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Exploring Skilled Trades and Apprenticeships

Welding trainee

Welding trainee (BartCo, iStockphoto)

Welding trainee

Welding trainee (BartCo, iStockphoto)

Let's Talk Science

How does this align with my curriculum?

Students explore a variety of skilled trades careers and learn about training requirements.


  • Students will explore careers in skilled trades
  • Students will learn about apprenticeship careers
  • Students will learn and practice gathering information from online sources about the preparation required for several skilled trades careers and of their choice 

Suggested Courses for Ontario: 

TEJ-3M, TEJ-3E, ICS-20, GLC-20

Specific Curriculum Expectations for Ontario:

List of Ontario Curriculum Expectations by course [Google doc] [PDF]

Setting the Stage

When most students think of skilled trades there are a few that might immediately spring to mind (e.g., electrician, welder, plumber, carpenter). Some may be aware of other skilled trades to add to this list (e.g., painter, hair stylist, automotive mechanic, cook) but generally, their lists will be short. In fact there are more than 300 designated trades in Canada classified into four categories (construction, manufacturing, service, or transportation), Of these, 56 are classified as Red Seal. These are trades with common standards open for employment across Canada. Gaining a better understanding of the different skilled trades career options they have will help students choose a post-secondary path that fits their goals and interests. 

In this lesson, students will learn about a variety of different skilled trade careers. Next, students will learn how they can prepare for these careers through apprenticeships and training programs. Finally, students will choose 3 skilled trade careers to research in more depth. 

Materials & Preparation

  • Computers or other devices with internet access (1 per student)
  • Skilled Trade Careers Note Catcher Reproducible (1 per student) [Google doc] [PDF] - provide as paper or e-copy

What To Do

Part 1: What is a skilled trade?

  • Teachers should ensure students are aware that skilled trades refer to a large number of professional occupations that involve working with your hands and need specialized training. Skilled trades can be categorized into four main areas: construction, motive power, industrial and service.
  • Teachers begin this lesson by having students brainstorm as many skilled trades careers as possible. Teachers could have students share their ideas and record them on a class list. 
  • Teachers could then use a Think-Pair-Share activity. Students could be asked to consider the following question prompts: “How do people in skilled trade careers contribute to our community?”
    • After giving them time to think about their answer, have students partner with another student. Each partner will have two minutes to share their thinking. After partners have finished their sharing, students could share their thoughts with the class.
  • After this discussion, teachers should share the following information with students: 
    • Skilled trades are specialized occupations that require on-the-job training as well as formal, in-class instruction. 
    • Skilled tradespeople generally spend some time in class, followed by work experience where they get on-the-job training from other senior tradespeople. Such an arrangement is referred to as an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship is often followed by more in-class work or additional work experience. After a certain number of hours, those who successfully complete the program are certified to work in their province/territory. For some trades, additional work experience and study can earn a person certification that allows them to work in all provinces/territories of Canada (Red Seal certification).
    • Because the industrial needs differ from place to place in Canada, not all trades are practiced in every province/territory.
    • In Canada, there are approximately 300 skilled trades categorized in one of four areas: construction, manufacturing (industrial), transportation (motive power), and service. 
    • Many skilled trades have become very technological in nature and require advanced math and/or computer programming. 
  • Teachers could have students watch the video Why Apprenticeship? from the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum. Teachers could then lead a discussion using the following guiding questions. 
    • Did anything surprise you in the video? 
    • What did you learn about apprenticeships programs?
    • What are some benefits of apprenticeship programs?
    • Have you considered apprenticeship programs as a future career pathway? Why or why not?
    • What is your overall impression of apprenticeships? 

Part 2: Researching Skilled Trade Careers

  • Teachers could collect and review students’ Skilled Trade Careers Note Catcher reproducibles and provide feedback. Teachers could use this to assess students’ abilities to conduct their own research to answer questions. 

Skilled Trade Careers Note Catcher [Google doc] [PDF


  • Teachers could collect and review students’ Skilled Trade Careers Note Catcher reproducibles and provide feedback. Teachers could use this to assess students’ abilities to conduct their own research to answer questions. 


Skilled Trade Careers Note Catcher [Google doc] [PDF