Getting into the Trades

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Interview with Cary Tardi, Coordinator for Recruitment and Events at Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology (MITT)

There are over 55 trade programs in Manitoba. If you are interested in starting a career in skilled trades or if you are an internationally experienced tradesperson, there are plenty of opportunities for you here! English Online spoke recently with Cary Tardi of MITT (one the province’s top institutions for the trades), to answer some frequently asked questions and provide some great tips that could help newcomers get started with a career in the trades:

English Online (EO): What is the first step an internationally trained skilled person should do to be able to practice in Manitoba?

Cary Tardi (CT): The first step for newcomers is to go to Apprenticeship Manitoba, contact them and apply to challenge the Certification Exam. According to the Apprenticeship Manitoba website: “If you are a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident, a landed immigrant or have work experience from a country outside Canada, and currently reside in Manitoba, you may be eligible to apply to challenge the Certificate of Qualification.”

If it’s determined that they’re eligible and they are found to have the skills required in that specific trade, they are recognized as a skilled tradesperson like anyone else in Canada. They can find work and continue to practice their trade. There are three main requirements to become eligible to challenge the certification exam:

  • Demonstrated minimum number of years working in the trade
  • Demonstrated minimum number of hours working in the trade
  • Demonstrated experience in at least 70 per cent scope of the trade

To learn more about trade specific requirements, please see the Trade Profiles.

EO: Interested internationally trained skilled persons are directed to go to government websites to get information. If some of them have a hard time navigating or understanding these sites due to language barriers, are there other channels/ways they can get information about the trades?
CT: MITT offers information sessions, presentations and events to offer an introduction to skilled trades and Apprenticeship information to newcomers. Interested newcomers can contact Student Recruitment at (204) 989-6541 or They can also talk to our career services or student services staff who can provide information, explain their options and answer their questions. This is free. They can come in before they decide to enroll in a program.

EO: Are there steps they can do in their home country prior to moving here to make the process easier?
CT: Skilled tradespeople are recommended to contact Apprenticeship Manitoba for further information at: phone (204) 945-0575 or 1-866-332-5077 (toll-free), or via email at

EO: Does MITT have specially-designed curricula for immigrants/internationally trained skilled persons?
CT: MITT ESL (English as a Second Language) campus offers a variety of day and evening programs for newcomers, including:

  • Counselling
  • Computer-assisted Language Learning
  • ESL CLB (Canadian Benchmark Level) training
  • REDI Manufacturing Production Worker program including sector-specific language training with MITT and occupation-specific employment training with OFE

MITT provides level 1 and 2 Apprenticeship accredited skilled trades programs including:

  • Auto Mechanics – Level 1
  • Carpentry – Level 1
  • Culinary Arts and Design – Level 1
  • Electrical Applications – Level 1 & 2
  • Hairstyling – Level 1
  • Industrial Mechanic/Millwright – Level 1
  • Industrial Welding – Level 1
  • Motorsport Technician – Level 1
  • Power Engineer (4th Class)

EO: How long does it usually take an internationally trained skilled person to achieve a certificate?
CT: This varies depending on an individual’s level of experience and their trade. Most skilled trades programs take approximately 2-4 years to complete. However, if an individual successfully challenges a Certificate of Qualification, they may not require any further training at all.

EO: What does “challenge the Certificate of Qualification” mean? What does this require?
CT: A Certificate of Qualification is the credential you receive after successfully completing an apprenticeship program or challenging the exam as a trades qualifier. Once you receive your Certificate of Qualification, you are a certified journeyperson in your trade. Certification means you can earn more money, have more job security, and better employment opportunities. It also enables you to pass on your knowledge to the next generation of apprentices through on-the-job supervision.

EO: What’s the difference between a Certificate of Qualification and Red Seal Certification?
CT: Basically, think of it as a number of different levels of experience. Starting at the bottom, we have an apprentice. An apprentice is usually between 2-5 levels depending on the trade. Then you challenge a Certificate of Qualification (you take an exam) when you pass you become a journeyperson. And then, above that, you can write a certification exam for your Red Seal certification,, which gives you the opportunity to use those skills across Canada. If you are a journeyperson in a skilled trade, you are limited to working and using those skills within Manitoba. So there’s a definite advantage to being Red Seal- certified. Your wages tend to be higher, you’re considered an expert in your skilled trade and you’re not limited geographically as to where you can use your skills.

EO: Is it possible for an experienced professional to shift into a trade? What requirements would they need to fulfill?
CT: For someone who’s looking into shifting into the trades, a good first step would be to go to Apprenticeship Manitoba and check the requirements. An experienced professional may have relevant experience that they could use to challenge a Certification Exam if not, they should acquire apprenticeship training through employment and Apprenticeship Manitoba.

I highly recommend coming to MITT and talking to one of our student or career advisors. We have a great team of student advisors and we also have a career and workforce development service team that helps our students find jobs. These services are open to our students even before they apply to our programs. So if for example, we have a newcomer who has experience working as an auto mechanic, and they say they’re interested in becoming a carpenter, they can come and spend time with career services or student services staff and do some exploration before applying to one of our programs. It’s a free service that we provide; it’s a great first step as well.

EO: Is age a factor in shifting to a career in trades?
CT: In this day and age, people change their career five times on average in their lifetimes. So at MITT, we have students who have just graduated from high school and they’re looking to start their first career and alternatively, we have students who are on their second careers. For example, we have a student who is a veteran who retired from the armed forces. He will be taking our Motorsport Technician course this February. He’s looking for a new career and he’s in his mid-50s, I think. He has very little experience working as a Motorsport Technician but he’s passionate about it and he’s willing to learn. Passion for the trade and willingness to learn are the key elements to be successful in this industry.

EO: Cost and time can be concerns for anybody who wants to study or train. Are there scholarships and other government supports they can avail?
CT: A variety of scholarships and bursaries are available for Canadian citizens and Permanent Residents from most secondary institutions. These are funds that help offset the cost of tuition and living expenses while studying in a program and don’t have to be re-paid. Many students are also eligible to receive Canada student loans through Manitoba Student Aid or Student Loans through local banks or credit unions.

It’s also important to note that once a student has found work and registered as an Apprentice with Apprenticeship Manitoba, they will receive paid on-the-job training from their employer and the Provincial Government heavily subsidizes the cost of tuition for their in-class training.

EO: How do apprenticeship programs work? Does anybody fail from this?
CT: Apprenticeship programs work by providing training for a skilled trade through a combination of 80% paid on-the-job training through an employer and 20% in-class theory at a local post-secondary institution. Students can fail in this process but an employer may provide provisions for a student to continue the Apprenticeship process dependent on the employer/employee agreement.

Students are highly recommended to explore careers in advance and enroll in pre-employment training through an accredited post-secondary institution prior to employment. Additional supports may be offered to improve learning outcomes and help overcome obstacles prior to employment.

EO: Aside from an interest in the trades, experience, and skills what other things does a tradesperson need to succeed in this field?
CT: Skills and aptitudes vary depending on trade, but basically, you have to be academically inclined. Twenty years ago, people thought that being a skilled tradesperson meant that you were less academic than say, someone who is studying to be a doctor or lawyer. Today, to be in the skilled trades, you have to be very competent in math and science. You also have to be very good in communication. When you’re working in skilled trades, especially in types where it can be typically dangerous to work in, communication is key. And so your English communication skills have to be very good to be successful.

Typically, the following skill requirements are consistent among all skilled trades:

  • Academic proficiency (Math and Science)
  • Communication skills (Canadian benchmark level 7 or 8 and some trades level 9)
  • Problem solving
  • Manual dexterity/Precision
  • Customer service

EO: Is there still a big demand for skilled tradespeople in Manitoba?
CT: According to the 2017-2023 Manitoba Labour Market Occupational Forecasts:

  • 49,600 skilled trades job openings will be available between 2017 and 2023 requiring college education and Apprenticeship training.
  • Manitoba has seen growth in the labour force over the past 10 years and is projected to see continued growth throughout the seven-year projection period. Over the forecast period, Manitoba’s labour force is expected to grow by 50,900 people (7.5 percent) to 725,800 people by 2023. This shows an average annual growth rate of 1.0 percent, or an average of 7,300 persons per year.
  • Within the projection period, Manitoba’s labour force is expected to grow at the lowest rate in 2018 and 2022 (slightly below 1 percent), and between 1.0 and 1.1 percent for the rest of the forecast period. This slowed growth shows an increase in the proportion of the population in older age groups with lower labour force participation rates.

For further information about MITT programs, please contact (204) 989-6500 or

English Online is publishing this interview for informational purposes to assist newcomers who are interested in getting into the skilled trades. We are not affiliated with Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology.

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