Language Benchmarking



What are the Canadian Language Benchmarks?

The Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLBs) are a descriptive scale of communicative proficiency in English as a Second Language (ESL) and French as a Second Language (FSL). CLBs assist in achieving a better understanding of the language skills required for the workplace and describe  four different skill areas: , Listening, Speaking Reading, and Writing. The CLBs uses twelve benchmarks which are grouped into three levels of proficiency:

Also, CLBs are the national standards for describing, measuring and recognizing second language proficiency of adult immigrants and prospective immigrants for living and working in Canada. Finally, language benchmarking serves as a foundation for language assessments and development of targeted ESL training for both immigrants and domestic workers, and helps training providers to develop targeted employment training.

It is important to note that the CLB level should not be used as a sole indicator of readiness for challenging Interprovincial Examinations

Language Benchmarking of the Red Seal Trades

In 2007, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (on behalf of the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship) awarded a contract to the Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks to complete the following language benchmarking activities:

While OLAs are  referenced to nationally validated sources of data (CLB, Essential Skills profiles and National Occupational Standards Documents)  the Benchmarking reports are an inventory of observed and analysed communication tasks. The OLAs provide an interface as well as an inventory in a standard format for ease of comparison to other trades or occupations. OLAs are used by language course developers.

Findings of the Red Seal Language Benchmarking Initiative

The final reports of the Language Benchmarking initiative provided excellent feedback to the Red Seal program. According to the reports, the majority of Interprovincial Red Seal examinations were determined to be at the same CLB level as the language level used in the workplace. As such, the English and French language levels needed to successfully challenge the Red Seal examination were found to be in sync with the level of language required in the workplace.

Furthermore, the Language Benchmarking research indicates that the Red Seal exams are developed at language levels that are fair to ESL and FSL exam candidates and that the exams should not be considered barriers to certification for these candidates.



Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program - Backgrounder

The Red Seal Program was established to provide greater mobility across Canada for skilled workers. Through the program, apprentices who have completed their training and certified journeypersons, are able to obtain a Red Seal endorsement on their Certificates of Qualification and Apprenticeship by successfully completing an Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Examination.

The program encourages standardization of provincial and territorial apprenticeship training and certification programs through the National Occupational Analyses (NOAs), which are developed for each Red Seal trade. The Red Seal endorsement allows qualified tradespersons to practice the trade in any province or territory in Canada where the trade is designated without having to write further examinations.

Continuing efforts are underway both to expand the program and to streamline the existing process for the development and revision of National Occupational Analyses and Red Seal examinations.

Each of the provinces and territories in Canada has the legislated authority to develop and deliver their own unique apprenticeship training programs for individuals working in the skilled trades.  As such, there are in excess of 300 apprenticeship programs across Canada. As well, the responsibility for associated certification of these workers also lies with the provincial and territorial jurisdictions.




•1.       Benchmarking the Red Seal Examinations

As the main contractor for the language benchmarking studies, the CCLB relied on several sub-contracted analysts to complete the language benchmarking reports for the CCDA and HRSDC:

Trade English Exam
CLB Level
French Exam
CLB Level
1. Automotive Service Technician 6 6/7
2. Sprinkler System Installer 6 6
3. Plumber 6/7 6/7
4. Hairstylist 5/6 5/6
5. Machinist 6 5/6
6. Carpenter 6 6
7. Automotive Painter 6 6
8. Motor Vehicle Body Repairer 6 6
9. Industrial Mechanic (Millwright) 6 6
10. Steamfitter/Pipefitter 6/7 6/7
Automotive Service Technician (original study completed by Manitoba in 2000) 8/9 N/A

•2.             Benchmarking the Work Sites in the Red Seal Trades

The language benchmarking of English worksites was completed by the CCLB and its subcontractor, Red River College. Typically, three worksites in three different jurisdictions were chosen for the research. Once agreement by interested worksites was reached to participate in the project, data was collected in several ways.

First, interviews were conducted with managers/supervisors following an approved interview protocol, and information was recorded. In addition, interviews were conducted with employees following similar protocol. Observations of tradespersons performing job tasks were also carried out in the workplace.

Researchers noted verbatim language and communication strategies used by employees to perform their tasks. During interviews and observations, reading and writing texts used at the worksite were collected. When possible, ESL employees were assessed in English Speaking and Listening proficiency using the CLBPT. Using this mixed methods approach to gather data helped to confirm and interpret the data and added to the reliability of the final results.

After all data was submitted, all researchers conferred to discuss findings and decide on final CLB Levels (Listening Speaking, Reading and Writing)  to be assigned as English language demands for each identified trades. 

Trade CLB Levels
Speaking Listening Reading Writing
Hairstylist 6/7 6/7 5/6 4
Machinist 4/5 5 4/5 3/4
Automotive Service Technician 5/6 5/6 6 4/5
Steamfitter/Pipefitter 6 6/7 5/6 5
Industrial Mechanic (Millwright) 6 7 6/7 4/5


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