Pathway into trades & apprenticeship

What is apprenticeship?

Apprenticeship is an on-the-job training program for people who want to pursue a fulfilling career in the skilled trades.  

The vast majority (90 per cent), of apprenticeship training happens in a workplace under the supervision of skilled tradespeople; the remainder of your time is spent completing in-school training, usually at a post-secondary institution such as Conestoga College.

Your path to apprenticeship begins when you enter into a contract with an employer who needs a skilled tradesperson. You must be employed to begin your apprenticeship and your employer must agree to apprentice you in a specific trade. You will be paid while you learn as this process is an agreement between yourself, your employer and the Government of Ontario.  

Usually, an apprentice applies directly to an employer, union or local apprenticing committee, however, many employers today are looking for experienced apprentices and are less willing to hire an untrained employee. This is where Conestoga College can be helpful in getting you both the experience and the credentials you need for a successful apprenticeship.  

There are typically three levels of apprenticeship in-school training; and some of the certificate and diploma skilled trades programs provide an opportunity for graduates to receive automatic exemption from various levels.  

Conestoga has many pathways and programs to help you stand out and be seen as an asset by potential employers. For more information, email

You may also be eligible, depending on your academic standing, to take a government apprenticeship exemption test before you register with an employer. The government apprenticeship exemption tests are valid for two years and may allow you to be exempted from further levels of trade school. This has the benefit of saving you time and building your on-the-job skillset before going to work.  

For more information about your options for apprenticeship, contact your local Employment Ontario apprenticeship office.

How to become a registered apprentice

Follow these steps to start your apprenticeship training

  1. Find an employer. To be registered as an apprentice you must have an employer who is able to provide you with on the job training.
    • No employer? Employment Ontario Employment Service providers such as the Community Career Centres have a range of programs and services to assist current and prospective apprentices.
      • Services include pre-assessments, career and academic advising, skills analysis, skills enhancement, links to financial incentives and employer contacts.
    • Email for more information about registering as an apprentice or incentives for apprentices and employers.
  2. Contact the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD) office
    • MLITSD will provide a form called Application for Apprenticeship Training.
    • Apprentice and employer will need to fill out this application form.
    • Apprentice will need to attach a proof of SIN, education and age with application form.
    • Using the application form, MLITSD will create a document called the "Training Agreement."
    • For more information, you or your employer may contact the local MLITSD office at 519-653-5758 or 1-866-877-0099, or email
  3. Sign the training agreement
    • If the apprentice has previous hours to put towards their training, please discuss this during this process.
    • This document will be signed by the apprentice, employer and MLITSD.
    • At the time of registration the employer and apprentice will be asked their preference for training institution and format of training. This can be delivered in block release training which is typically 8 -10 weeks in a row or day release offered weekly for 40-50 days per year.
  4. Apprentice to pay Skilled Trades Ontario
    • This will activate the training agreement.
    • Pay your Skilled Trades Ontario fee within 90 days or you will have to re-do steps 2 & 3.
    • Pay annually to keep agreement active or will have to re-do steps 2 & 3.
  5. Apprentice is now registered
    • MLITSD will send an "Offer of Classroom Training" to the apprentice approximately 120 days prior to the start of the first level of in-school training. Apprentices with a valid Offer of Classroom training should follow the steps to register for trade school on the apprentice web page.
General apprenticeship guidelines

Apprenticeship programs can range from two to five years in length and during that time the apprentice receives wages based on their skills. The wages of an apprentice increase as they acquire skills and gain competency in their particular trade.               

Apprentices generally complete three levels of in-school training during this period of time. Level 1- Basic, Level 2- Intermediate, and Level 3- Advanced. This is considered the Certificate of Apprenticeship (C of A).

Upon completion of the apprenticeship program, the apprentice is required to write a government exam in order to receive a Certificate of Qualification (C of Q). Once the apprentice receives a certificate, they are known as a journeyperson.

Ontario has Canada's largest apprenticeship system. In 2019, there were approximately 84,700 registered apprentices undergoing training in Ontario. About 90 per cent of apprenticeship training occurs in the workplace and is provided by employers or sponsors to standards of skill and safety set by industry. The remainder of training involves classroom instruction which is provided by a community college or an approved training provider, such as a union training centre.

Skilled workers are in high demand in many industries. Becoming an apprentice can be an important first step to learning new skills and building a rewarding career. Approximately, 310,000 apprentices are learning a trade in Canada today, and one quarter of the apprentices are registered in Ontario. In addition, annual apprenticeship registrations in Ontario, pre-pandemic, reached 21,000. We'll continue to increase the number of new registrations while providing support to help apprentices complete their training.  

Pathways to apprenticeship

Community Career Centre

A range of programs and services can be accessed through the Community Career Centre to assist current and prospective apprentices. Services include pre-assessments, career and academic advising, skills analysis, skills enhancement, links to financial incentives and employer contacts.  

Career Centres are conveniently located at the Kitchener - Doon, Waterloo and Stratford campuses. In addition, our off-campus Career Centre in Waterloo is located at 332 Marsland Street, Waterloo. To better serve job seekers and employers in rural communities, itinerant services are also available in New Hamburg, Elmira, Wellesley and throughout Perth and Huron counties. Contact us at

Traditional apprenticeship

A person seeking an apprenticeship is responsible for finding an employer who will sponsor them. The employer and apprentice register with the Employment Ontario Apprenticeship office. After registration is complete, the apprenticeship training period officially begins. Apprentices and journeypersons in some disciplines are currently required to become a member of Skilled Trades Ontario. The in-class portion of apprenticeship training typically starts one year after working with an employer. See the list of available apprenticeship programs at Conestoga College.

Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program

High school students can begin an apprenticeship while still attending school. To do so, they must register for co-operative education and the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP). OYAP is a school-to-work program specifically developed to help high school students make a smooth transition directly into their post-secondary apprenticeship program. Students in grades 11 and 12 (grade 10 where applicable) can explore apprenticeship occupations through co-operative education.  

Participation in this program provides high school students with a head start on their desired apprenticeship, while completing their Ontario Secondary School Diploma. Students have the opportunity to become registered apprentices and start working towards becoming a certified journeyperson in a skilled trade. They receive credit for the skills they gain while with their employer during the apprenticeship period.  

A successful OYAP placement could lead to paid employment and completing their apprenticeship after graduation. Employers may be eligible for wage subsidies and/or tax credits and should contact the Community Career Centre for more information.  

How does OYAP work?

  • OYAP is usually a two-year program during grades 10-12 of high school.
  • Successful applicants must take the related technology courses, co-op and other recommended subjects.
  • The first on-the-job experience is a co-operative education placement.
  • The second on-the-job experience is a co-operative education placement during the apprenticeship semester or term. Students will have a Registered Trade Agreement with an employer. 
  • Hours towards apprenticeship accumulate and practical skills or competencies are mastered and "signed off" in students' Training Standards Apprenticeship Booklet.
  • Upon graduation, students can begin full-time employment without interruption to their apprenticeship training.
  • Students attend a college or other training provider to fulfill the in-school portion of their apprenticeship training at specific times scheduled by the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD) Training Consultant.

For more information, see Prepare for apprenticeship.  

Dual credit programs

Students enrolled in dual credit programs participate in post-secondary courses and apprenticeship training, earning dual credits that count toward both their high school diploma and their post-secondary diploma, degree, or apprenticeship certification. Students who need learning opportunities outside of high school would benefit from a college or apprenticeship experience. Students have the opportunity to:

  • Earn high school credits while studying at a local college or taking apprenticeship training.
  • Gain experience that will help them with their post-secondary education or apprenticeship.
  • Get a head start on learning and training for their future careers.

For more information, contact your OYAP Coordinator or your high school guidance counsellor. Visit the School College Work Initiative for more information on dual credit courses and programs they offer.

College full-time certificate and diploma programs

Many of the Ontario's Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology offer certificate and diploma programs related to skilled trades. These programs require successful completion of secondary school (or equivalent) and can take between 1-3 years to complete. See the list of available certificate and diploma programs at Conestoga College.

Most programs include practical hands-on training and may include a workplace component. A college graduate in a skilled trade area may be successful in marketing themselves to an employer willing to register them as an apprentice.  

College part-time certificate programs

Many colleges offer part-time courses or programs that are geared to train individuals who wish to gain more trade specific skills but are unable to attend school on a full-time basis. By gaining trade specific skills, you may be successful in marketing yourself to an employer willing to register you as an apprentice.

Pre-apprenticeship programs

These programs provide training in a specific trade to help prepare for apprenticeship and are generally fewer than 52 weeks in length. Pre-Apprenticeship Programs offer academic upgrading for candidates that do not possess their grade 12 or equivalent, which is the academic entry level in most trades. In addition, it offers introductory theoretical and practical training, Level 1 in-school apprenticeship training in a specific trade, as well as a work placement component to gain hands-on experience. Organizations offering these programs often assist with job placement. Hours spent in pre-apprenticeship training can be credited towards the overall apprenticeship training if the individual decides to sign on as an apprentice.  

For more information, see Prepare for apprenticeship.  

Union or industry approved training

Some unions or trade associations run their own training centres and hold Contracts of Apprenticeship with the apprentice rather than the employer. Intake can be selective and may take place only at certain points in the calendar year. Visit for links to unions and trade associations.  

Internationally-trained candidates/persons with previous experience

If you have more than five years experience working in a trade from outside of Canada, you may want to pursue your Certificate of Qualification. For more information, refer to:  

Many Ontario colleges offer pre-certification courses that allow you to write or re-write your certification exam if you feel you need to update your knowledge.

If you do not have a grade 12 diploma

What to do if you don't have Grade 12? 

  • Why not try a pre-apprenticeship program?
  • Why not look into upgrading through our Preparatory/Academic Upgrading department?
  • Why not consider a certificate program where the admission requirements are 19 years of age or older? Successful completion of most programs allows graduates the opportunity to gain a Ontario College Certificate which is recognized as an equivalency to your Grade 12 when being registered as an apprentice.
Trade sectors

Over 150 occupations and careers in the trades exist in 4 major sectors:  

Construction sector

Includes trades such as: brick and stone mason, construction and maintenance electrician, carpenter, hoisting engineer, ironworker, lather, plumber, refrigeration and air-conditioning mechanic, sheet metal worker, cabinet maker.

Industrial sector

Includes trades such as: welder fitter, industrial mechanic millwright, industrial electrician, general machinist, pattern maker, tool and die maker, mould maker, machine tool builder and integrator.

Motive Power sector

Includes trades such as: automotive service technician, truck and coach technician, heavy duty equipment technician, heavy construction equipment operator, motorcycle technician, agricultural equipment technician, fuel and electrical systems technician, air-cooled and marine mechanic.  

Service sector

Includes trades such as: cook, baker, hairstylist, arborist, horticultural technician, educational assistant, Early Child Educator (ECE), truck driver.


Certificates are issued at the completion of apprenticeship training. They are:  

Certificate of Apprenticeship

Shows that an apprentice has successfully completed the in-school and on-the-job requirements dependent on their specific trade.  

Ontario College Certificate

Completion of an eligible apprenticeship program confers the graduate an Ontario College Certificate.  

Certificate of Qualification

Shows that an apprentice has passed the government exam (where applicable). The Certificate of Qualification is issued once the exam is passed.  

Red Seal Certificate

Skilled tradespersons who obtain a Red Seal Certificate have greater mobility because it allows them to practice their trade in any province or territory in Canada where the trade is designated.

Related websites
You can use this website to find our more about the essential skills required for Ontario tradespeople.
  • Research Essential Skills for 53 Red Seal trades.
  • Take online assessments to see how your skills measure up. There are assessments for each trade.
  • Build your skills with customized learning plans using free online materials.
Studies show that apprentices are eight times more likely to succeed in the trades if they have the Essential Skills they need. This website helps you build these skills.
General information plus a trades job database- you can register as a job seeker or an employer to post jobs. The job database is open to employers & job seekers in Peel/Halton-Dufferin, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Niagara and Brant/Brantford-Haldiman-Norfolk area at present.
The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum is the only inclusive national body that brings together all players in apprenticeship training.
CAF-FCA works under the guidance of its Board of Directors, who represent every aspect of the apprenticeship community. Their work has brought to light a number of key issues that affect apprenticeship training - such as perceived barriers to training; the business case for apprenticeship; and the importance of promoting apprenticeship training as a valued and respected choice for post-secondary education.
This website has information about careers in skilled trades and why choosing such careers make so much sense. Information is available for Youth, Educators, Parents, Employers and Media. Learn why apprenticeships and careers in skilled trades are excellent choices.
Skilled Trades Ontario (formerly the Ontario College of Trades) was established in January 2022 as a regulatory college to modernize the province's apprenticeship and skilled trades system. The college encourages more people to work in the trades and help the system better serve employers, skilled tradespeople, apprentices and consumers. and
Ontario Government websites on Apprenticeship, OYAP, Training etc.
Apprenticeship and skilled trades information for the Construction sector.
Providing youth with insight into the Civil Construction industry and the many career opportunities that it provides, through increased public and government funding, knowledge and resources.
Excellent interactive information on pathways into trades and apprenticeship, wages and requirements
This website will enable you to learn more about apprenticeship, trades and Red Seal certification. You will also find a comparative chart of apprenticeship training programs across Canada.
Information on the competitions and other related skilled trade information including skill profiles and additional links.
A not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to young people and the continued prosperity of Ontario's industry.
This website is a great place to start apprenticeship research.
Is apprenticeship for me?