Canadian provinces are stepping up their efforts to integrate newcomers into the workforce. Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario have announced increased funding for provincial foreign credential recognition services, to facilitate the placement of internationally-trained skilled workers and professionals in labour-tight industries.
Given current Canadian immigration requirements for education and work experience, recent groups of newcomers are more skilled than previous generations. As they arrive in Canada in search of employment, government policy for regulated occupations requires that many of these newcomers first have their education and work credentials assessed. Work force shortages around the country have provincial governments scrambling to help newcomers become accredited quickly so that their skills can contribute to economic growth. Within the past month, British Columbia (BC) has announced $500,000 for foreign credential recognition; Ontario has implemented in-person services across the province; and Alberta announced $740,000 to support the Immigrant Access Fund (IAF) program.
Alberta’s Immigrant Access Fund helps newcomers to become certified to work in Canada in their desired occupation by issuing small loans to cover accreditation expenses. Loans of up to $5,000, repayable within four years, help foreign-trained workers to cover tuition and examination fees, school expenses, qualification assessments, and professional association fees. “These people coming over have done all their homework, but they need help with the range of registrations, certification and education to work here,” stated Alberta Immigration Minister Iris Evans at the opening of the Edmonton and North Alberta office of the Immigrant Access Fund.
75 Service Canada centres in Ontario will now be offering in-person foreign credential information and referral services to newcomers to facilitate the assessment and recognition of skills obtained outside of Canada. Canadian Immigration Minister Diane Finley also announced that by the end of 2007, Foreign Credential Referral Office (FCRO) services will be available at 320 Service Canada centres across the country.
Seventeen British Columbia regulatory bodies have been selected to receive funding to improve their foreign credential assessment and licensing practices. Earlier this year, the BC Ministry of Economic Development hosted a workshop with regulatory bodies to develop solutions for a more straightforward, consistent and timely credential assessment process. Selected programs include regulator website translations, online application and self-assessment tools, and the adoption of competency-based assessment tools and programs.
These provincial and federal investments in foreign credential recognition services benefit both internationally-trained job-seekers as well as Canadian employers, who are dependent on newcomers for labour force growth. As explained by Minister Finley, “Helping immigrants get their credentials assessed and recognized more quickly will go a long way towards getting them working in their chosen field, help their chances for success and help us build a stronger Canada.”