The Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada (MCAC) is working with governments at the federal and provincial levels to develop a new national occupational standard for the steamfitting and pipefitting trades.
"The goal is not only to modernize, but to optimize the national standard, for the pipefitter steamfitter trade," said Richard McKeagan, MCAC president.
"We are looking at enhancing the Red Seal program and this is one way of doing it."
The MCAC has established a partnership with the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship (CCDA) and the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry (UA) to test the new standard's features and development process for the steamfitter/pipefitter trade.
"In particular, we are looking at things like alternate forms of skills assessment, rather than relying solely on the Red Seal exam," said McKeagan.
"We want to know how practical alternative forms of assessment are and how costly are they. This is part of the pilot project we are involved with."
The CCDA initiated a pilot project last year that involves an analysis of the current national occupational standard for the trade and outlines the performance required by industry to be certified in the trade.
The pilot, which is part of an initiative to strengthen the Red Seal program, includes new features such as learning objectives that will support greater harmonization across Canada in terms of apprenticeship training and assessment.
"You have groups now that the government says have to go through the formal apprenticeship program in Canada, but they are skilled in pipefitting/steamfitting elsewhere," said McKeagan.
"There have to be ways and means of assessing their skills. Right now, the only way to get them to do that is by writing an exam."
McKeagan said workers from other countries may have received training on the job or in other ways. For this reason, one of the alternative methods identified by the pilot is practical testing.
"We are also looking at optimizing the actual exam," he said.
"This means rating the questions to see how important they are to the trade."
Part of the pilot will look at the cost and infrastructure that would be required to deliver this alternative method of assessment.
"Right now, the draft of the standard is out for review by the industry, and there is an extensive survey that industry people have been asked to complete and return," said McKeagan.
"And, later on once that information is gathered, it will be compiled and put into another draft, which will go to public review. Then we have to make a determination as an industry and national advisory committee, whether or not some of the things we are suggesting in this pilot will work or not."
According to McKeagan, the process has not reached this point yet and they are still in the pilot stage.
The CCDA is also testing a new development process for the standard that will allow for greater industry involvement.
"We want to make sure that the programs that are developed have the input of industry and the standards have the input from industry," he said.
"Industry has been echoing this for years, with the CCDA and the federal government that administers the Red Seal program. Previously, there was not as much industry input."
The CCDA is a voluntary, intergovernmental partnership that facilitates the development of a certified, highly skilled and mobile workforce in Canada.
Labour, industry and other stakeholders play a key partnership role in the Red Seal Program by assisting in the development and validation of standards and examinations for the Red Seal trades.
The Red Seal Program is a partnership between the Government of Canada and the provinces and territories.
Through the Red Seal Program, interprovincial standards and examinations are developed and maintained through an industry-driven process for the skilled trades. The results of the pilot will serve to determine the final format and process for development of standards for all Red Seal trades.