Jason Kenney, the federal minister of employment and social development, says apprenticeship programs need to be streamlined.
"We need to break down the unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy that exists to people getting their apprenticeships done and getting their journeyman ticketed status and moving around to where the work is," Kenney said in Fredericton.
The project will cost $7.8 million and will be paid for by both levels of government, with Ottawa spending $4.3 million.
Canada has 13 different apprenticeship systems with different requirements for training, certification and standards.
Within the next four years, Kenney said the project in Atlantic Canada will harmonize 10 trades , beginning with bricklayers, cooks, instrumentation and control technicians, and construction electricians.
He said nationally, only about half of the young people who go into apprenticeships actually complete them and get their journeyman status.
The income prospects for people who become welders or electricians are better than they are for those who achieve a bachelor's degree in political science, he said.
Kenney said harmonizing apprenticeship requirements will create well-paying jobs by helping employers hire the skilled apprentices they need.
Andrew Dawson, Atlantic Canadian representative for the Building-Construction Trades Department, supported the approach taken by the provinces and Ottawa.
"There's a value to harmonizing those skills and that testing so that individuals can freely cross the borders back and forth, and companies bidding for contracts and training individuals receive the same qualifications in the same workforce in the Atlantic region," Dawson said.
"Hopefully this will evolve across the country."
New Brunswick Premier David Alward welcomed the changes, saying the program will improve worker mobility and reduce duplication.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said all four provinces will benefit.
"These changes are another step toward our goal of modernizing Nova Scotia's apprenticeship system, and will be good for the entire region," he said in a statement. "Atlantic Canada will lead the country with this project."