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Recognition of foreign credentials – A priority for Canada and provincial governments

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In the Government of Canada’s recent Speech from the Throne, Governor General Michaëlle Jean stated that the federal government will “work with the provinces to make the recognition of foreign credentials a priority”.  In addition to the establishment of the Foreign Credential Referral Office last year, provincial governments have been working to develop tailor-made plans to ensure that newcomers can quickly integrate into the workforce.  This month, Alberta introduced a new program.

The Canadian business community, which has been calling for the acceleration of foreign credential recognition to ease skilled worker shortages, applauded the Government of Canada’s recognition of this issue as a priority in its Throne Speech.

Foreign qualification recognition is an important step in the newcomer settlement process.  It verifies that education, skills, and work experience obtained outside Canada are in line with the standards established for Canadian workers.  The process involves many stakeholder groups including professional regulatory organizations, educational institutions, industry councils, non-government organizations, and providers of foreign credential recognition services.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada runs the Foreign Credential Referral Office (FCRO), which provides in-person foreign credential referral services for internationally-trained newcomers at 320 Service Canada centres across the country and has implemented overseas orientation sessions as well.  The FCRO website, which offers information about occupations in various locations in Canada (local labour market, job duties, skill requirements, wage rates, etc.) has seen a lot of traffic in its first year of operations, as has its dedicated phone service.

The provinces have also been proactive in improving the foreign credential recognition process, intent on helping newcomers contribute to the workforce to their full abilities.

This month, Alberta released A Foreign Qualifications Recognition Plan for Alberta.  The plan was developed through consultation with stakeholders and various government ministries.

The key features of the plan are:

  • To create a $1-million Innovation Fund to encourage the development of innovative and flexible approaches to foreign qualifications assessment;
  • To improve access to information and resources for employers, immigrants and potential newcomers;
  • To develop International Education Guides which will include comprehensive information on educational systems and credentials in other countries, along with comparisons to Alberta standards; and
  • To develop occupational profiles detailing the certification, licensing, or assessment process.

“Streamlining foreign qualification recognition is a ‘win-win’ scenario for newcomers to our province and for Alberta,” stated Doug Horner, Alberta Minister of Advanced Education and Technology.  “This plan will help expand our labour market, strengthen our economy and provide opportunities for immigrants to make the most of the skills they’ve brought to out province.”