Armed forces credentials a pathway to Red Seal certification

When Paul Robins joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1988 as an airframe technician, little did he know how much the decision would change his life. “I was not an academic,” he explains. “I didn’t know what I was going to do after I finished high school because college and university did not appeal to me.”
That was when Robins decided to enter the military. During a recruitment session, Robins saw video presentations about all the trades training opportunities available to members of the Canadian Armed Forces. The work done on airplanes really sparked his interest.
“I loved airplanes and I’d always had an interest in fixing things. I decided I had finally found my calling,” he says. Robins spent the next 13 years in Cold Lake, Alberta, where he worked primarily in the CF18 shop on flight controls, hydraulic fuel systems and landing gear.
After more than a decade working in the same place, Robins felt he needed a change. He evaluated his skills and knowledge, then decided to switch gears and become a Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic for the armed forces. In 2001, Robins began training at the Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering in Gagetown, New Brunswick.
“That was a huge learning curve for me,” he recalls, adding that the school offered a 10-month course that combined levels one and two of the technical training program required for his new trade of choice.
Following completion of the training, Robins was posted in Winnipeg. He describes his experience working on the base in Winnipeg as “influential.” The wide variety of equipment he encountered ranged anywhere from 1950s vintage to the latest models. “This enabled me to see how equipment has evolved over time,” he says.
Red Seal certificate
After working on the base in Winnipeg for seven years, Robins acquired his military credentials, allowing him to work in his trade anywhere in Canada. He felt, however, that this was not enough. “I didn’t feel that I had completed my journey without receiving a Red Seal certificate,” he says.
Soon afterwards, he saw an advertisement from an employer looking to recruit Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic apprentices. This was Robins’ chance to reach his goal of completing the Red Seal exam to become a certified journeyperson.
“I was a little intimidated to be back at school in my forties,” he notes, “but I’m so glad I put my age aside to complete the course.” In December 2010, Robins received what he describes as “one of the best-ever Christmas presents.” He had passed his Red Seal exam.
New regulation
On Nov. 7, 2014, the Manitoba government announced a new regulation that removes barriers for military tradespeople to transfer their armed forces experience into well-paying civilian jobs. This pathway will provide the opportunity for veterans who have military credentials in a skilled trade to challenge the Red Seal exam free of charge.
Robins describes this news as monumental. “People in the armed forces do not give themselves enough credit for what they’ve learned during their service,” he says. “This new measure will boost their confidence because it recognizes the value of the skills they’ve acquired and the work they do. I hope that this will prompt other veterans to take the same step I took and write their exam.”
To learn more about the new regulation and how to apply, visit the Apprenticeship Manitoba website at
-Apprenticeship Manitoba

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