CertWORK+ Backgrounder

How we got started

With the support of the Government of Canada, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) have a successful record of collaboration that goes back over 30 years. The partnership started in 1984 with the formation of the Canadian Labour Market and Productivity Centre and continued in 1996 with the creation of the Canadian Labour and Business Centre. In recent years, the CLC and CME formed the Joint Venture Committee (JVC) to work together on a variety of innovative projects related to workplace training, given the looming crisis of retirements from the workforce by the boomer generation and the need for gearing up the development of the pipeline for new workers.

Lessons from the Roundtables on Workforce Skills

In 2010, The Minister of Employment and Skills Development Canada asked the JVC to organize five national Roundtables on Workforce Skills that would be led by a tri-partite agreement between the CLC, CME, and the Government of Canada.  By inviting senior industry and labour leaders, they wanted to understand the issues concerning skills development, job mobility, apprenticeship training, and, other aspects of workforce development on which they could work together.

One of the significant outcomes of the Roundtables was universal agreement on the need for standards in manufacturing to support skills development in the sector.  There is ample evidence to support the need for the development of work-based, employer and union-supported standards: According to the HRSDC study, “Looking-Ahead: A 10-Year Outlook for the Canadian Labour Market (2006-2015)”, there is, and will continue to be, a significant demand for manufacturing managers due to retirements and labour market development.

In addition to the need for supervisors and managers, workers on the shop floor are working in an environment quite different to the one in which they worked over a decade ago:  the move to lean manufacturing has had an impact on all levels of the organization.  Moreover, the introduction of more sophisticated technology and workplace restructuring in the manufacturing sector has made it critical for its production workforce to acquire increased technical skills, and, often, the required essential skills set as a building block for more technical training.

The birth of CertWORK+

In Canada, the JVC received funding to develop CertWORK+, an integrated system of standards, competencies, and performance indicators that covered six positions in operations:  Manager, Supervisor, Lead Hand, Machine Operator, Assembler, and, Material Handler.

The system of standards and competencies was based on the excellent CertWORK program from the Centre for Education and Work in Manitoba.  It had been originally been developed to help immigrants with management experience from their home country “Canadianize” their expertise for the Canadian manufacturing industry.  It was based on a Prior Learning and Recognition (PLAR) model.  The addition of Production Worker standards made a full complement of occupations in manufacturing operations.  The new standards and competencies were validated by nationally by employers and unions.

International Recognition

In the United States, the National Association of Manufacturers, recognizing the same needs, contracted with the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council (MSSC) to develop standards for entry level positions in manufacturing, resulting in the creation of the Certified Production Technician certificate.

Once it was known that the U.S. and Canada were on the same path regarding standards, the MSSC analyzed the CertWORK+ production worker positions and found them to be virtually the same.  It was agreed that Canada and the US would sign an MOU, agreeing that the standards were equivalent, thus providing Canadian industry and labour international recognition of the CertWORK+ standards for workers who became certified.


Certifiably Brilliant

CertWORK+ is a national work-based assessment and certification system for the manufacturing industry developed through a Joint Venture between Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).  The CertWORK+ system provides employers with the tools to identify and assess applicants’ skills against a set of workplace standards and accompanying performance indicators. It provides production workers an opportunity to have their skills formally recognized with a certificate and improve their job opportunities and mobility across Canada.

CertWORK+ is a practical tool for manufacturers to assess and have certified employee skills based on actual workplace experience across three production worker roles and three leadership levels. Funded by the federal government, CertWORK+ is the first program of its kind in Canada.

A smarter way to recruit, hire and promote, CertWORK+ will put everyone on the same page simplifying the process of hiring and being hired. For employers, recruitment will become far more efficient: mandatory certifications can be stipulated in recruitment ads, public job boards, company websites, etc. Conversely, when a worker applies for a job or promotion, simply listing their CertWORK+ certifications on a resume will quickly and definitively, inform employers of their potential suitability.  CertWORK+ certification standards will remain the same across manufacturing organizations in Canada, improving career mobility for workers.

History of The Joint Venture

Left to right: Hassan Yussuff  and Jayson Myers.


Hassan Yussuff and Jayson Myers sign the MOU that makes CertWORK+
a project of the joint venture.

The Joint Venture between Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters and The Canadian Labour Congress began informally in 1984 and was formalized legally in 2009.  It was designed to address issues of mutual interest and to develop projects and research that are jointly managed and directed for the benefit of manufacturing.

The Canadian Labour and Business Centre (CLBC) was established in 1984 as a ‘national forum for dialogue and research on Canadian labour market and skills issues.’ The intent of the Centre was to improve the relations between business and labour in Canada and to provide a center for dialogue and consensus building between those two groups. Governments, universities, colleges, and other interests also participated in CLBC activities.

The Joint Venture took over the Work and Learning Knowledge Centre in 2007  (WLKC) after the CLBC was wound down, but when it still was a component of the CLBC and had a couple of years left on its contract.  The purpose of the WLKC was to identify and capture existing knowledge on workplace learning through research and roundtables, package it, and use it to influence the learning decisions of stakeholders groups.

In 2009, the CME-CLC Joint Venture formally established the Centre for Workplace Skills, which had grown out of the WLKC. In 2013 the Centre for Workplace Skills ended, and the Joint Venture Committee applied for funding for the National Occupational Standards and Certification in Manufacturing (now called CertWORK+); which was a project identified through the roundtables. In 2014, Hassan Yussuff and Jayson Myers signed the MOU that made CertWORK+ a project of the Joint Venture. CertWORK+ began as a two and a half year project.

<b>Canadian Labour Congress (CLC)</b>
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC)
The Canadian Labour Congress is the national voice of the labour movement, representing 3.3 million Canadian workers. The CLC is the umbrella organization for dozens of affiliated Canadian and international unions, as well as provincial federations of labour and regional labour councils. The Canadian Labour Congress represents the interests of more than three million affiliated workers in every imaginable occupation from coast to coast to coast.

Hassan Yussuff is the President of the Canadian Labour Congress. He has progressed from the factory floor of automotive manufacturing plants to the highest position in the country’s labour movement. Hassan has a long history of remarkable achievements, becoming the CLC’s first person of color elected to an executive position in 1999 as Executive Vice-President. A highly active union leader in Canada and in the international arena, Hassan has a long history of representing Canada on the international stage, including as an observer to the first democratic South African elections in 1994 that elected Nelson Mandela as President. In 2012, Hassan was elected president of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA) for a four-year term. TUCA represents more than 50 million workers in 29 countries.