A Beginner’s Guide: What Is A Skilled Trade, And Is It Right For Me?


Of every in-demand industry in Canada, skilled trades workers are arguably the most sought-out by employers.

They are so in-demand that considerable efforts are being made by the government to not only attract students and local workers but also foreign workers. That’s right – skilled trades are so in-demand, we’re opening up our borders for them.

This means that there is no time better than now to hatch your career as a skilled trades professional. Since it’s Skilled Trades Week at TalentEgg, we’ve decided to give you the “ins-and-outs” of this important industry.

What is a skilled trade?

Look around you. You are likely reading this at a desk, or sitting in a chair of some sort – be it at work, at school or at home. You probably don’t often think about the work that went into keeping your room temperature comfortable, the structure of the floor beneath you, or even the walls that surround you.

You are surrounded by the work of skilled trades professionals. They are vital to your everyday life.

Skilled Trades vs. Tradesperson

A skilled trade is a particular trade or craft. Their work is almost exclusively hands-on, and they either produce a product or offer a service.

A tradesperson is a professional with a high degree with both practical and theoretical knowledge of his or her trade.

Types of skilled trades

In Canada alone, there are more than 200 hundred designated trades. Some skilled trades are formally recognized and accredited, meaning skilled trade professionals must complete training and receive a certification before they are able to sell their services. Other skilled trades are voluntary, meaning their profession does not require a certificate.

Generally, all these skilled trades fall under 4 main categories:

Construction refers to the process of construction, maintenance, and safe demolition of buildings and building systems. Trained professionals in construction include, but are certainly not limited to: electricians, carpenters, plumbers, welders, paints, heavy equipment operators, and crane operators etc.

Transportation refers to the process of goods, equipment and raw materials (including animals). Skilled trades professionals include operators (train, truck, boat), automotive service technicians, air traffic control, fuel/electrical systems technicians, and ship crew members.

Manufacturing refers to the production of goods and merchandise for use or sale using labour and machines, tools, chemical and biological processing, or formulation. Skilled professionals include millwrights, tool and die makers, and precision metal fabricators.

Services refer to professionals who work directly with the public, and fundamentally offer their services to individual customers. Service tradespeople include hairstylists, jewellers, locksmiths, butchers, and horticulturists.

How to become a skilled trades professional: Apprenticeship

Students interested in pursuing a skilled trade profession do not need to pursue a college or university education. In fact, most skilled trade professionals begins with apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships are a type of post-secondary training, where the individual job-shadows and trains in their skilled trade of choice. They are usually under the supervision of an experienced professional.

The duration of an apprenticeship can vary by skilled trade. Typically, they can last anywhere from 2-5 years. Furthermore, apprenticeships cost a fraction of university or college tuition. While they also vary by trade, apprentices – unlike college and university students – are paid for their on-the job training.

Apprenticeships are also regulated by the province – they determine whether a particular skilled trade is “compulsory” (certified) or “voluntary” (uncertified). Additionally, the federal government introduced the Red Seal program, providing greater mobility for skilled trained professionals across Canada.

With industry needs differing across different regions across Canada, the Red Seals program allows qualified tradespeople to practise their trade anywhere in Canada where the trade is designated without any further examination.

Today, over 50 trades are Red Seal certified, accounting for 90% of all apprentices and more than 80% of the total trades workforce across the country.

Explore the world of Skilled Trades with our Career Guide!