Recognition of immigrants’ foreign-acquired education and training (credentials) has become a hot topic of late. Recent studies highlight the increasing importance of immigration to the Canadian labour market. Over the past ten years, newcomers to Canada have accounted for 70 percent of Canada’s labour force growth, and by the middle of the next decade, immigration will fuel nearly all of this growth.
Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC), the provincial governments, and the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC) have been working together with licensing and regulatory bodies, Canadian employers, and other stakeholder groups towards the common goal of facilitating the integration of foreign-trained workers into the Canadian labour force and Canadian society. In 2003-2004, the Government of Canada provided $68 million over six years to implement the Foreign Credential Recognition Program (FCR).
These interest groups are building comprehensive strategies to improve the process of verifying that internationally-obtained education and job experience are consistent with Canadian worker standards. However, foreign skilled workers can and should also take responsibility for credential assessment. Those who are proactive and get the accreditation process started sooner than later will be better prepared to find work in Canada.
The Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC) (www.cicic.ca) is a central information source and a good starting point. Additionally, some initial research about Canadian accreditation criteria can be done on the Government of Canada’s National Occupational Classification (NOC) Matrix. Provided on this website are detailed descriptions of Canadian employment requirements by occupation.
Below are some guidelines that Canadian immigrants, or soon-to-be immigrants, can follow to better prepare themselves for their careers in Canada.
First of all, you will need to determine whether your line of work is considered a regulated, or a non-regulated occupation in Canada.
A regulated occupation is governed by provincial and occasionally federal laws and controlled by a regulatory body or professional organization. Regulated occupations, such as engineers, medical doctors, nurses, electricians, plumbers, veterinarians, and physiotherapists comprise about 20 per cent of the Canadian work force. The appropriate regulatory body is responsible for setting entry requirements to assess applicants’ credentials and then to certify, license, or register them, as the case may be. Some occupations that are regulated in one province may not be regulated in others, so it is worth looking into when selecting the province in which you intend to reside.
The majority of occupations in Canada are non-regulated, meaning that there are no legal requirements or restrictions regarding licensing or certification. For these occupations, it is up to the potential Canadian employer to decide whether an applicant possesses the required training and experience.
Once you have determined whether your occupation is regulated in the province in which you intend to reside, you are better equipped for the process of having your credentials assessed and recognized.
There are unique requirements for each regulated occupation, as prescribed by the provincial professional association or regulatory body. Requirements vary from province to province, typically including examinations, supervised periods of work experience, and language competency. As a first step, you should contact the professional association that governs your occupation in your home country to inquire if it has links to any similar associations in Canada. The next step is to contact CICIC to get the name and contact information of the appropriate regulatory body in the province where you intend to settle. The regulatory association will provide you with information about the assessment procedure and the specific requirements and costs associated with becoming accredited to work in your occupation in Canada.
For non-regulated occupations, there is no specific process for credential assessment. Given that it is up to the potential employer to decide if the applicant is qualified for the position, the process of skills assessment in non-regulated occupations is somewhat subjective. That being said, there are ways that you can help facilitate this process for you potential Canadian employers. Start by contacting the organization that represents your occupation in your home country. Then contact CICIC for information and advice about similar organizations in Canada. You should also consider contacting Canadian employers in your occupation to ask them about the qualifications they require when making hiring decisions.
If there are no professional organizations responsible for your occupation in the province where you intend to reside, you can hire a qualifications assessment service. For a fee, these agencies will provide expert advice on how your qualifications compare to credentials obtained in Canada. The evaluations do not guarantee that Canadian employers, post-secondary institutions, and professional regulatory bodies will recognize your credentials, however it will help them understand your academic background and your work experience.
Canada recognizes the need for skilled labour from abroad and is creating and implementing strategies to better utilize the talent of newcomers. Keep in mind that it does take some research and determination on your part in order to further yourself along on the path to meaningful and relevant work in Canada.