Plenty to learn from test for teens (Editor’s notes)

Online test a 'clever way' to teach teens about their rights as employees

The land of John Diefenbaker, Gordie Howe and Joni Mitchell is about to give another gift to the country — a safer workplace for young Canadians.

Saskatchewan’s announcement that it’s requiring teenagers who are 14 and 15 to pass a test before they can start working is welcome — and intriguing — news. As of March 31, employers hiring these young workers will be required to ask them for proof of age, written consent from a parent or guardian and a copy of their Certificate of Completion, which proves they’ve passed the test.

Young workers can receive the certificate — free of charge — by answering 15 questions about labour standards and 20 about occupational health and safety. The online test clearly isn’t designed to stop anyone from working — teens have three chances to answer each question and, even if they still get it wrong, they’re directed back to the course to review material. It’s just a clever way to force them to pay attention and learn their rights as employees.

It makes so much sense, it’s a wonder it didn’t happen years ago. When I walked into my first part-time job, washing dishes at a restaurant at the age of 14, I had no idea about my rights and responsibilities. I just did whatever I was told, with visions of that first paycheque dancing in my head.

Some of the work was menial, some of it was interesting and some of it — such as standing in a giant wok, cleaning oven vents as my shoes melted to the heated metal, and operating a gas-powered tiller in the garden out back (with no training on how to even start it, let alone use it) — was downright dangerous.

While there have always been excellent campaigns out there to inform young workers about their rights when it comes to the workplace, safety has always been optional — something to read about if you feel like it and most teens don’t bother.

By making it mandatory, Saskatchewan is breaking new ground. It won’t be long before other provinces jump on this bandwagon, and even take it further. Why limit it to those aged 14 and 15? Why not all teenagers? Heck, why not all workers, period?

The test covers some basic questions but also gets into more complicated areas. HR professionals can test their knowledge by going to Try taking the challenge test — you need to score at least 75 per cent and you only get one chance to answer each question.

I bet you’ll be surprised at how much knowledge the government is requiring young workers to have before they can set foot in your workplace.

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