Machinist Red Seal Occupational Standard (RSOS)

The Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship (CCDA) recognizes this Red Seal Occupational Standard (RSOS) as the Red Seal standard for the Machinist trade.

Red Seal Occupational Standard Series

Disponible en français sous le titre : Machiniste norme professionnelle du sceau rouge

NOC: 7231

Designation Year: 1965

RSOS Products for Download

The Machinist Red Seal Occupational Standard is developed by Canadian trade representatives. It collects information about the trade as it is practiced across Canada.

This RSOS information is combined in several ways to generate several RSOS Products, each these is based on information contained in the complete RSOS, and is geared to user needs:

Product Purpose
Red Seal Occupational Standard - Machinist (PDF, 3.2 MB) A complete description of all trade activities, skills and knowledge. The Standard defines the trade by collecting and organizing elements together.
Trade Profile - Machinist A quick snapshot of all trade activities in the standard. It can be used to self-assess experience. It can be used to introduce a concise summary of all trade activities to those wanting to learn about the trade. It can also be used for gap analysis.
Red Seal Exam Self-Assessment Guide – Machinist (PDF, 923 KB) Use this self-assessment tool to rate your own understanding and experience with the tasks of the trade that are on the Red Seal examination.

General Information

Description of the Machinist Trade

“Machinist” is this trades official Red Seal occupational title approved by the CCDA. This standard covers tasks performed by machinists whose occupational title has been identified by some provinces and territories of Canada under the following names:

General Machinist x
Machinist x x x x x x x x x x x x

Fully qualified machinists possess the knowledge and abilities to set up and machine using conventional, portable and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines that cut or grind metal and other materials into products with precise dimensions. These machines include lathes, milling machines, saws, grinding machines, drilling machines, boring machines, electrical discharge machines (EDM), line borers and portable milling machines.

Machinists work from drawings, specifications and their own measurements to calculate dimensions, tolerances and types of fit. Precise measurements are critical to machinists work. They must be knowledgeable about the properties of metals and non-metallic materials.

Machinists may work in industries where machines are manufactured, repaired or used. These may include industries that manufacture machinery equipment, motor vehicle or aerospace parts. Machinists produce precision parts that are used in all aspects of manufacturing. They may also work in shipyards, rail yards, refineries, pulp and paper mills, mines, smelters, metal fabricating and repair shops. Some sectors that employ machinists may include oil and gas, medical, research and development and forestry. Shiftwork is common in some companies. Machinists tend to work indoors.

Safety is important at all times. There are risks of injury working with moving machine parts, sharp edges, flying debris and extreme temperatures from heated or chilled materials. Precautions are required while working with manufacturing chemicals and airborne irritants.

Key attributes for people entering this trade are: communication skills, mechanical aptitude, hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, an ability to work independently and knowledge of mathematics and physics. The work often requires considerable standing and the handling of heavy objects. This standard recognizes similarities or overlaps with the work of other tradespeople such as tool and die makers, mould makers, welders and industrial mechanics (millwrights).

Experienced machinists may move into mentoring or supervisory positions. They may transfer their skills to related occupations such as tool and die maker, mould maker, industrial mechanic (millwright) or CNC programmer.

Essential Skills Summary

Essential skills are needed for work, learning and life. They provide the foundation for learning all other skills and enable people to evolve with their jobs and adapt to workplace change.

Through extensive research, the Government of Canada and other national and international agencies have identified and validated nine essential skills. These skills are used in nearly every occupation and throughout daily life in different ways.

A series of CCDA-endorsed tools have been developed to support apprentices in their training and to be better prepared for a career in the trades. The tools can be used independently or with the assistance of a tradesperson, trainer, employer, teacher or mentor to:

The tools are available online or for order at:

The application of these skills may be described throughout this document within the skills and knowledge which support each sub-task of the trade. The most important essential skills for each sub-task have also been identified. The following are summaries of the requirements in each of the essential skills, taken from the essential skills profile.

Machinists require strong reading skills to gather information from forms and labels. They also need to read longer texts such as notes, letters, process sheets, manuals (Machinerys Handbook), specifications, regulations, reports, data collection, books and charts.

Document use is a significant essential skill for this trade. Machinists need to be able to refer to and interpret several types of documents such as inspection reports, work orders, charts, sketches, drawings, set-up sheets and job travellers. They also need to be able to enter information or create these documents.

Writing skills are used by machinists to record job procedures, write work-related requests, record tooling lists and setup sheets, and record work instructions and process sheets.

Some tasks performed by machinists require oral communication skills, including exchanging technical information with co-workers in their trade and other trades, discussing work with supervisors, interacting with clients and instructing less-experienced machinists and apprentices.

Numeracy skills are very important in the everyday work of machinists. Machinists frequently calculate measurements and dimensions of raw materials and finished products to make sure they match specifications. They must calculate speeds and feeds for the machines that they operate. Layout of workpieces requires strong geometry and trigonometry skills.

Machinists must plan, make allowances and corrections, and determine the best sequence of work processes. They use problem solving skills to assess and adjust machining processes according to unforeseen circumstances. Machinists must make decisions and use critical thinking about the materials, processes or tools to use for specific jobs. They may initiate design changes. They may be responsible for scheduling and delegating tasks to apprentices or junior machinists.

Much of machinists work may be done independently such as interpreting, planning, producing and repairing parts. Machinists may work with other machinists to carry out new or complex tasks, or work on larger jobs. They may also work with engineering staff and computer programming staff.

Machinists may use computers and CAD software in their work. They may use computers to access database information, reference electronic manuals and resources, communicate with others or perform Internet research. Certain equipment such as CMM and CNC machines require digital technology skills.

Machinists are required to stay abreast of new technologies, products and trends in the machining industry.

Trends in the Machinist Trade


Conventional machining skills continue to form the basis of the trade and are pre-requisite to being able to set up and program CNC machine-tools safely and efficiently.

Hybrid machines, which combine conventional and CNC features, continue to be part of the market.

Many advances in machine-tool configuration and technology, in particular CNC, as well as advances in cutting tools and fluids have increased efficiency and accuracy.

Quick change and modular tooling allows for easier and faster tool changes during setup and CNC machine operation. It allows for increased spindle uptime and simple tool pre-setting outside of the machine.

Additive manufacturing is a relatively new process that may open a lot of doors for manufacturing of complex components that were previously impossible or cost prohibitive to manufacture. Parts can be “grown” to near net size with complex internal porting and passages. Often, very little machining is required to bring these parts to their finished state. This technology is still being developed and as yet is not a prominent part of the machinist trade.

Most large scale manufacturers use some type of advanced data analysis to track factors such as whether machines are online or offline, number of parts produced, percentage of parts meeting requirements and whether delivery schedules are being met. Currently, this type of system is mainly implemented in high production environments.

Robotics continues to be a great asset in a high production atmosphere. They can be used to load and unload parts, sort components and assist in quality control. Their cost and complexity of setup may be a deterrent for smaller operations with lower production numbers.

Single setup machining uses multiple axes to reduce lead times and increase efficiency.

High-speed machining has the potential to revolutionize certain machining operations. By using specialized cutters and higher than conventional cutting speeds and feed rates, dramatically higher metal removal rates can be achieved while reducing heat in the cut as well as reducing cutting pressure.

Flexible manufacturing systems have been introduced; these machining systems can handle varying levels of manufacturing with a quickly changing machining environment. This method of producing goods is readily adaptable to changes in the product being manufactured.

Machinists may use computer-aided design (CAD) and/or computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software to program CNC machines to cut parts. Stand-alone toolpath verification software can provide a solution for detecting and avoiding tool and machine collisions. It can also verify NC codes.

Tool inventory systems allow for real time inventory status of all tools and instant assignment to particular jobs/tasks. With automation and development of wireless technology, tool management can go directly to the machine and machine operator. It improves security, storage and inventory control.

Work Practices

Workcells are areas set up within a manufacturing facility. They are part of the Lean Manufacturing Process. They are task focused and logically laid out to optimize resources, improve workflow and quality, and reduce waste.

Safety and Environmental

Enforcement and penalties for safety violations are becoming more stringent across Canada. These cover mandatory access to inspectors and stop work orders imposed until safety issues are resolved.

More stringent environmental regulations are having an impact on manufacturing processes across Canada.

Industry Expected Performance

All tasks must be performed according to the applicable jurisdictional codes and standards. All health and safety standards must be respected and observed. Work should be done efficiently and to a high quality without material waste or environmental damage. All requirements of employers, engineers, designers, manufacturers, clients and quality control policies must be met. At a journeyperson level of performance, all tasks must be done with minimal direction and supervision. A machinist should have or endeavour to have a strong understanding of engineering symbols, terms and practices to ensure they understand the important details contained in engineering drawings. As a journeyperson progresses in their career there is an expectation they continue to upgrade their skills and knowledge to maintain pace with industry and promote continuous learning in their trade through mentoring of apprentices.

Language Requirements

It is expected that journeypersons are able to understand and communicate in either English or French, which are Canadas official languages. English or French are the common languages of business as well as languages of instruction in apprenticeship programs.


The CCDA and ESDC wish to express sincere appreciation for the contribution of the many tradespersons, industrial establishments, professional associations, labour organizations, provincial and territorial government departments and agencies, and all others who contributed to this publication.

Special thanks are offered to the following representatives who contributed greatly to the original draft of the standard and provided expert advice throughout its development:

This standard was prepared by the Apprenticeship and Regulated Occupations Directorate of ESDC. The coordinating, facilitating and processing of this analysis were undertaken by employees of the standards development team of the Trades and Apprenticeship Division and of Ontario, the host jurisdiction for this trade.