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New hope for foreign-trained professionals

By Lorraine Graves

Published 4:18 PDT, Mon August 26, 2019

Canada has a point system for admitting immigrants.

Canada has a point system for admitting immigrants.

For many, their professional and educational qualifications help them to be admitted. Unfortunately, many find once they get here that those qualifications are not recognized. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, nurses, architects, teachers and more can no longer practice the very profession that got them into Canada. Doctors clean the grill at burger joints, engineers pound roofing nails, highly skilled nurses change children or elders’ nappies and the list goes on.

All this while Canada is short of people with these skills and education.

“Our future prosperity depends on making sure that no untapped talent is left behind,” says Maryam Monsef, federal minister of International Development and Minister for Women and Gender Equality.

Today at a press conference at S.U.C.C.E.S.S., Monsef spoke on behalf of Patty Hajdu, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, to announce a programs addressing these problems facing immigrants and employers. 

“The Foreign Credential Recognition Program (FCRP) provides funding to provincial and territorial governments, regulatory bodies, national associations and credential assessment agencies to enhance the foreign credential recognition process,” says Monsef.

Many of the associations that grant accreditation to professionals such as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC or the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia, have argued they have neither the time nor the funding to assess foreign credentials. The FCRP will help with that bottle neck.

Monsef says, “Currently, the skills credential assessment process phase can take years between applying to a regulator to getting their license and finding a job.”

Too often, an immigrant must start work right away to support themselves and their family, usually at a low-paying service job, so they cannot afford to regain their qualifications once they arrive in Canada.

The new program hopes to soften the financial burden to immigrants as well. A new loans program will be offered to those with foreign credentials who need to take Canadian qualifying courses or exams. The money can be used to help with travel costs, child care costs, exam fees and a host of other barriers to reclaiming their professions. This program offers loans of up to $15,000 per person and direct employment supports.

It’s a two-pronged program to help professionals reestablish their careers once in Canada.

Monsef says, “The foreign credential recognition loans project is more than $3.9 million for an eight-year project to provide loans to help cover credential recognition related expenses as well as support services for navigating recognition processes.”

And the second prong is help getting a professional job. In a country with a population as low as Canada’s, just sending off résumés rarely garners a job, particularly in a skilled field. It takes networking, people who get to know the immigrant, who trust them and who will let them know when a job comes up. According to economist Dr. Roslyn Kunin, only a small percentage of professional jobs are ever advertised. It is only through networking people can even learn about these vacancies.

The last prong of the program looks to address that need by helping find mentors and networks for newcomers. 

“(It’s) more than $3.8 million for a three-year project to help internationally trained newcomers in Toronto and Vancouver find sustainable employment in Canada by facilitating connections with employers,” she says.

As well, Monsef announced an additional $314.8 million over five years for the Canada Service Corps.

Created by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who also serves as youth minister, and open to young Canadians between 15 and 30 years of age, the corps arranges for service placements with a range of not-for-profit organizations as well as for grants ranging from $250 to $1,500 for youth to start their own community-based service project. Much as his father’s Opportunities for Youth Program in the 1970s, where youth could either come up with a project and submit a proposal to be funded by the federal government, or where youth could join an existing service program, the Canada Service Corps seeks to provide young people with the skills they need to organize and run non-profits and businesses in the future.

 “This work is encouraging Canadian youth to get involved in service opportunities where they will gain valuable skills and experience that will benefit them in every aspect of their life,” she says.

 “We know that Canada is at its best and most prosperous when all Canadians have a real and fair chance at success. We know that investing in new Canadians and youth will strengthen our middle class and grow our economy.”

Monsef says these programs will benefit employers hungry for qualified people, immigrants with foreign credentials, and young people looking to enter the workforce.

 “We need the talent and we cannot afford to leave a drop of talent out the workforce.”

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