How Much Do They Make? New Evidence on the Early Career Earnings of Trade Certificate Holders
Table of Contents
This report results from a collaboration between the Education Policy Research Initiative (EPRI) and the Labour Market Information Council (LMIC). The conceptual design of the analytical framework, sample construction, data extraction and empirical analysis were carried out by EPRI. The report was authored by EPRI, with drafting contributions and input from LMIC.
Education Policy Research Initiative
Professor, Graduate School of Public
and International Affairs,
University of Ottawa, and Director, EPRI
Senior Research Associate
Labour Market Information Council
Director of Research, Data and Analytics
Cite this report as follows:
Finnie, R., Dubois, M., & Miyairi, M. (2021). How much do they make? New evidence on the early career earnings of trade certificate holders. Ottawa, ON: Education Policy Research Initiative and Labour Market Information Council.
Nadine Purdy (Communications Manager, LMIC) managed the production process of this report and the related communication materials in collaboration with Janik Bastide (Communications Specialist, LMIC) and Ghassene Jerandi (Graphic Designer, LMIC).
John Sergeant (EPRI) provided multiple contributions throughout the development and finalization of the report.
LMIC and EPRI would like to thank LMIC’s federal, provincial and territorial partners, as well as its National Stakeholder Advisory Panel (NSAP) and Labour Market Information Experts Panel for their comments and suggestions on the report and on the project in general. The team would also like to thank following reviewers for their constructive feedback:
Pamela Best, Sylvie Gauthier, Hyeongsuk Jin
and Tracy Leesti
Statistics Canada (STC)
Dave Jelly, Emily Jovic, Ahmed Tareq Rashid
and Dean Rogers
Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)
Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF)
Matt Henderson, Daniel Komesch and
Polytechnics Canada (PC)
Sandip Basi and Steven Wald
Silvana Guerrero and Tanveer Islam
Simon Normandeau and Marieke Vandeweyer
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
Munk School, University of Toronto (UofT)
EPRI and LMIC would also like to express their gratitude to Statistics Canada for their support with the Education and Labour Market Longitudinal Platform (ELMLP). EPRI would like to thank Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) for providing resources to support the initial phase of the analysis.
Decisions about training and education are important and challenging, especially with COVID-19
Choices about education and training launch individuals onto career paths, with significant ramifications for those making the decisions and for society more broadly. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the choices Canadians make about jobs, careers, education, training and workforce development have become a lot tougher.
Our intent is to help Canadians make the most informed decisions possible regarding training and education choices. As a complement to our previous work regarding post-secondary education (PSE) graduates, this report provides extensive new evidence on the early career labour market earnings of Canadians who obtain a trade certificate, also referred to as journeypersons.
Our analysis is based on Statistics Canada’s Education and Labour Market Longitudinal Platform (ELMLP), which links anonymized information on individuals in apprenticeship programs in Canada to tax information. The analysis presented here focuses on those who received their certification in 2009 and follows their annual earnings from 2010 to 2017. While there are close connections between the trade in which certificates are obtained and the jobs they hold, the ELMLP does not have information on an individual’s occupation. Therefore, the earnings reported capture all journeypersons according to the certificate held regardless of where they work.
Skilled trades are a pillar of the Canadian economy
The 385 skilled trades listed in the Registered Apprenticeship Information System (RAIS) represent an important pillar of the Canadian economy. About 20% of Canadians work in the skilled trades in sectors such as construction, manufacturing, services and automotive. Most of those jobs are in the 56 Red Seal trades, which have common occupational standards across Canada. Employment in Red Seal trades has also fared comparatively well during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite job losses of almost 30% in March and April 2020, as of December 2020, employment in Red Seal trades had already rebounded to 2% above its February 2020 level.
As a result, labour shortages among the skilled trades have already re-emerged as an issue. Several barriers have been suggested over the years that may limit the take up of skilled trades, including the more cyclical nature of the work, the type of work environment and, for women, discrimination. Perceptions of earnings have also been cited regarding the viability of the skilled trades as a career option, which is the point addressed most directly by this report.
Individuals with a Red Seal trade certificate earn on average $64,000 in their first year, growing to reach $73,800 eight years after certification
The average earnings of those in all trades — including both Red Seal and non–Red Seal trades — start at $62,200 in the first year following certification, growing to $71,600 eight years following certification. Those with a Red Seal trade certificate had modestly higher annual earnings of $64,000 in the first year. Earnings growth among these journeypersons was initially 4.5% per year, reaching $76,200 in the fifth year, and then dipped slightly in the two subsequent years (2015 and 2016) when the energy sector contracted sharply. By year eight (2017), earnings had recovered moderately to reach $73,800, representing an average growth of 2.1% per year over the eight-year period. For non–Red Seal trades, average earnings were $55,500 in the first year following certification, growing to $62,500 eight years later.
Given that Red Seal trades have common occupational standards across Canada and account for approximately three-quarters of all certified journeypersons, we focus on their earnings trajectories to examine differences by trade certificate and gender.
Earnings vary considerably depending on the Red Seal trade certificate held
The 56 Red Seal trades can be grouped into six broad categories. Those certified in Mechanical trades earn the most in their first year ($76,500) followed closely by Electrical trades ($74,200). In both instances, earnings grow to $84,000 and $85,000 eight years following certification, or 1.3 and 2.0% per year, respectively. Metal trades earn $73,100 in the first year, followed by Vehicle & Related trades at $66,900 and Architectural & Construction trades at $50,200. For these trades, earnings grow to $84,100, $80,800 and $56,900, respectively, in the eighth year (an average of 2.0%, 2.7% and 1.8% per year).
The lowest earnings category of journeypersons is Other trades, which tend to be predominately women. Their earnings start at $31,800 in the first year of certification, growing to $38,200 (or 2.7% per year over eight years).
Within these broad categories, earnings vary considerably by the specific certificate held. For instance, the highest average earnings can be found in two trades — Rig Technicians and Instrumentation and Control Technicians — where earnings start well above $100,000 in the first year ($111,600 and $107,600, respectively). For Instrumentation and Control Technicians, earnings grew to $119,200 after eight years following certification (or 1.5% per year). In the case of Rig Technicians — highly concentrated in the oil and gas sector — earnings grew to $151,100 after five years but fell to $103,500 after eight years. The journeypersons with the lowest earnings level are Hairstylists. Their earnings start at $23,700 and grow on average 2.5% per year to $28,100 in year eight.
Women earn 47% of what men earn, which persists over time
In 2009, women represented just 8.8% of all Red Seal trade certificate holders. In each category of journeypersons, women accounted for less than 2.5%, except for Other, where they made up a full 67%. This is largely driven by the numbers of women certified in the Red Seal trades of Hairstylists, Cooks and Bakers.
Across all Red Seal trades, in the first year following certification, women earn on average $31,400 or 47% of what men earn ($67,200). After eight years, these figures rise to $35,700 and $77,000, resulting in women earning 46% of what men earn.
Given the fact that so few women enter the trades, it is difficult to assess their earnings differentials within specific trades. However, in looking at some of the broad categories of trades where comparisons are possible, women earn persistently less than men. In the eighth year after certification in Architectural & Construction trades, women earn 78% of what men do ($44,600 vs. $57,100). In Electrical trades, women earn 85% of what their male counterparts earn ($72,500 vs. $85,100). The smallest earnings gap is in Mechanical trades, where women earn 89% of men ($74,500 vs. $84,100). The largest gender earnings difference, however, is observed in the Other trade category, where women are substantially overrepresented, earning just 54% ($29,500 vs. $54,400) of what men earn. Even if we exclude the highly paid (and male-dominated) Rig Technicians from this broad category, women still earn only 59% of what men earn.
Apprenticeship completers earn, on average, 9% more than trade qualifiers
Comparing the earnings of apprenticeship completers (which involves both in-class and on-the-job training and then passing an exam) to trade qualifiers (those who train on the job and then pass an exam) we find that apprenticeship completers earn approximately 9–10% more than trade qualifiers in the years following certification: in the first year, apprenticeship completers earn 9% more than trade qualifiers ($65,600 vs. $60,300). In the eighth year, completers earn 10% more than qualifiers ($75,900 vs. $68,700).
Earnings of journeypersons in contrast to comparable PSE graduates
To put the earnings of journeypersons in context and in our effort to help Canadians navigate their education and training options, the earnings of journeypersons presented here are shown against the early career earnings of PSE graduates covered in our companion report. This is not intended to place greater or lesser value on any one path, but rather to provide valuable information that, in combination with a myriad of other factors, can help Canadians make more informed decisions.
In doing so, vastly different perspectives emerge through the lens of gender. For instance, women who enter the labour market with their new trade certification earn on average $31,500, which is very similar to the earnings levels of women with college-level certificates ($31,800) and college-level diplomas ($32,500) in their first year. Seven years later, however, women with trade certificates earn $4,100 less than their counterparts with college-level certificates ($35,500 versus $39,600) and $5,800 less than those with college-level diplomas ($35,500 versus $41,300). However, as discussed above, women hold trade certificates in a very narrow set of Red Seal trades (i.e., predominantly Hairstylists, Cooks, and Bakers) which are among the lowest paying. This drives the overall average earnings of journeywomen down.
The story is quite different for men. Men with trade certificates have by far the highest first-year earnings levels ($70,500), while men with bachelor’s degrees, college-level certificates and diplomas have first-year earnings of $42,800, $40,500 and $37,000. Seven years following certification, men with trade certificates still have the highest average earnings ($77,900), but by only a small margin, as bachelor’s degree graduates earn $75,500, or $2,400 less. Graduates with college-level certificates and diplomas follow with earnings approximately $17,000 lower ($61,500 and $60,900).
These comparisons should be viewed in the context of several important caveats, including but not limited to the fact that, as this report highlights, these are only broad averages and that there is great variation across fields of study and trade categories and within these across individuals. Second, as emphasized in both reports, these earnings patterns do not reflect the causal effects of training or education on earnings. Third, these earnings should also not be understood as representing any kind of rate of return to their education and training, which would require taking costs into account, which will differ substantially across programs and individuals, reflecting both direct monetary costs and the opportunity cost of the time required. Finally, our figures represent earnings only in the early years following the completion of education and training programs, and it will be both interesting and important to follow these earnings trajectories further over time with the annual updates of the ELMLP as they become available.
Ongoing data enhancements will provide new information and insights
This report provides new and comprehensive evidence on the early career earnings of Canadian trade certificate holders. Our previous report provided a comparable analysis of the earnings of PSE graduates. Taken together, these two reports and their related materials, including two interactive dashboards, provide expansive new information on the earnings of certified journeypersons and PSE graduates. These tools will help individual Canadians make the most informed education and training decisions possible and provide valuable information to other education and training stakeholders.
The ELMLP from which these insights are drawn allows researchers to address a wide range of policy-related questions pertaining to PSE, trades training, school-to-work transitions, labour market outcomes and
other related topics. Some limitations of the data do affect the type of information that can be presented, including most notably the actual job held by a journeyperson or PSE graduate. However, Statistics Canada is working on adding more data to the ELMLP to allow for more detailed and extensive analysis. This will include the introduction of new data sources, such as the 2016 Census and the Longitudinal Immigration Database (IMDB). Furthermore, as additional years of data are added, the ELMLP will capture new cohorts of PSE graduates and trade certificate holders and allow existing cohorts to be followed for increasingly longer intervals. In these ways, the ELMLP will remain a valuable source of new and vital labour market information for Canadians.
Upon finishing secondary school, Canadians have several choices before them to further their education and training, including attending post-secondary education (PSE), embarking on apprenticeship training and skilled trade certification, or entering the job market. The decision to do so has important individual and societal implications. In making those decisions, one of the most sought-after pieces of labour market information is salary. And while many other factors are considered before Canadians make those choices, the aim of this research is to provide all stakeholders — students, parents, institutions, policy makers, researchers and the broader Canadian public — with earnings information that will help them make the most informed decisions possible. In the context of COVID-19, decisions regarding training and education just became even more challenging.1
A previous research partnership between the Education Policy Research Initiative (EPRI)2 and the Labour Market Information Council (LMIC)3 produced a report on the post-graduation earnings of Canadian PSE students, which can be found on the EPRI/LMIC project page. In recognition of the important role that skilled trades play – about 20% of Canadians work in the skilled trades – this report provides extensive new evidence on the labour market earnings of journeypersons (trade certificate holders), with particular emphasis on Red Seal trades.4,5
As with our first project on PSE, this report is based on analysis carried out using Statistics Canada’s Education and Labour Market Longitudinal Platform (ELMLP), which contains anonymized information on those enrolled in apprenticeship programs. This data is taken from administrative records provided by all provinces and territories in Canada and can be integrated with tax information.6 Through the ELMLP, we are able to identify records of individuals within the Registered Apprenticeship Information System (RAIS) who received a trade certification from 2008 to 2016. Then, for each certification cohort, we track their yearly employment earnings from their first full year following certification over the years for which tax data were available (2009–2017). In this report, we focus primarily on the 2009 cohort, which can be followed for eight years following certification.7 This research builds upon a literature review of past research on the labour market outcomes of journeypersons, published in a joint LMI Insight Report (EPRI-LMIC, 2021).
Section 2 of this report describes the data and methodology used to carry out the analysis.
Section 3 presents the earnings patterns of journeypersons from a range of perspectives, including comparisons of those in the Red Seal trades with those in all trades. Breakdowns by gender, by stream (completers versus qualifiers),8 by trade category and by specific trades for the most common certificates in each trade category are included.
Section 4 compares the earnings of journeypersons to select post-secondary graduates from our previous report.
Section 5 concludes the report with a brief summary and a look toward future research. The Appendix also provides differences by age at certification and a comparison across all certification cohorts.
1 In March and April 2020, the Canadian economy shed more than 3 million jobs. Employment among Red Seal trades fared comparatively well during the crisis. Although it fell sharply at the outset — close to 30% in March and April — as of December 2020, it had rebounded to 2% above its February 2020 level.
2 EPRI is an academic research group based at the University of Ottawa that engages in research aimed at informing policy discussions on education, skills and the labour market.
3 LMIC is an independent not-for-profit organization whose mission is to provide Canadians with timely and reliable labour market information and insights in an engaging way to support their decision-making process.
4 The Red Seal Program (2018) sets common standards to assess the skills of tradespeople across Canada. Tradespersons who have successfully passed the examination receive a Red Seal endorsement on their provincial or territorial trade certificate. When affixed to the certificate, the Red Seal indicates that a tradesperson has demonstrated the knowledge required for the national standard in that trade. This study focuses on individuals with certificates in one of the 56 Red Seal trades, whether they have the Red Seal endorsement or not. For more information on the Red Seal program see Red Seal Canada.
5 The ELMLP does not have information on individuals’ occupations. Therefore, the earnings reported capture all journeypersons regardless of where they are employed.
6 In Canada, skilled trades training is the responsibility of provincial and territorial authorities. Entry requirements vary depending on the trade, but individuals are typically required to have a high school diploma (or equivalent) or a combination of grade 11 and 12 courses. Training is offered by a variety of institutions including colleges, polytechnics and technical institutes, as well as private organizations.
7 After investigating all cohorts, we identified irregularities in the 2008 cohort once the results were analyzed by gender and trade categories. The 2009 cohort is more representative of the patterns observed in the subsequent cohorts and can be followed for the second longest period (eight years).
8 Trade completers have registered and completed a formal apprenticeship program (class and on-the-job training) while trade qualifiers have demonstrated job experience and have passed the final qualification exam.
Section 2: Data and Analytical Approach
The Education and Labour Market Longitudinal Platform (ELMLP)
This project leverages Statistics Canada’s ELMLP, a data platform that includes anonymized administrative data on PSE students and those in apprenticeship programs, along with personal income tax information for these individuals. The ELMLP allows researchers to address a wide range of policy-related questions pertaining to PSE, trades training, school-to-work transitions, labour market outcomes and other related topics.
The core components of the ELMLP are three longitudinal databases: the Postsecondary Student Information System (PSIS), the Registered Apprenticeship Information System (RAIS) and the T1 Family File (T1FF).9 The ELMLP is not a dataset per se, but rather a relational data environment that allows users to combine the research potential of PSIS, RAIS and T1FF by integrating across these files using a key, anonymous person–level identifier.10
PSIS contains enrollment data from 2009 onwards for all public Canadian colleges and universities along with student and program characteristics. RAIS is the equivalent of PSIS but dedicated to registered apprenticeship programs (2008 onwards). The T1FF data on the ELMLP are taken from personal income tax returns transferred to Statistics Canada by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) from 2004 onwards. This report focuses on journeypersons (or trade certificate holders) from RAIS (see Finnie et al., 2020, for the comparable PSE graduate report).
Strengths and Limitations of the ELMLP
The ELMLP has remarkable strengths. It contains near complete representation and detailed information on trade certification (and education-related administrative data) in Canada that is integrated with other datasets, including accurate income information, such as earnings on a year-by-year basis.
However, as with any single data source, the ELMLP also has limitations in terms of providing a complete picture of the outcomes for tradespeople. For instance, it does not contain information on occupation or specific job characteristics, hours and weeks worked in a year, comparison groups of individuals who have not undertaken PSE or training, or enough information to calculate the monetary rate of return to training.11 Some of these limitations may be resolved over time as Statistics Canada adds other datasets to the platform.
The Earnings Measure
This project focuses on total before-tax employment earnings. These are calculated by combining all paid employment income (wages, salaries and commissions) reported on T4 slips, positive net income earned from self-employment (business, professional, commissions, farming and fishing),12 “Indian exempt” employment income,13 and other taxable employment income not reported on a T4 slip, such as tips, gratuities and net research grants (Statistics Canada, 2018b).14
employment income+positive net self-employment income
+ "Indian exempt" employment income+other employment income
Earnings are adjusted to constant 2016 dollars using the Canada-wide Consumer Price Index (CPI).
One important caveat of the self-employment income category is that it includes only unincorporated earnings. In some cases, however, journeypersons may form corporations, and their earnings may be transmitted through dividends, allocated to family members or retained within the corporation. Earnings paid out in salary from the corporation to individuals themselves would, though, be included in the earnings measure as employment income.
As mentioned in the introduction, the ELMLP does not have information on individuals’ occupations. Therefore, the earnings reported capture all journeypersons regardless of where they are employed.
9 Other supplementary datasets, in addition to the core PSIS, RAIS and T1FF files, are being added to the ELMLP regularly. For updates on the platform, go to the Canadian Research Data Centre Network (CRDCN) website.
11 For more information on the limitations of the ELMLP, see Finnie et al. (2020) and LMIC (2018).
12 Statistics Canada (2018b) includes negative net self-employment income values. In this analysis, we convert these to zero on the grounds that labour market earnings cannot, by definition, be negative. Self-employment income mixes business activities and labour market earnings, further complicating its tax treatment.
13 For employment income to be considered “Indian exempt,” the location of the employment duties is a major factor since most on-reserve work is classified as tax exempt. However, the CRA also recognizes that employees of bands, tribal councils or organizations that operate on their behalf may perform most of their activities off reserve. If the employer is resident on a reserve and the “Indian” is employed in a non-commercial activity for the social, cultural, educational or economic development of “Indians” who mostly live on reserves, the income of their employees is also tax exempt. For more information on the guidelines covering “Indian exempt” employment income under Section 87 of the Indian Act, visit https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/aboriginal-peoples/indian-act-exemption-employment-income-guidelines.html.
14 For different approaches to calculating earnings in the ELMLP, see LMIC (2019).
Stream and Trade Categories
Stream: Apprenticeship Completers and Trade Qualifiers
In RAIS, each observation is associated with one of two streams: Apprenticeship or Trade Qualifier. The stream indicates how the journeyperson receives their certification (Statistics Canada, 2016).
In these data, apprenticeship completers are journeypersons who registered in and completed a formal apprenticeship program, comprised of structured on-the-job training and usually some in-class training to acquire their certification. Trade qualifiers (or challengers) are journeypersons who did not complete a formal apprenticeship program but demonstrate job experience across the scope of the trade and pass the final certification exam. Provincial/territorial certification authorities define the eligibility requirements (i.e., experience, scope) for trade qualifiers to challenge the certification exam.
RAIS also contains additional career pathways in trades-related occupations (e.g., continuers and discontinuers), but this study focuses on certified tradespeople/journeypersons (i.e., apprenticeship completers and trade qualifiers).
Trades and Trade Categories
Trade certifications are awarded by provincial/territorial authorities, who work closely with industry partners to devise training requirements, regulations and processes. Because of this, it is not uncommon for trades to have different approaches for registering apprentices, accreditation and certification, and to have different program curriculum and requirements, depending on the jurisdiction.
RAIS compiles information on apprenticeship completers and trade qualifiers from approximately 385 trades across 13 Canadian jurisdictions. Given this large number, this project focuses on a subset of trades that have common occupational standards across Canada through the Red Seal Program (referred to as Red Seal trades).
Journeypersons who pass the Red Seal exam (based on the interprovincial standard), receive a Red Seal endorsement on their provincial/territorial trade certificates (Statistics Canada, 2018b). At the time of this analysis, there were 56 designated Red Seal trades. The report classifies individual trades into six main categories (Table 1). While there is no standard categorization of trades in Canada, the classification employed is informed by previous studies, namely Alberta Advanced Education (2018) and Sharpe and Gibson (2005). However, we recognize that any such classification is, to some degree, arbitrary.
|Architectural & Construction Trades (12 trades)|
|Bricklayer||Construction Craft Worker||Lather (Interior Systems Mechanic)|
|Cabinetmaker||Drywall Finisher and Plasterer||Painter and Decorator|
|Electrical Trades (4 trades)|
|Construction Electrician||Industrial Electrician|
|Electric Motor System Technician||Powerline Technician|
|Mechanical Trades (10 trades)|
|Gasfitter — Class A||Oil Heat System Technician||Sprinkler Fitter|
|Gasfitter — Class B||Plumber||Steamfitter/Pipefitter|
|Instrumentation and Control Technician||Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic||Tool and Die Maker|
|Insulator (Heat and Frost)|
|Metal Trades (9 trades)|
|Boilermaker||Ironworker (Reinforcing)||Metal Fabricator (Fitter)|
|Industrial Mechanic (Millwright)||Ironworker (Structural/Ornamental)||Sheet Metal Worker|
|Vehicle & Related Trades (15 trades)|
|Agricultural Equipment Technician||Heavy Equipment Operator (Dozer)||Parts Technician|
|Auto Body and Collision Technician||Heavy Equipment Operator (Excavator)||Recreation Vehicle Service Technician|
|Automotive Refinishing Technician||Heavy Equipment Operator (Tractor-Loader-Backhoe)||Tower Crane Operator|
|Automotive Service Technician||Mobile Crane Operator||Transport Trailer Technician|
|Heavy Duty Equipment Technician||Motorcycle Mechanic||Truck and Transport Mechanic|
|Other (6 trades)|
|Appliance Service Technician||Cook||Landscape Horticulturist|
This report will, at different points, examine all journeypersons available in RAIS (i.e., 385 trades), all those within the 56 Red Seal trades, and a subset of specific Red Seal trades with sufficient observations. It is important to note, however, that when the analysis focuses on Red Seal trades, the individual journeypersons included may or may not have the Red Seal endorsement on their provincial or territorial certification. The Red Seal trades are merely used as a subset of trades to provide a clear and consistent sample. Those with a Red Seal certificate represent approximately three-quarters of all journeypersons in RAIS (see Section 2).
15 For example, Baker – Pâtissier (ON) and Pastrycook (QC) are both under Baker, which is a Red Seal trade in all jurisdictions except Saskatchewan.
This report aims to provide strategically important labour market information to a wide range of stakeholders, including those making their training decisions, institutions offering technical training for apprenticeship programs, policy makers, industry, researchers and the Canadian public.
The objective is to provide a new and detailed picture of Canadian journeypersons’ earnings following each cohort after certification by using annual tax data. To this end, we track journeypersons’ annual employment earnings on a year-by-year basis starting with the first full year following certification. For the 2009 cohort, the focus of this report, their annual earnings are reported from 2010 forward. For this cohort, information is available for eight years, from 2010 through 2017. These same calculations are done separately for each cohort, with later cohorts having fewer years of post-certification earnings information available (Table A1).
We focus on journeypersons’ mean earnings. While some studies of journeypersons’ labour market outcomes focus on median earnings (e.g., Statistics Canada, 2018b), a comparison of the trajectories of mean and median earnings presented in Section 3 shows that they are generally similar (Appendix Figure B1).
This analysis is intended simply to track the earnings of journeypersons and present them descriptively as opposed to investigating the relationship between earnings and any particular set of demographics or program characteristics.16 In addition, results cannot be interpreted as the causal effects of trades on earnings since individuals self-select their training pathways, trades and other aspects of their training. Physically demanding trades or ones requiring workers to be in remote locations for months at a time, can by themselves result in higher earnings, regardless of the trade. Employers and sponsors also play a role in who becomes an apprentice since they fund training and exam costs for selected individuals depending on their needs and resources. These selection processes generally correlate with individual ability and other factors that have their own effects on earnings outcomes, which cannot be controlled for here using the analytical approach employed and data available. Since T1FF does not include information on hours or weeks worked, the analysis cannot adjust journeypersons’ earnings for labour supply decisions and related factors. All results follow Statistics Canada’s disclosure rules.
Of course, earnings are not the only factor determining individuals’ training decisions. The earnings reported below should be seen in this context.
16 An important next step for this line of research would be to use regression analysis and other more sophisticated analytical frameworks to identify the contribution of these types of factors to the observed earnings patterns, and to identify earnings patterns by trades after controlling for such influences. The initial descriptive analysis presented here, however, provides a natural starting point for this type of research.
To construct the sample of journeypersons used in this analysis, we first searched across all RAIS records from 2008 to 2016 and selected records to which certification was granted in a particular reference year, using a certification indicator.17 This study includes apprentices who successfully completed their apprenticeship and received certification, and trade qualifiers who passed the exam and received certification. The report deals with two groups of journeypersons:
All Trades group
Includes all individuals who received provincial/territorial certification in any trade. Over 385 trades are accounted for in RAIS, with some trades recognized only in certain jurisdictions.
Red Seal Trades group
Received their certification in one of the 56 recognized Red Seal trades, representing a subset of journeypersons in the All Trades group.
This study does not differentiate between journeypersons with or without a Red Seal endorsement. In other words, those with a provincial trade certification in a Red Seal trade may not always have a Red Seal endorsement.
We constructed nine cohorts of journeypersons according to the calendar year of certification, from 2008 to 2016. Due to the comprehensive coverage of RAIS, in principle this should represent the entire population of journeypersons in Canadian provinces and territories.18
When a journeyperson receives a certification in multiple trades in a given year, only the trade acquired last is kept. If more than one certification was acquired at the same time, one was chosen at random (approximately 1.5% of the sample). We also restricted the sample to journeypersons aged 15 to 64 at certification (removing 0.1% of the sample).
Once records are selected from RAIS, they are merged with the T1FF data to track journeypersons’ earnings through 2017, the latest year available at the time of this study. Overall, 97.8% were matched to at least one year of post-certification tax data.19
Three additional sample restrictions are imposed. First, individuals who do not file taxes in a given year are excluded for that year but are included for all other years (both before and after) for which their tax information is available to keep the samples as inclusive and representative as possible.
Second, individuals are also excluded if they are identified as pursuing further full-time training or education in any given year20 and for all subsequent years thereafter. This restriction is imposed because further training or schooling typically leads to less active engagement in the labour market, and new skills or credentials acquired following new training or returning to school could lead to new earnings patterns upon labour market re-entry.21 If an individual is observed to have earned another trade certification, they can be reintroduced into the sample as a new trade certificate holder and followed from that point forward.22
Third, in order to focus on journeypersons who are meaningfully engaged in the labour market, those whose total before-tax earnings are lower than $1,000 are excluded from the sample for that year. When individuals with earnings under $1,000 are included, average earnings generally shift slightly downward, while the earnings trajectories and the relative patterns across the different sets of trades certificate holders remain essentially unchanged.
Appendix Figure A1 illustrates the effect of these sample restrictions (i.e., non-tax filer, further training/education and low-earnings threshold) imposed sequentially on the sample for the 2009 cohort.23
Some studies (e.g., Statistics Canada, 2018a) opt for a balanced panel approach, where individuals excluded based on any of the three restrictions in any year are removed from the entire analysis in all years. We have conducted tests comparing our approach with a balanced panel approach. The earnings trajectories with the balanced approach shift up (i.e., earnings are higher) but remain approximately parallel, indicating similar patterns of earnings growth over time.24
17 To build the sample, we used a combination of STATEND (i.e., 00 and 02) and CERT (i.e., 02–05) variables (Statistics Canada, 2016).
18 A small number of records were dropped because of missing key information (0.8%).
19 The number is similar to the integration rate of Statistics Canada’s (2018b) sample of 99%.
20 This data is recorded in the T1FF through the full-time education tax credit for the 2009–2016 tax years and the months of full-time PSE study for the 2017 tax year.
21 The further training or education restriction could also have been based on the RAIS/PSIS files, but we decided to use the full-time education tax credit to be consistent with our previous PSE study (Finnie et al., 2020).
22 Individuals pursing training or education part-time remain in the sample until they are observed to earn a new certification or graduate with a credential since part-time training/education allows them to remain in the labour market. Similarly, journeypersons learning another trade on the job and not through formal apprenticeship training would also remain in the sample during their training until they qualify for new certification.
23 Appendix Figure A1 shows that the proportion of non-filers ranges between 5% and 7% every year following certification with an additional 2% to 6% of journeypersons removed because they earn less than $1,000. Due to its cumulative nature, the further education or training restriction increases over time: 3% of the All Trades group is excluded one year following certification, which climbs to 16% eight years out, while the numbers for the Red Seal Trades group are 2% and 13%.
24 Statistics Canada (2018a) also differs in other ways, including the specific sample restrictions, the precise earnings measure, their presentation of median rather than mean earnings, and what is covered in the analysis. The two projects therefore represent two independent but related treatments of the early career earnings of journeypersons.
Table A2 presents the number and distribution of journeypersons by cohort and by various demographic and program characteristics both for the whole sample (all 385 trades) and for Red Seal trades (56 trades). In both groups, the number of certifications granted increased until 2013 and dropped slightly from 2014 onwards.
Across all cohorts, the number of certificates granted ranges from 44,900 in 2008 to 52,300 in 2016 for All Trades and from 34,200 to 37,700 for Red Seal Trade groups. Certificates granted in Red Seal trades represent approximately three-quarters across all cohorts. This report will largely focus on these Red Seal trades as a well-defined group of journeypersons. Section 3 will show that the earnings trajectories of Red Seal trades are similar, albeit marginally higher, than other trade certificate holders.
The distribution by gender, stream and age is very similar across the All Trades and Red Seal Trades groups, though the latter has a slightly higher proportion of apprenticeship completers and a somewhat younger demographic.
The sample restrictions discussed in Section 2 affect the different trade categories in very similar ways, except for Other, which has a greater proportion of individuals acquiring more training/schooling and earning under $1,000 (Appendix Figure A2 shows the effect of these restrictions by trade category for the 2009 cohort). The sample patterns are also very similar across gender, stream, age, region and trade category when comparing the sample before and after restrictions (Appendix Table A3 explores these effects on the 2009 cohort across all characteristics).
Table 2 shows that female journeypersons represent 8.8% of trade certificates granted in 2009 in Red Seal trades. Women account for between 1.3% and 2.3% of journeypersons in each category, except for Other where they hold 67.4% of all certificates, largely driven by the numbers of Hairstylists, Cooks, and Bakers.
|All Trades (385)||40,900||100.0%||8.8%||100.0%||91.1%||100.0%|
|Red Seal Trades (56)||32,200||78.7%||8.8%||78.6%||91.3%||78.9%|
|Architectural & Construction||6,200||19.3%||1.8%||3.9%||98.2%||20.7%|
|Vehicle & Related||5,450||16.9%||2.2%||4.2%||97.8%||18.1%|
Overall, journeypersons are divided fairly equally across the six trade categories. Electrical trades account for 20%, followed by Architectural & Construction with 19%, Mechanical and Vehicle & Related both with 17%, and Metal and Other round up the count with 16% and 11% respectively. The distribution of women across trade categories, however, shows that 82% of them are in the Other category, while men are evenly distributed across all categories (roughly 20% each). Appendix Table A4 presents the distribution by region for the 2009 cohort.
Some regional differences are worth pointing out, namely that 46% of all Quebec certificates granted in Red Seal trades are in Architectural & Construction, a category that only accounts for 7% in Alberta. At the same time, the Atlantic provinces and Quebec have a very small proportion of their journeypersons in the Other category. These differences are due to several factors, including differences in industrial structure and in the Red Seal trades in each jurisdiction (e.g., 14 of the 56 Red Seal trades are not recognized in Quebec. While none of these are in the Architectural & Construction trade category, seven are in the Vehicle & Related sector). Appendix Figure A3 presents the number of certificates granted in 2009 in each Red Seal trade.
Section 3: Earnings of a Journeyperson
This section presents the earnings of journeypersons who received their trade certificates, with a particular focus on Red Seal trades and those who received their certification in 2009 (Box 1). The 2009 cohort of journeypersons is followed on a year-by-year basis for eight years following certification (up to 2017).
|Box 1: Why Focus on Red Seal Trades and the 2009 Cohort?
We focus our analysis on the 56 Red Seal trades and the 2009 cohort for five reasons:
It is important to note, however, that we do not distinguish between journeypersons with and without actual Red Seal endorsement within these 56 specific trades; we simply track the earnings of all journeypersons with provincial certifications in these trades.
25 The 2008 cohort irregularities are mostly driven by an unusually large number of Rig Technicians compared to later cohorts, which did not influence the overall earnings patterns considerably, but did influence them significantly when broken down by stream and trade category.
We first present the earnings of all journeypersons taken together and then break them down by gender and stream. This is followed by an analysis of earnings by trade category, first for all journeypersons together, and then broken down by gender once more. Finally, we present the earnings of journeypersons for the five trades with the largest number of certificates granted within each trade category.
In examining these earnings patterns following certification, it is important to bear in mind that we do not have information on individuals’ occupations. Therefore, the earnings presented here are of journeypersons regardless of where they may be employed. In other words, while someone may hold a particular trade certification, we cannot determine whether that individual is working in that trade.
All Journeypersons in Red Seal Trades
Earnings by Red Seal versus All Other Trades
Figure 1 compares the average earnings of journeypersons across All Trades (representing the 385 trades available in RAIS), as well as those in Red Seal (56 trades) and non–Red Seal Trades (the remaining 329 trades).26 Since journeypersons in Red Seal trades represent over three-quarters of the All Trades group, the former pulls the earnings of the latter upwards, which explains why they have very similar earnings levels and trajectories. Earnings in the non–Red Seal trades are quite a bit lower, but their earnings trajectory seems to mirror that of the Red Seal trades.
On average, the first-year earnings of the All Trades and Red Seal Trades groups are $62,200 and $64,000 and increase to $71,600 and $73,800, respectively, eight years following certification. The average difference in any given year is approximately $2,400 (or 3%). Earnings grew steadily following certification — 3.4% per year in the first five years — and fell in the two subsequent years, driven by slowdowns in the Metal and Electrical trades. Average earnings then picked again eight years following certification.
The downturn observed after year five (representing 2014) is also recorded by other cohorts (Figure B2). Upon further investigation, it seems to be most pronounced in Alberta and the Atlantic Provinces, as well as in trade groups largely associated with the energy sector. This decline is also reflected in the number of certificates granted (Table A2).
Earnings by Gender
Figure 2 presents the earnings of the 2009 cohort of journeypersons by gender. On average, women earn $31,400 in the first year following certification, which is 47% of what men earn at the same point in their career ($67,200 or $35,800 more than women). Eight years out, this differential is essentially unchanged: women earn $35,700, which is 46% of what men earn ($77,000).
These differences are due in part to the different distributions of men and women across trade categories (Section 2). Analyzing earnings by gender in specific trades is not possible due to limited sample sizes, but we do breakdown the earnings by gender and trade categories in Section 3.27 Labour supply decisions leading to differences in hours and weeks worked (including differences due to childrearing and other family responsibilities), as well as pure labour market discrimination, are also important factors said to contribute to these gendered differences in earnings.28
26 The average or mean earnings reflect the arithmetic average earnings across all earners, whereas median earnings represent the level of the person exactly in the middle of the distribution. In other words, 50% of all individuals in the sample have higher earnings, while the other 50% have lower earnings. The mean is slightly higher than the median, indicating that higher earners bring the mean up more than lower earners bring it down, reflecting an underlying unequal distribution. See Section 2 and Appendix Figure B1 for additional information and comparison of mean and median earnings.
27 An interesting extension could be to use the largest trades and break down earnings by gender when possible. Alternatively, using a regression framework could help deal with the small sample sizes.
28 Other studies have determined that women in male-dominated trades tend to have lower earnings than their male counterparts even after controlling for age, completion status and level of education, although the differences become smaller (EPRI-LMIC, 2021).
Earnings by Completers and Qualifiers
Figure 3 compares the earnings of apprenticeship completers (those who complete a program and obtain certification) to trade qualifiers (those who train on the job and obtain certification). Their earnings are similar, but completers consistently earn more. One year following certification, apprenticeship completers earn $65,600 and trade qualifiers $60,300. Eight years out, their earnings increase to $75,900 and $68,700 respectively. Over the years, the gap between the two groups fluctuates between $5,300 and $7,500, representing a 7–10% difference. Exploring these patterns in detail would make for an interesting extension of this project.
Looking at earnings trajectories by trade category in the first year following graduation (Figure 4), those in Mechanical and Electrical trades earn the most, with $76,100 and $74,200, followed by Metal and Vehicle & Related trades, with $73,100 and $66,900. Those with certifications in Architectural & Construction trades and Other trades have the lowest earnings, with $50,200 and $31,800, in their first year following certification. Of course, the trades under each category can have an important role to play in the overall patterns for the group.
Eight years following certification, the ranking of the trade categories from highest to lowest earners remains the same, except that Electrical trades now represent the highest earners, with $85,000. Metal, Mechanical and Vehicle & Related trades are next with $84,100, $84,000 and $80,800. Finally, Architectural & Construction and Other trade categories follow with $56,900 and $38,200.
All trade categories recorded their highest earnings in the fifth year after certification (2014) and experienced a decrease in the two years thereafter, except the Architectural & Construction and Other trade categories, which remained stable over time.
Once again, it is important to recognize that earnings differences across trade categories do not necessarily reflect the causal effects of gaining a credential in one trade or another. Multiple factors contribute to the observed differences, including the underlying abilities of those who enter different trades, the hours and weeks worked, the occupation, the gender composition of each trade category and more.
Earnings by Trade Category and Gender
As mentioned above, presenting earnings by specific trade and gender is not possible since so few women receive trade certifications. As shown in Table 2, women represent less than 2.5% of journeypersons in each category, except for Other where they represent 67%.
However, in looking at the broad trade categories, Figure 5 highlights that women earn less than men in every trade category except Mechanical where the pattern is inconsistent over time. On average, women in Metal trades earn 84% of what men earn in the first year following certification, compared to 79% eight years later. For Electrical trades, the figures are 88% of what men earn in the first year and 85% in year eight. Architectural & Construction and Vehicle & Related trades women earn 86% and 79% of what men do in the first year, compared to 78% and 71% in year eight, respectively. The largest gender earnings gap is observed in the Other trade category, where women are overrepresented. Women in Other trades earn 56% of what men do in the first year, driven in part by men’s overrepresentation as Rig Technicians, one of the highest-earning trades among journeypersons. Eight years after certification, women still earn 54% of what men do in Other trades. Even excluding Rig Technicians, women still earn between 60–67% of what men do.
These earnings differentials, as discussed previously, can be a result of factors that we cannot control for with existing data, such as differences in hours and weeks worked, including differences due to childrearing and other family responsibilities. Other studies on earnings differences in the trades that control for some of these factors still found a difference (albeit smaller), suggesting that discrimination may still be a contributing factor.
Earnings by Trade Category and Gender
Figure 5: Average Earnings of Journeypersons in Red Seal Trades by Trade Category and Gender, 2009 Cohort
(2016 Constant $)
In this section we present the earnings of the five largest individual trades for each category, with size defined by the number of certificates granted (see Table 3). Appendix Figure B3 presents the first- and eighth-year earnings of the 2009 cohort for all Red Seal trades available, ordered from highest to lowest year-eight earnings. As previously mentioned, occupation is not available in the data and earnings are presented by trade certification regardless of occupation.
|Trade Category||% Accounted for by 5 Largest Trades||5 Largest Trades||%|
|Architectural & Construction||86%||Carpenter||57%|
|Lather (Interior Systems Mechanic)||4%|
|Gasfitter – Class A||21%|
|Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic||11%|
|Instrumentation and Control Technician||8%|
|Industrial Mechanic (Millwright)||30%|
|Sheet Metal Worker||10%|
|Vehicle & Related||87%||Automotive Service Technician||40%|
|Heavy Duty Equipment Technician||21%|
|Truck and Transport Mechanic||16%|
|Motor Vehicle Body Repairer (Metal and Paint)||5%|
|Mobile Crane Operator||5%|
In Architectural & Construction, the five largest trades account for 86% of all certificates granted (Carpenters, 57%; Tilesetters, 12%; Roofers, 7%; Bricklayers, 5%; and Lather (Interior Systems Mechanic), 4%).
As shown in Figure 6, Lather (Interior Systems Mechanics) are the highest earners (starting at $53,900 and reaching $60,800 eight years following certification), followed by Carpenters ($51,800 and $60,000), Bricklayers ($46,900 and $55,200), and Roofers ($45,200 and $52,300). Tilesetters ($44,800 and $45,700) record the lowest earnings out of the top five most common trades in Architectural & Construction, but not by a large margin.
Due to sample size issues, only two out of four Electrical trades are presented in Figure 7; however, together they comprise 94% of all certifications granted in this trade category (Construction Electricians, 80%; Industrial Electricians, 14%). While Construction Electricians earn more ($72,000) than Industrial Electricians ($68,100) by close to $4,000, eight years later the opposite is true as Industrial Electricians ($85,300) now earn more than Construction Electricians ($80,800) by close to $5,000.
Out of 10 Mechanical trades (Figure 8), the top five account for 90% of certificates granted (Plumbers, 28%; Gasfitters – Class A, 21%; Steamfitters/Pipefitters, 21%; Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanics, 11%; Instrumentation and Control Technicians, 8%).
Instrumentation and Control Technicians have the highest earnings levels by a substantial margin ($107,600 and $119,200). Along with Steamfitters/Pipefitters ($91,700 and $98,700), they experienced a slight decrease in their earnings in the sixth and seventh years after certification.
Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanics ($74,600 and $85,000), Gasfitters – Class A ($70,300 and $72,100) and Plumbers ($64,000 and $71,400) had somewhat more stable earnings trajectories over the years following certification.
Welders (36%), Industrial Mechanics (Millwrights; 30%), Sheet Metal Workers (10%), Machinists (9%) and Ironworkers (Reinforcing; 4%) collectively represent 90% of the Metal trades, as shown in Figure 9.
Industrial Mechanics (Millwrights) earn the most, starting at $78,800 and reaching $96,900 eight years out. Welders follow with $73,300 in their first year but experienced a decrease six years following certification, reaching $81,400 by year eight. Ironworkers (Reinforcing) experienced something similar with a decrease in year three ($61,600 and $66,800).
Sheet Metal Workers ($65,500) have higher earnings than Machinists ($61,800) in the first year following certification. Eight years out, the opposite is true as Machinists ($76,000) earn more than Sheet Metal Workers ($71,400).
The five largest Vehicle & Related trades represent 87% of all certificates granted in that category (Automotive Service Technicians, 40%; Heavy Duty Equipment Technicians, 21%; Truck and Transport Mechanics, 16%; Motor Vehicle Body Repairers (Metal and Paint) and Mobile Crane Operators, 5% each).
Figure 10 shows that Heavy Duty Equipment Technicians and Mobile Crane Operators are the two highest earning trades in the category with $98,200 and $93,500 upon labour market entry and $110,400 and $106,600 eight years out, respectively.
Truck and Transport Mechanics ($65,700 and $77,400), Automotive Service Technicians ($51,600 and $65,800) and Motor Vehicle Body Repairers (Metal and Paint; $48,600 and $69,000) follow.
In 2009, 99% of all certificates in the Other category were granted in five of the six trades represented (Hairstylists, 63%; Cooks, 25%; Bakers, 4%; Landscape Horticulturists, 4%; and Rig Technicians, 3%). Figure 11 presents their earnings.
The first-year earnings of Rig Technicians were $111,600, which increased to $151,100 five years later. The drop to $85,500 two years later, no doubt due to instability in the industry, recovered to $103,500 in the last year. Rig Technicians significantly raise the average earnings of men in the Other trade category since they represent a large segment of men (see Figure 5) but do not significantly drive the overall Other trade category (see Figure 4) since there are so few of them.
Landscape Horticulturists are the (distant) second highest earners in this category earning $48,800 in their first year following certification and $57,000 eight years out, followed by Cooks ($38,000 and $49,300) and Bakers ($37,500 and $42,400). Hairstylists have the lowest earnings levels at $23,700 and $28,100.
Section 4: The Earnings of Journeypersons and (Selected) PSE Graduates
Upon finishing secondary school, Canadians have before them a set of choices to make regarding their education and training. While many decide to enter the job market directly, others chose to pursue post-secondary education (PSE) or a skilled trade certificate that combines work and study-based training. When considering these options, our public opinion research reveals that individuals consider a wide range of factors, including but not limited to personal interests and preferences; the time, costs and effort associated with the education or training; and potential earnings. Indeed, salary is one of the most sought-after pieces of labour market information.
To help Canadians navigate these decisions and to put the findings presented in this report in a broader education and training context, we align the earnings of journeypersons presented here with the early career earnings of Canadian PSE graduates by credential and field of study presented in our recently published companion report. Placing the earnings of journeypersons alongside PSE graduates is not meant to place greater or lesser value on any one path or in any way to suggest that earnings alone should determine career choices, but rather to provide important insights that will help Canadians make more informed decisions.
Taken together, these reports provide detailed information on the earnings of Canadians who undertake post-secondary education and training. In this section, we present the earnings of individuals who received college-level certificates (typically one-year programs) and diplomas (typically two-year programs), bachelor’s degrees (typically three- to four-year programs) and journeyperson certificates for Red Seal trades (ranging between two and five years and combining work and study-based training).29, 30
In looking at these together (Figure 12), it is important to remember that for both those with trades and those with PSE credentials there is great variation across trade category and field of study, as can be seen in both reports and compared on the two respective interactive dashboards. There is also great variation within each field and category across individuals. Here we provide only overall average earnings across all journeypersons with a Red Seal trade certificate and PSE graduates at the different levels considered. This is an important caveat, especially when considering the information through a gender lens. Further caveats and cautions regarding the interpretation of these earnings patterns are provided below.
Figure 12 illustrates that female journeypersons in their first year following certification in a Red Seal trade earn, on average, $31,500, which is very similar to the earnings levels of women with college-level certificates ($31,800) and college-level diplomas ($32,500). Seven years later, women with trade certificates earn $4,100 less than their counterparts with college-level certificates ($35,500 versus $39,600) and $5,800 less than those with college-level diplomas ($35,500 versus $41,300). However, as discussed above, many women hold certificates in a very narrow set of Red Seal trades (i.e., predominantly Hairstylists, Cooks and Bakers), which are among the lowest paying. This drives the overall average earnings of journeywomen down to the levels observed here. Should the comparison be made to women in specific trade categories — such as electrical, mechanical or metal trades (see Figure 5) — journeywomen clearly record higher average earnings than women with any of the PSE credentials reported here. This makes for potentially great opportunities — not currently being realized — to encourage, guide and support women who may wish to consider pursuing skilled trades.
Men with a Red Seal certificate, on the other hand, have first-year earnings levels of $70,500 compared to men with bachelor’s degrees ($42,800), college-level certificates ($40,500) and diplomas ($37,000). Seven years following certification, men with journeyperson certificates earn $77,900 compared to bachelor’s degree graduates who earn $75,500, followed by college-level certificates ($61,500) and diplomas ($60,900).
29 The PSE report also includes the earnings of graduates with advanced degrees, but here we focus on bachelor’s degrees and college-level certificates and diplomas since these are, like trade programs, typically entered directly from high school with no additional prerequisites.
30 While RAIS data covering journeypersons start in 2008, its post-secondary equivalent — the Postsecondary Information System (PSIS) — only starts in 2010. For a full description of PSIS and the credentials used in the previous study, please see the full report on LMIC’s website.
Figure 12: Average Earnings of PSE Graduates and Journeypersons
in Red Seal Trades, 2010 Cohort
(2016 Constant $)
These comparisons should be viewed in the context of several important caveats. First, as mentioned above, these are only broad averages represented by mean earnings. There is substantial variation in earnings across fields of study and trade categories as well as within groups at the individual level. These distributions generally overlap, meaning that individuals’ earnings will depart from these overall patterns, and in many cases substantially so.
Second, as emphasized in both reports, these earnings patterns do not reflect the causal effects of the training or education on earnings. In particular, earnings would generally differ even in the absence of this training and education due to differences in individual characteristics along a range of dimensions. When correlated with the education and training choices, these individual characteristics alone would affect earnings. These differences are especially relevant in a context where individuals self-select their programs, including both type of credential and specific field/category. These decisions are likely to be based at least in part on where individuals feel they would do best — in terms of earnings as well as other career and life considerations.
Third, these earnings do not represent any kind of rate of return to the education and training gained. Such calculations must take costs into account, which will differ substantially across programs and individuals, reflecting direct monetary costs, the opportunity cost of the time required, along with other factors. Further, different programs — including almost all trades — involve on-the-job training, which can provide earnings that offset the costs of the training and provide labour market experience, which will generally lead to higher earnings after program completion.
Finally, our figures represent earnings only in the early years following the completion of education and training programs. It will be interesting and important to follow these earnings trajectories further over time with the annual updates of the ELMLP as they become available.
In sum, these comparisons are meant to provide context only. Their purpose is to further inform individual Canadians making education and training choices along with other stakeholders regarding the early career earnings associated with some of the education and training pathways available.
Section 5: Conclusion and Future Work
This report and related materials, including the interactive dashboard, presents the results of an analysis of the early career earnings of journeypersons in Canada using the Education and Labour Market Longitudinal Platform (ELMLP). The goal is to inform a wide range of stakeholders, including those making training decisions, institutions offering technical training for apprenticeship programs, policy makers, industry, researchers and the Canadian public.
Overall, we find that for individuals who obtained their certification in 2009 in a Red Seal trade, their first-year earnings averaged $64,000. Earnings grew steadily following certification (4.2% per year), peaked at $76,200 after five years (in 2014), and fell in the subsequent two, rising again to $73,800 eight years following certification.
Earnings vary considerably by type of trade and gender. Women with trade certificates earn only 47% of what men earn in the first year and 46% eight years out, reflecting both earnings differences within each trade category and women being overrepresented in the lower-earning trades.
In addition, in looking at the broad categories of Red Seal journeypersons, those in Mechanical and Electrical trades earn the most, followed very closely by Metal trades, and then by Vehicle & Related trades. There is a substantial gap between the top four earning trade categories and Architecture & Construction and Other.
Finally, to put the findings presented in this report in a broader education and training context, we line up the earnings of journeypersons presented here with those of selected PSE graduates. Placing the earnings of journeypersons alongside PSE graduates is not to place greater or lesser value on any one path or in any way suggest that earnings alone should necessarily determine career choices, but rather to provide important insights that will help Canadians make more informed decisions. We find that compared to PSE graduates, journeywomen tend to earn less overall, driven primarily by the fact that women hold trade certificates in a very narrow set of Red Seal trades (i.e., predominantly Hairstylists, Cooks, and Bakers) which are among the lowest paying. In contrast, journeymen earn more than PSE graduates over the same period, although the gap narrows over time.
Our results are generally in line with what has been found in the skilled trades literature (see EPRI & LMIC, 2021) but go further than other studies in the level of detail of the analysis. Other studies have, of course, adopted different approaches and emphasis.
While this research is intended simply to present the earnings of journeypersons in a descriptive manner, an important next step would be to use regression analysis and other more sophisticated analytical approaches to identify the contributions of various factors to the observed earnings patterns, and to identify earnings patterns by trades after controlling for these influences.
Future work could also investigate in further detail the specific dimensions of the patterns presented here, including stream, gender, general trade category, specific trade and more. Additional elements could include those with actual Red Seal endorsements, completers and non-completers, combinations of trade certifications, mobility and other specific topics.
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