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Post-secondary Education: Vocational Programs

Postsecondary vocational programs are an alternative to academic training. Vocational programs are the training of choice in many trades, such as, automotive, plumbing, cosmetology, electrical work, construction work, assembly work, basic office/clerical positions as well as entry level nursing and attendant care positions. Vocational programs are offered at many public community colleges and private trade schools. They include instruction in theoretical academics, however, their focus is on the functional academics or applied skills needed to perform well in the identified occupations.

The goal of postsecondary vocational training is to receive a license or certificate confirming your successful completion of the stated program. Oftentimes there is a competency test that you must pass at the end of your training as well to ensure you have the skills to do the job you’ve been trained to do. If you are considering enrolment in a postsecondary vocational training program, be sure to first review the Postsecondary Vocational Programs Checklist.

In some occupations, classroom training is not required; instead you may have to find someone doing the kind of work you want to do and see if they’re willing to take you on as an apprentice. Apprentices work with a skilled worker, often helping with basic tasks such as conveying materials, tools, or equipment to job sites or helping the master craftsman with heavy lifting, clean-up, or set-up. Apprentices learn the trade or craft by working beside the master craftsman and watching, listening, asking questions, and attempting tasks under the skilled worker’s supervision. The length of apprenticeships varies based on the level of skill acquisition required, but these details are typically negotiated between the master craftsman and the prospective apprentice. Likewise, details concerning salary, hours, tool usage, uniforms or protective gear, etc. are negotiated in advance between the trainer and the trainee.

Many countries regulate trade apprenticeships and require a certain number of documented hours, in addition to competency testing at completion of an apprenticeship. This is frequently the case in the construction trades: carpentry, masonry, electrical work, painting, etc. Once the trainee completes the required apprentice training and passes the final examination, he or she is typically certified and eligible to join a union of skilled workers in the trade learned.​​​​