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Canadian Certifications, Red Seal Certificates and too much Red tape?

After spending hours this past weekend studying for the Canadian pleasure craft operators card, I took a few minutes to reflect on the effect role testing and certification has on Canadian life, business and careers. Canada’s regulations require tests for thousands of skills and professions to ensure they will be done safely. Interestingly the way these tests are administered across Canada varies greatly as does the impact they have on careers and every day life. Having operated canoes, kayaks, speed boats and even commercial fishing vessels I was a little put off when I started the process.
The Pleasure Craft Operator card is now mandatory in Canada and requires a 45 minute exam which examines boating and marine knowledge. This summer we have seen boating tragedies on both the west coast and east coast that have involved multiple fatalities. This testing did not prevent them but hopefully it prevented others from happening this summer and next. This was put in place over 10 year implementation period and a much longer consultation process with many parties including recreational boaters, professional mariners and search and rescue personnel, the transportation safety board and the Canadian Coast guard. The purpose is to improve people’s knowledge so they can enjoy boating safely and responsibly. Some people say it is too easy but in reality it ensures a basic level of knowledge when boating and is responsible for saving some lives.
In Ontario enrolling in an Inter-Provincial exam to test your knowledge of Power Line Technician or Heavy Duty Mechanic/Technician can be done in one day as long as the candidate has documented experience in their trade and the money to pay the exam fee. A heavy duty mechanic could be responsible for a transportation vehicle and the lives of dozens of people.  In other provinces the registration process takes months and costs over $500 to administer the same multiple choice exam. Skill and trade certification is an excellent thing that shows a person has knowledge about the work they will be expected to perform on the job.
Some individuals and groups feel there needs to be more rigorous and hands on testing to ensure this knowledge translates into skills which can be performed on the job. One of the great difficulties in this is how technology and time change jobs so drastically such testing could quickly become outdated and leave candidates no better off then knowledge testing. A Heavy Equipment Technician trained and tested 30 years ago would have had no exposure to computer diagnostic equipment but will have had the opportunity to see the changes and advances in electronics over time. The knowledge they displayed on the Red Seal exam 30 years ago will ensure they have the ability to learn and understand new concepts but it is on the job training, mentoring and continuing challenging of skills that will help them continue to learn.
Every person hired needs to display credentials and then their continued knowledge and skill development. A thorough phone interview and up to date skills testing can assist in the process to ensure these skills will assist your business and keep everyone safe. Nothing will replace having knowledgeable senior staff on site to interview and do hands on assessments of skills once a professional is hired.