is selected, it must be properly installed. To ensure equipment or structures are properly insulated, the material must be cut and formed precisely. For this reason, insulators need to be good with their hands and have an excellent eye for detail to detect and fill gaps. Whether it is walls, pipes, or equipment that is being insulated, it's important that the job be done properly; incomplete or improper insulation installations can have serious implications down the road. Insulation is often followed up with vapour barrier or other finishing materials.

To acquire the specialized knowledge to do their jobs properly, insulators undergo a rigorous three or four year apprenticeship, with technical training at a certified trade school. Certification as a journeyperson is voluntary everywhere in Canada but Quebec, although unless the insulator is self-employed, most companies require certification. Like most other trades, accomplished insulators can also earn a Red Seal certificate for improved interprovincial skills mobility.


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Ironworker

Ironworkers are a steely, hardened crowd of tradespeople. They often work in uncomfortable or even dangerous environments, such as at tall heights, and are required to do lots of heavy lifting and manoeuvring of large steel loads. Because of the surprisingly diverse amount of work involved in ironworking, it can be hard to get down to the nuts and bolts of the job. That's why there are four sub-categories of that are typically recognized in Canada:

  • Generalist ironworkers fabricate and assemble scaffolding, align iron equipment, erect and secure rigging for cranes, and load/unload, secure, and stack steel units for hoisting.
  • Metal Building Systems ironworkers work on pre-engineered buildings (also called steel framed buildings), no taller than one-storey, where, in addition to performing mostly the same duties as generalists, they also help erect the steel frame of the building itself.
  • Reinforcing ironworkers reinforce concrete walls and other forms with steel mesh or rebar, and perform post-tensioning, a method of further reinforcing concrete with tightened steel cable.
  • Structural/ornamental ironworkers put their skills to work installing railings, metal staircases, power doors, curtain rods, and other structural elements or ornamental pieces that may be required.

Working as a ironworker in any capacity requires compulsory trade certification in Alberta, while only reinforcing ironworkers need their ticket in Quebec. Getting certified after a two-to-three year apprenticeship is a voluntary measure everywhere else, though realistically proper training will be required by most employers, who may request that out-of-province workers have their Red Seal certification.


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Landscaper Gardener

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Lather / Drywaller

Who says it’s bad to put walls up? Because that’s exactly what Lathers and are good at. In addition to the regular drywallers’ duties of installing, taping, and finishing drywall, Lathers, also known as Interior Systems Mechanics, can also be responsible for:

  • Laying out wall and ceiling systems for installation
  • Preparing appropriate framework for wall and ceiling systems
  • Accurately cutting fittings for ventilation and heating ducts, lighting and electrical fixtures, and plumbing
  • Installing suspended ceilings, acoustic tile systems, and wall studding

Even though there’s a lot of overlap between the two, there are some key differences between Drywallers and Lathers, foremost among them the fact that Lather is often a recognized trade whereas drywalling is usually considered a general labour job. That’s why most apprentices wind up putting in their four years at trade school to get certified as a journeyperson, and may go on to earn interprovincial red seal certification.


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Locksmith

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Machinist

Precision is key in any trade, but it's at the very heart of what machinists do for a living. Machining requires extraordinary attention to detail and meticulous exactitude to ensure the job is done right. But what exactly is their job? Machinists cut, grind, and shape metal, plastic, and even rubber textiles to precise dimensions to create exactingly made parts for a variety of jobs. How precise? A good machinist with the proper grinding equipment can work accurately to within one ten-thousandth of an inch, or 0.00254 mm.

To do this, they use a specialized machinery, including lathes, milling machines, and rotary tables. Computer Numeric Controlled machines, or CNC machines, may also be used, though the programming and planning skills required are sufficiently different that some places in Canada consider CNC machining to be a separate trade.

Machining requires specialized skills and exceptional attention to detail, which is why most employers will demand trade certification even though it's voluntary across the country. After four years of work experience and trade school, apprentice machinists earn their journeyperson ticket and can challenge the Red Seal exam to gain interprovincial skills mobility if they want.


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Marine Technician

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Metal Fabricator / Fitter

Metal fabricators aren't just carpenters that work with metal. Also known as platework fitters, they use heavy metal-working machines to create the metal parts used in a variety of projects; from buildings and bridges to boilers and pressure vessels, metal fabricators cut steel and other metals for heavy machinery and shipbuilding companies, among others. While doing so, they have to be careful to plan and layout their work properly, because an imprecise cut or out-of-place step can destroy hours of labour. That's why metal fabricators:

  • have to be skilled at setting up and operating an assortment of gear and equipment
  • use special equipment such as break presses, shears, and even plasma-cutters to bend and shape their heavy metals
  • assemble metal work with rivets, bolts, or tack welding to keep it steady and sturdy, and
  • rig and hoist their creations to ensure it can be safely and securely moved across worksites.

In order to earn the certification to do all this, metal fabricators can volunteer to go through a three-to-four year apprenticeship to become a journeyperson. No province in Canada demands certification, though a Red Seal exam can be challenged. Some jurisdictions have voluntary certification programs for fitters that specialize in marine metalworking or non-construction settings. As always, check with the local trade authority for specifics.


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Millwright

Millwrights got their start as a trade keeping old wind- and water -powered flour, saw, and paper mills of the past in good working order. Their job has evolved since the time of waterwheels and windmills, though, so much so that they're also sometimes known as industrial mechanics. Despite not working specifically in mills any more, these talented tradespeople still employ many of the same skills in factories and other large scale industrial operations, where they:

  • Plan, oversee, and install large machinery
  • Align, test, and adjust factory installations and equipment
  • Inspect, maintain, and repair faulty or damaged equipment
  • Machine replacement parts when needed

Because millwrights work on large, often very expensive equipment, most employers across the country require their millwrights to have completed a three or four year apprenticeship, or even to have earned their Red Seal certification. Nevertheless, it is technically true that trade certification is only compulsory in Quebec, and voluntary across the country. Millwright apprenticeship programs in Canada are three to four years long.


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Motorcycle Mechanic

Motorcycle mechanic is a bit misleading - these tradespeople often work on other machines, like lightweight all-terrain vehicles such as quads. As a result, a motorcycle mechanic's work is seasonal, though many encourage owners to perform preventative maintenance during the winter, as well as working on snowmobiles, in order to work all year.

During a typical day, a motorcycle mechanic will:

  • Diagnose and repair mechanical and electrical faults in the engine or electrical systems, as well as the power train, chassis, and other parts of the bike,
  • Test repairs and make adjustments accordingly,
  • Replace (or sometimes even manufacture) replacement parts, and
  • Adjust and repair hydraulics, lifts, and other specialized equipment used in fixing motorbikes and ATV's.

Motorcycle mechanics combine a love of motorbikes with mechanical problem-solving and enjoy working with their hands. Since they work on varied equipment, they have to go through a three-to-four year apprenticeship in Alberta and Ontario, though certification is voluntary everywhere else in the Great White North. As usual, motorcycle mechanics wanting to work in different provinces across the country can earn their Red Seal certification.


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Natural Gas Compression Technician

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Outdoor Power Equipment Technician

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Outdoor Power Equipment Technician (Recreational)

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Painter & Decorator

For those interested in putting the finishing touches on jobs, painting and decorating offers a great opportunity. After putting in 3-4 years as an apprentice to earn trade certification (which is only mandatory in Quebec), painters and decorators can get to work in a wide variety of fields, such as:

  • Construction Painters, who work in residential construction or business construction settings,
  • Industrial Painters, who work in and on factories, refineries, and other large scale industrial projects,
  • Maintenance Painters, whose maintenance work often includes repairing damaged paint jobs, colour matching to old paint, removal of previous paint, and other paint maintenance duties,
  • Paperhangers, who specialize in wallpaper and other materials.

Painting and decorating is about more than choosing where to specialize. Painters and decorators have to understand the technical advantages and limitations of their materials. They have to know what paints are best to use where, and for what purpose. Does the paint job have to stand up to the weather? What's the best means of application? How much is required for any given job? Painters have to be able to thin and mix paints to achieve the right colour and texture, follow precise designs, and apply other materials such as fire-retardant or metal coatings, fibreglass, stains, and laquers. That's why the good ones will earn their interprovincial Red Seal certification to take their valuable skills across the country.


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Parts Technician

Parts technicians are more than glorified warehouse operators; this trade requires 3-4 years of apprenticeship before parts technicians are certified as tradespeople. This is because they face a dizzying array of job duties, from processing, packaging, and shipping orders to planning entire warehouse and storage setups. They arrange material transportation over road, through the air, or on rail, and manage large inventories. Additionally, they use dollies, pallet jacks, forklifts, conveyors, and even cranes to handle and store products. All of this, and managing warehouse personnel to ensure accuracy of order packing and inventory controls too.

Because these skills can be applied to many industries, parts technicians can be found in pretty much any commercial setting, including the agricultural, petroleum (and resource), transportation, and wholesale industries. They're also found in forestry, manufacturing, and anywhere precise storage management is a priority.


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Plumber

Despite often being the butt of crappy jokes, plumbers are one of the most respected and lucrative trades available. That's because plumbing requires a complex set of skills working together to get the job done. Plumbers have to have good problem solving skills to address complicated plumbing puzzles, an eye for detail and foresight, and technical expertise to be able to:

  • Study and interpret technical drawings and schematics.
  • Layout plumbing and materials, then find and mark locations for installations.
  • Join various pipe systems together, including installing valves and other fittings.
  • Test pipes for leaks.
  • Finish projects by returning to put sinks, fixtures, heads, and other equipment in place after wall, floor, and tiling has been out in place.

Like other trades, plumbers may specialize in specific areas. Some plumbers focus on water conditioning, while others work exclusively in residential or commercial plumbing respectively. There are even plumbers whose sole focus is on installing hydronic heating and cooling systems (which use hot and cold water/steam systems for climate control).

All these specialized skills and knowledge come from a four or five year apprenticeship, depending on where in Canada the tradesperson is certified. Plumbers have to be certified to work in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Trade certification is voluntary in the rest of the country, although Red Seal interprovincial recognition is most often preferred.


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Power System Operator

Power system operators do exactly what their job title sounds like; these tradespeople are responsible for the smooth operation of electricity generation facilities and their transmission and distribution systems. To work in these places, most power system operators have to go through an apprenticeship that can range anywhere from three to five years, depending on where in Canada the certification is earned. Strangely, it is one of the few trades that doesn't participate in the Red Seal program; Power system operators have to be certified in each specific jurisdiction, especially Newfoundland and New Brunswick, where being ticketed is compulsory.

Power system operators typically work in one of three specializations:

  • Substation equipment, where they work with circuit breakers, transformers and other high voltage gear.
  • Protection and control, which includes a variety of specialized equipment, such as protective relaying, controlling, and SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems.
  • Metering, where power system technicians install and calibrate meters or other measuring/recording equipment.

Unlike some other trades, power system operators are rarely self-employed. They usually work for large utility companies or their subcontractors, where they often work day, night, shift, or emergency work (in the event power outages or other power generation emergencies), which can make power system operating an exciting trade.


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Powerline Technician

Being a powerline technician is an electrifying career choice. It takes up to four years to earn a journeyperson certificate as a powerline technician, although it is a voluntary certification. Nevertheless, interprovincial certification through the Red Seal program is available, and some form of certification is usually sought by employers who hire powerline technicians.

As their job description implies, powerline technicians work on electrical transmission lines, whether they are the common overhead lines that most people are familiar with, or unseen undergound lines. Some of their other main duties include:

  • Raising wood, concrete, or metal poles and towers, usually accompanied by stabilizing guy wires
  • Installing both overhead and underground power cables, as well as repairing and maintaining them
  • Connecting new power transmission lines to the existing power distribution grid.

Powerline technicians are also responsible for performing maintenance on transmission lines, often during intense weather, storms, and blizzards. When there's an outage, it's usually the powerline technician that gets called out in the middle of the night to fix things up. Because they may work with live wires in hazardous situations, powerline technicians have to work carefully and cautiously. It's also one of the most in demand and lucrative trades a journeyman can be involved in.


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Recreation Vehicle Service Technician

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Refridgeration & Air Conditioning Mechanic

You might think being a refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic is a pretty cool job, and you'd be right. Sometimes known as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning mechanics (HVAC), these tradespeople are responsible for installing, maintaining, and occasionally overhauling commercial and industrial heating and cooling systems. Technically-minded and mechanically inclined, refrigeration and air condition mechanic job duties include:

  • Reading and interpreting blueprints or other technical drawings and schematics to properly place and install air conditioning and heating systems
  • Attaching pipes, lines, motors, gauges, valves, and other control/monitoring equipment
  • Charging and recharging coolants, as well as other maintenance
  • Testing lines for leaks and troubleshooting system failures

This frosty job requires tradespeople to complete an apprenticeship of three to five years before being certified as a journeyman, depending on the jurisdiction. It's especially important in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, where certification is mandatory. As usual, tradespeople wanting to carry their skills to other provinces can earn Red Seal certification.


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Rig Technician

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Roofer

Roofers are used to being on top, and not just because they literally work on top of buildings. They're also highly skilled, detail oriented tradespeople. Roofers (and shinglers) know all about a broad assortment of protective roof coverings. Traditional shingles and vapour barriers are only used in residential roofing, which might also use fibreglass, tile, or metal roofs. For commercial and industrial projects, roofers have to understand the pros and cons of hot-applied asphalt roofs, the rubber-like qualities of elastomeric roofs, and even thermoplastic membranes, among others.

A roofer's job doesn't end at the material, though. They have to install flashing, cut around chimneys or vent ports, and incorporate new technologies, such as solar-powered roofing. They also do waterproofing, inspections, and repair or maintenance to damaged roofing systems.

Only Quebec demands that all roofers be certified, though a two to four year apprenticeship will earn a roofing apprentice his or her journeyperson certificate, and earning a Red Seal will entitle a roofer to work anywhere in the country.


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Sheet Metal Worker

Not to be confused with cladders (though there is some overlap), sheet metal workers cut, bend, and form sheet metal to precise specifications to produce products used in many industrial or commercial environments. They rivet, weld, and solder sheet metal, copper, brass, nickel, stainless steel and aluminum (among other) in order to:

  • make flashing and roof drainage systems
  • create metal shelving, cabinets, or ducting for heating and ventilation systems
  • clad insulated industrial pipes in protective sheet metal casings
  • run custom fabrications for other specific jobs

Despite their job title, sheet metal workers sometime work with alternate material. They even sometimes substitute certain plastics or fibreglass for some projects. That's why, to do all this, sheet metal workers have to go through a three or five year apprenticeship, after which they can challenge the interprovincial Red Seal exam to get certified to work across the country. Sheet metal workers are only required to be certified in Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta, but most employers require some kind of certification even in provinces where the process is optional.


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Sprinkler Systems Installers

One of the lesser known but more important trades, sprinkler systems installers have a weighty duty, especially in the industrial sector. Fires are dangerous anywhere, but can be especially deadly at refineries and factories with flammable chemicals. That's why sprinkler system installer as a trade name is a bit misleading. These tradespeople don't just install water sprinklers in the ceiling; they are responsible for installing both wet and dry fire suppression systems, including chemical and foam systems. Some of their overall duties include:

  • Reaming and threading pipe
  • Hanging pipe and mounting sprinkler heads or other dispersal systems
  • Connecting systems to water lines or chemical suppressor tanks
  • Testing lines with water or air pressure
  • Maintaining and repairing a variety of fire control systems

Sprinkler system installers also have to be able to properly interpret technical drawings, select the proper material and pipes, and know how to fit and connect the different parts of these systems together. That's why most get certified through a four or five year apprenticeship program, though depending on where they're working in Canada certification may not be required. Regardless, sprinkler installers can challenge the Red Seal exam to take their skills across the country.


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Steamfitter / Pipefitter

Although it may seem like there is a lot of overlap with plumbers and gasfitters, steam and pipefitting is a unique trade. These tradespeople are responsible for installing and maintaining the pipework that transports chemicals and other fluids through factories and other industrial or commercial settings.

Part of what sets pipefitting apart from similar trades is the intensity of the work that can be involved. While all trades can be physically demanding at times, pipefitting can be particularly heavy work, with lots of heavy lifting and pipe hauling. A brief overview of a pipefitter's job duties includes:

  • Hauling, joining, and threading pipe
  • Attach valves, fittings, and other related equipment
  • Perform general maintenance, and repair and replace pipe
  • Work on refinery and plant shutdowns

In addition to being up to the physical challenge, steamfitters need to be up to the mental challenge as well. They go through a four or five year apprenticeship to earn certification that is mandatory in PEI, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and Alberta, and voluntary throughout the rest of the country. They also have to be good at interpreting drawings, problem-solving, making sketches, and making precise calculations and measurements.


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Structural Steel and Plate Fitter

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Tilesetter

Tiles come in many different materials, each with its own unique set of attributes. Tiles can be made from ceramic, glass, metals, marble, quarry tile, slate, and granite. Tilesetters may also work with terrazo, a composite material similar to a thin, decorative cement and made up of glass, stone, or ceramic chips bound together by a resin.

Tilesetting is a precise and technically demanding job. Not only do they have to know about a wide assortment of tiles and bonding materials, but workers in this trade also have to have an exceptional eye for detail as they layout designs and patterns, prepare surfaces, and plan projects. They also have to make accurate measurements and cuts to fit marble, stone, and other types of tile to fit corners and around objects or openings.

To do this, tilesetters may go through an apprenticeship of up to four years at a trade school to become a journeyperson and challenge the Red Seal interprovincial skills exam, although certification is only required in Quebec and is voluntary everywhere else in Canada. Afterwords, Tilesetters' may work in almost any sector, including on large scale industrial projects, though they typically work in residential construction or on small scale renovations.


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Tool & Die Maker

Tool and die makers occupy a special place in the trades workflow. Many tradespeople use specialized tools or equipment to accomplish their jobs. Tool and die makers, on the other hand, make those special tools form them. They are the ones who make, repair, and maintain custom tools or jigs. They also work on fixtures and gauge, often making their products to incredibly precise and exacting dimensions. Highlights of tool and die making include:

  • Cutting tool parts and dies out of blanks or metal stock using computer numerically controlled machinery for precision cuts
  • Boring, grinding, and milling pieces to make specific components
  • Testing tools and dies for quality and proper operation

Tool and die making certification is voluntary across the country, though most employers require apprentices to go through up to five years training. Because of this, the trade does take part in the Red Seal interprovincial program. Most journeyman tool and die makers wind up working in the manufacturing industry, including automobile, aircraft, and electrical machinery.


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Transport Refridgeration Technician

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Transport Trailer Mechanic

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Truck and Transport Mechanic

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Water Well Driller

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Water Well Driller (Earth Loop Technician)

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Welder

One of the more well-known trades, many people have heard of welding, but aren't aware of the specifics. Most of us have a vague understanding that welding has something to do with melting two pieces of metal together, and that's the extent of it. But there's much more to this trade than that. There are, in fact, three different kinds of welding, each with their own set of skills and tools that need to be mastered:

  • Gas welding uses a hot burning gas, usually oxy-acetylene, to melt the metals together with a filler that strengthens the joint between the two pieces.
  • Electric arc welding uses an electric current run through a electrode to melt the filler material into the joint.
  • Resistance welding is similar to electric arc welding in that it uses a current through an electrode to heat metal together, but there is no filler material used in the process.

Learning all the specific skills for the different welding techniques takes a three year apprenticeship. Certification for their trade is mandatory in Alberta but voluntary throughout the rest of the country, and as usual, experienced journeypeople can challenge the Red Seal exam for interprovincial skills mobility.


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