Eliminating barriers to foreign qualification recognition: Emerging and best practices conference

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

Official title: A joint conference hosted by ESDC; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada; the Province of Nova Scotia; and the Fair Registration Practices Act Review Office of Nova Scotia

Disclaimer:

The opinions and information presented in this report are exclusively those of the conference participants, and not of their home organizations or the conference hosts.

Acknowledgements

The organizers would like to thank all those who participated in the Eliminating Barriers to Foreign Qualification Recognition: The Emerging and Best Practices Conference held on October 2, 2017, in Halifax, NS, including the presenters: the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta, Banpreet Singh Shaney, BioTalent Canada, Broadly Experienced Foreign Architect Program (BEFA), Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council, Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators, Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association, CARE Centre for Internationally Educated Nurses, Dawit Gebremariam Gebretinsae, Engineers Nova Scotia, Government of Nova Scotia, Government of Saskatchewan, Halifax Partnership, Immigrant Employment Council of British Columbia, Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, Medical Council of Canada, Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency, Nova Scotia Power, Ontario Bridge Training Program, Ontario College of Teachers, Pharmacists' Gateway Canada, The Municipal Group of Companies, and YMCA-YWCA of the National Capital Region - Power of Trades.

On this page

Acronyms and abbreviations

Action Plan
An Action Plan for Better Foreign Qualification Recognition
APEGA
Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta
ECA
Educational Credential Assessment
ESDC
Employment and Social Development Canada
FCR
Foreign Credential Recognition
FCRP
Foreign Credential Recognition Program
FLMM
Forum of Labour Market Ministers
FPT
Federal and Provincial-Territorial
Framework
A Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications
FQR
Foreign Qualification Recognition
IEEs
Internationally Educated Engineers
IRCC
Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada
ISANS
Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia
ITIs
Internationally Trained Individuals
IQR
International Qualification Recognition
TESN
Targeted Employment Strategy for Newcomers
WTP
Work-based Trades Practical Assessment

Executive Summary

Immigration is expected to play an increasingly important role in the Canadian economy as the demand for labour rises concurrently with slowed labour force growth and an aging population. Today, about one in five people in Canada are foreign-born with the majority of them being economic immigrants and their families.Footnote 1 Canada seeks to attract, retain talent and support newcomers so that they are able to overcome social and economic barriers to integration. Despite this, Foreign Qualification Recognition (FQR) continues to be a key labour market integration challenge for immigrants in both regulated and non-regulated occupations. There are a slew of initiatives at the federal level in an effort to combat challenges related to labour market integration. For example, Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) Settlement Program provides overseas and in-Canada services to assist immigrants with FQR and employment in their chosen occupation. Complementing these services, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) supports immigrant integration into the labour force through its Foreign Credential Recognition Program (FCRP) funded projects and Targeted Employment Strategy for Newcomers (TESN). Key components of TESN include a loan program that will assist newcomers with the cost of having their foreign credentials recognized; targeted measures to pilot and test innovative approaches to help highly skilled newcomers gain Canadian work experience in their profession/field of study; and, improved pre-arrival supports, so that newcomers can begin the FQR process before arriving in Canada.

Over the past decade, federal and provincial-territorial governments have also been working together with professional regulatory bodies to improve credential recognition processes for internationally trained individuals (ITIs) in Canada, while supporting their main mandate to protect the public. The federal-provincial/territorial governments commitments are set out in A Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications (2009) (Framework) and its associated Action Plan for Better Foreign Qualification Recognition (2014) (Action Plan).

To improve FQR processes, and continue collaborative intergovernmental efforts, ESDC, IRCC, the Province of Nova Scotia, and the Fair Registration Practices Act Review Office of Nova Scotia jointly hosted a conference, Eliminating Barriers to Foreign Qualification Recognition: Emerging and Best Practices Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia on October 2, 2017. The conference complements ongoing work by governments and organizations to improve the qualification recognition process for immigrants and their integration into the Canadian work force. It brought together experts in the field of credential recognition in both regulated and non-regulated occupations to identify best practices in a number of fields from a range of perspectives, including regulators, employers, immigrants, and government and non-governmental organizations. Presentations included emerging/best practices for key steps along an immigrant’s pathway to qualification recognition and employment in Canada, as articulated in the Framework and its associated Action Plan, in particular: Preparation & Pre-Arrival Supports; Assessment Services/Methods; Work-Based Performance Assessment of Competencies; Collaboration & Role of Regulations; and Workforce Participation.

Experiences of and outcomes for immigrants depend on many factors that range from information received and action taken before arrival to Canada, to supports and services in Canada, including connections with employers.

The conference participants identified emerging and best practices to improve the qualification recognition process and/or the integration of immigrants that could be used by government, regulatory bodies, immigrant serving organizations, educational institutions, and others. The list below provides a short summary of the emerging and best practices identified, grouped by the stakeholders that could most likely implement the practice.

(i) Governments & Regulatory Bodies. Identified best practices to support informed decision-making for immigrants before they arrive in Canada and through to employment included:

  • Providing complete and updated information to newcomers for both pre- and post-arrival so that they are able to make informed decisions about coming to Canada, their career pathway(s), and their expectations of finding jobs in their intended occupation; and,
  • Continuing to collaborate among stakeholders, including governments, service providers, employers, regulators, educational institutions and individuals, to provide the supports needed along the pathway from pre-arrival to employment.

(ii) Governments, employers, educational institutions and immigrant service agencies. Identified best practices to support employment and training were those that provide:

  • Access to language training, gap filling programs, and skills upgrading for immigrants to obtain and retain employment;
  • Mentoring of immigrants by experienced workers or professionals and networking with others employed in their field;
  • Access to programming for immigrants that link newcomers to employers, including temporary placements;
  • Ongoing information sharing and dialogue between service providers to identify barriers, complementary programming, as well as referral opportunities, to avoid duplication and promote workforce integration; and,
  • Cultural competency training for employers to identify the benefits of immigrant workforce participation, such as improved innovation and increased levels of productivity.

(iii) Governments and immigrant service organizations. Identified best practices to support improved awareness and programming included:

  • Engaging in outreach to employers about the benefits of hiring new immigrants; and,
  • Recognizing that sharing challenges is as important as sharing success stories to foster continued learning.

Introduction

Immigration is expected to play an increasingly important role in the Canadian economy given the shrinking pace of labour force growth, compounded by an aging population and rising demand for labour. Today, about one in five people in Canada are foreign-born with the majority of them being economic immigrants and their families.Footnote 2 Canada seeks to attract, retain talent and support newcomers so that they are able to overcome social and economic barriers to integration. Despite this, FQR continues to be a key labour market integration challenge for immigrants in both the regulated and non-regulated occupations. In the FQR process, related challenges include an immigrant’s lack of Canadian work experience and inadequate language proficiency in Canada’s official languages.

The federal and provincial-territorial (FPT) governments have long been working with professional regulatory bodies to advance and improve the efficiencies of their credential recognition process for internationally trained individuals (ITIs) in Canada, while supporting their main mandate to protect the public. In 2009, the Forum of Labour Market Ministers (FLMM), an intergovernmental forum established to promote discussion and cooperation on common labour market matters developed a vision to guide collaborative actions aimed at improving FQR systems. This vision was founded on the principles of fairness, transparency, timeliness and consistency.Footnote 3 The vision is articulated in A Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications (the Framework) (2009).Footnote 4 Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) provides federal leadership on the issue of foreign qualification recognition as the co-chair of the FLMM’s Mobility and Qualification Recognition Working Group, responsible for FQR.

Since the implementation of the Framework, the FPT governments have worked collaboratively to improve programs and provide supports to professional regulatory bodies, helping integrate new immigrants into the labour market. Jurisdictions work collectively and individually to support FQR across Canada and in their region. For example, the province of Nova Scotia has developed an integrated approach to support the Framework and address barriers to international qualification recognition by creating successful International Qualification Recognition (IQR) programming including components such as, the Fair Registration Practices Act Review Office, Multi-Stakeholder Work Groups, IQR and Recognition of Prior Learning Funding Programs along with sector/profession-specific programs. The Fair Registration Practices Act (FRPA) Review Office supports professional regulatory bodies and other key stakeholders to make the systemic changes required to ensure access and registration practices for regulated occupations are transparent, objective, impartial and procedurally fair for anyone applying to practice his or her profession in Nova Scotia. This approach ensures that responsibility is shared, efforts are coordinated, programming is strategic, duplication is avoided and momentum is sustained.

To further support commitments made in the Framework, FPT governments launched An Action Plan for Better Foreign Qualification Recognition (2014) (Action Plan).Footnote 5

The Eliminating Barriers to Foreign Qualification Recognition: Emerging and Best Practices Conference, held on October 2, 2017 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, supports both the Framework and its associate Action Plan. The event was jointly hosted by ESDC, IRCC, the Province of Nova Scotia, and the Fair Registration Practices Act Review Office of Nova Scotia. The conference is an example of a partnership, where two federal departments, ESDC and IRCC, have collaborated with a province, Nova Scotia, to bring together experts in the field of FCR to identify emerging and best practices in the field. The conference covered both regulated and non-regulated occupations under the following themes: Preparation & Pre-Arrival Supports; Assessment Services/Methods; Work-Based Performance Assessment of Competencies; Collaboration & Role of Regulations; and Workforce Participation. The sessions fostered discussions on challenges and opportunities for change/action (see Annex A).

The conference was attended by approximately ninety participants, including twenty-eight speakers (see Annex B for the Agenda). Participants included government representatives, service providers, professional regulatory bodies, national associations, ITIs and employers. IRCC invited presenters from Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), Care Centre for Internationally Educated Nurses, Ontario Bridge Training Program, YMCA-YWCA Power of Trades, Immigrant Employment Council of British Columbia, Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council and Greater Halifax Partnership. ESDC invited speakers including professional regulatory bodies from the targeted occupations in the Framework, Nova Scotia’s Fair Registration Practices Act Review Officer, provincial government representatives, national associations, service provider organizations and Immigrant Employment Councils.

Presenters were asked to consider five framing questions during their talks:

  1. How have you identified this as an emerging or best practice (provide any existing concrete outcomes)?
  2. How does your organization work together with other organizations (e.g. professional regulatory bodies, service provider organizations, employers, etc.)?
  3. What barriers do you see to meeting your objectives, including working collaboratively, and how do you think they could be reduced or removed?
  4. What do you identify as necessary conditions for success?
  5. What could the federal government do to assist you?

While FQR is a complex process with many stakeholders, the conference presentations illustrated the significant work being accomplished with concrete outcomes.

Presentation Summaries

Session 1 - Conference Welcome

FQR processes have advanced through concerted actions of FPT governments, professional regulatory bodies and other organizations; however, distinct challenges remain. This session highlighted the importance of collaboration in advancing FQR and finding ways to support ITIs while at the same time improving efficiencies throughout the process. Coordinated approaches have reduced timelines for the process by improving pre-arrival tools, standards, and practices. Cross-provincial certifications have helped solidify the benefits of a shared approach.

Partnerships play a major role within the FQR process and help newcomers integrate quickly into the Canadian labour market. At the federal level, ESDC’s FCRP supports improvements to FCR and directly supports newcomers seeking to have their credentials recognized. The FCRP supports improved labour market participation for newcomers to Canada, the majority of whom are visible minorities, so that they can find work commensurate with their skills. To achieve this, the FCR Program plays a leadership role and works closely with P/Ts, regulators, and other stakeholders to improve FCR with simplified, pan-Canadian approaches. The FCR Program provides funding for projects that improve national credential recognition processes and platforms, and harmonize standards and practices. In addition, it newly encompasses the Targeted Employment Strategy for Newcomers (TESN), which provides employment supports to highly skilled newcomers to facilitate their integration into the Canadian labour market. Key components of TESN include:

  • Improved pre-arrival supports so newcomers can begin the FCR process before arriving in Canada;
  • The FCR Loans Program that will assist newcomers with the costs related to having their foreign credentials recognized; and,
  • The Canadian Work Experience Pilot program to test the most effective and efficient ways to help highly skilled newcomers gain Canadian work experience in their profession/field of study.

More broadly, ESDC also provides programs and initiatives that promote skills development, labour market participation and inclusiveness while also supporting labour market efficiency. These programs seek to address the needs of those facing employment barriers, such as immigrants, and contribute to lifelong learning and building a skilled, inclusive labour force. As part of these activities, ESDC provides funding transfers to provinces and territories so that they can address their regional labour market needs of various groups. Immigrants also have direct access to targeted employment programming offered by ESDC, such as those that focus on youth, literacy, and among others, apprenticeship.

IRCC’s Settlement Program was exemplified as providing overseas and in-Canada services to assist newcomer immigrants with FQR and employment in their chosen occupation. Services for this Program include occupation-specific language training, employment and bridging services and referrals to credential recognition, licensure or certification pathways. Current employment-related settlement services offered typically include one, or a combination of, the following services:

  • Work Placement: includes internships (paid or unpaid), work simulations, and other direct work experience opportunities.
  • Mentoring: includes speed-mentoring or a traditional link with a professional in the client’s field of expertise or interest.
  • Preparation for Licensure/Certification: services that are meant to help clients meet the licensing requirements in their field for the purposes of licensure.
  • Networking Opportunities: structured activities and events that allow clients to be present in an environment with professional peers and potential employers to increase their professional networks. This may include job fairs, meet and greets, and information nights.
  • Employment Counselling Services: direct, one-on-one counselling to clients for pathways to employment.

Competency-based assessments, such as prior learning assessment and recognition, allow individuals to identify, document, receive an assessment of, and gain recognition for prior learning. Ongoing review of, and improvements to programs at every stage can assist in minimizing the barriers newcomers face, thereby reducing the loss of human capital in Canada.

Session 2 - Best/Emerging Practices: Preparation and Pre-Arrival Supports

Moving to a new country is a major decision for most individuals and families. Ensuring they have as much information as possible prior to making this decision helps them make the right choice, as well as anticipate and address potential problems early in the process. Pharmacists’ Gateway Canada exemplifies a best practice in this area by providing online licensure requirements by province, allowing applicants to make better-informed decisions and be more prepared before coming to Canada.

Providing a variety of communication options for applicants is also important in ensuring easy access to the required materials. For example, the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) offers an array of communication tools, including a website, portal, email, social media, as well as a call centre for those who do not have internet access. Such tools allow applicants to start the process from anywhere they have access to the internet or a telephone. Offering these preparation and pre-arrival services in multiple languages was also identified as a way of providing additional support and benefits to applicants.

Speakers also recommended a move towards electronic application processes which will allow applicants to receive application statuses. For example, APEGA is moving towards electronic means so that applicants receive letters and decision outcomes faster, allowing them to make better informed decisions. These tools would also allow clients to see and rectify issues with their applications prior to deciding to move to Canada. With such improvements, some applicants are now securing jobs before they arrive in Canada providing relief and a sense of stability in what can be a difficult transitionary time.

Additional online resources can provide a wealth of information to the applicants during this stage. In particular, self-assessment tools (e.g. readiness and skills gap identification), as well as source country profiles, including exam pass rates, allow applicants to benchmark their skill set and to start collecting their required documentation. For example, Pharmacists’ Gateway Canada, offers self-assessment tools on their website, including a readiness for practice in Canada test. Providing information on application time and cost calculators have been found to be a best practice as they help manage expectations before applicants begin their FQR process. Furthermore, online calculators help to identify unexpected fees, which can include additional required courses, language tests, translation and notary public fees. As an example, the Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators includes a cost estimator tool on their website to help applicants prepare financially for the process.

Since the FQR process can be arduous and costly for immigrants, there is a need to speed up the processing time and lessen the financial burden placed on these individuals. Improving processing time also assists employers to fill labour needs faster. While speakers noted that all the best practices support an improved FQR process, they stressed that ITIs require quick access to information from the regulatory professional bodies/educators to determine the process of their credential recognition. In particular, ITIs need to know information such as whether the process:

  • is single or multi-phased;
  • is paper-based or online;
  • requires original documents; or,
  • requires practical modules or lengthy examinations.

Having complete information prior to moving to Canada or prior to starting the application process informs the decision to emigrate from their home country and can prevent the depreciation of professional skills, as well as the loss of time and financial resources for ITIs.

Presenters and participants also identified the instability of funding for pre-arrival programs as a challenge. They noted that when there is an influx of immigrants, funding for programs increases from various sources, but may not continue after the newcomers arrive. This erratic funding can cause programs and collaborative efforts to lose momentum. One way identified to overcome this funding challenge and its impact on programming is to align the vision between governments and stakeholders and ensure common goals. As a best practice, it was also recommended that collaboration continue despite reduced funding by finding low-cost alternatives to continue communication, for example, Skype and GoToMeeting.

Session 3 - Best/Emerging Practices: Assessment Services/Methods

The assessment of an individual’s foreign credentials can sometimes be an arduous process, and missteps can delay or prevent the individual’s integration into the workforce. The use of technology has proven to be helpful in credential assessment, streamlining processes and reducing timelines. Among the recommended best practices is the provision of online resources and access to client files. For example, the Ontario College of Teachers website allows applicants to view their application status, and see what documents their file is currently missing, regardless of where they are or what time zone they may live in. It is further recommended that additional preparatory training materials be provided for applicants in these early stages, such as industry-specific communication and cultural competency models, as well as information that assist ITIs to set realistic expectations for their Canadian work outcomes before they arrive. After arrival, ITIs should be assisted to network to help them build relationships and establish trust with their new industry community.

Best practices in the area of assessment services/methods include providing country-specific details for applicants, such as using the local terminology for required documents in their home country, where they can obtain these documents, and, among others, the names of the regulatory authorities they may need to speak with in the Canadian jurisdiction. This takes much of the speculative work and research requirements off of the applicant, prevents confusion, and helps reduce processing times by ensuring the organizations receive the correct documentation the first time. As an emerging best practice, it is also important to include an applicant feedback instrument for these online tools so that changes can be made based on user experiences and needs. The Ontario College of Teachers collects feedback from users to ensure they are continuously meeting their needs.

Allowing participants to take initial exams online and/or abroad is recommended to help streamline the application process for licences requiring assessments. Limiting examination times to once or twice a year can cause significant economic integration delays if applicants cannot attend. Offering the assessments multiple times per year is seen as a best practice.

A need has been identified for increasing strategic alignment between assessment requirements and the skills required in day-to-day work. The addition of simulation style performance assessments and the use of scenarios may help measure required skill sets. Providing the results of assessments online allows for quicker decisions and immediate skills upgrading if required.

Session 4 - Multi-Stakeholder Work Group Project and Internationally Educated Engineers Work-Based Performance Assessment of Competencies (Nova Scotia)

As noted previously, individuals seeking to become licenced to work in a profession or skilled trade face complex challenges in the pathway to licensure such as competency assessment, work placement, as well as performance assessments in their new environment. Working collaboratively with partners was identified as a key to success by presenters. The recommendation for federal, provincial and territorial governments to collaborate is also highlighted the Framework (2009) and the subsequent Action Plan (2014). Collaboration does not only mean exchanging value and ideas that have already been created, but includes allowing new value to be created together.

As an example of a best practice, multi-stakeholder work groups can be highly effective and efficient because responsibilities can be shared and expertise expanded through that shared knowledge. These groups can also assist in the development of alignment between required competencies, training, and development tools. Presenters stressed that it is crucial to build evaluation processes into the programs from the outset which can track progress and results, and identify gaps. Various indicators of success were provided, including: percentage of participants passing exams, obtaining gainful employment, and, overall immigrant retention in the province or territory. It was also stressed that commitment is needed from all key players in the work groups since they are long-term processes.

The Internationally Educated Engineers (IEEs) Work-Based Performance Assessment of Competencies Program was developed out of an industry work group as a solution to common barriers that were identified by stakeholders. The assessment provides an innovative solution to address these barriers, by ensuring competencies, training and development are aligned. They also offer their Fundamentals of Engineering exam online. Such programs help to open doors for new immigrants and expedite the process of obtaining Canadian certifications. By matching experienced newcomers with employers, their competencies can be assessed in an environment similar to the one in which they hope to work and identify any gaps in skills or knowledge. Participants may also be required to take employment readiness training and safety training as part of this process.

It was noted that the benefits of a competency assessment program can be enormous for the participant. For example, participants receive feedback on their work, have skill gaps identified, and develop a better understanding of how their trade or profession is practiced in Canada. They are provided with networking opportunities and are able to create contacts with contractors and other staff. Based on their performance, participants are often offered jobs during the assessment period.

Lunch Session - Work-based Trades Practical Assessment Program (Nova Scotia)

It is often difficult for employers to find trained and skilled tradespersons. Immigration offers a way to help fill vacant positions; however, gaining Canadian work experience as well as mastering workplace language can be a challenge for some immigrants. The Work-based Trades Practical Assessment (WTPA) Program developed by Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency and ISANS creates a pathway for newcomers to practice their trades, gain Canadian work experience and increase their chances of success. The WTPA program matches experienced tradespersons with the right employer to assess their competencies on the job as they move through the pathway to licensure.

Session 5 - Collaboration and Role of Regulation

Provinces and territories are responsible for the majority of regulated professions and in most cases they further delegate that authority in legislation to professional regulatory bodies. Regulators are mandated to protect the public by ensuring that certified members of the occupation they regulate, whether trained in Canada or elsewhere, have the professional competencies necessary to practice. In the case of ITIs, regulators must assess many factors, including foreign education, foreign credentials, language and work experience. The FQR process is complex and can be lengthy depending on what the individual needs to complete to become certified and how long that may take him or her.

To reduce barriers for internationally trained and educated applicants, while still ensuring regulators can meet their mandate to protect the public, collaboration with partners and working with multi-stakeholder work groups, as well as the Fair Registration Practices Act Review Officer (FRPA) in Nova Scotia and Fairness Commissioners in Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec has been identified as a best practice.Note de bas de page 6 Collaboration allows for a better understanding of all sides of the process by sharing experiences, identifying common issues and evaluating the impact across jurisdictions and on applicants. This approach allows for better planning and supports registration practices that are transparent, objective, impartial, and procedurally fair. As an example of collaboration from Nova Scotia, the FRPA Review Officer also participates in the multi-stakeholder work groups (see Session 4) and works with regulatory bodies and educational institutions as they consider issues of transparency, objectivity and procedural fairness.

While collaboration among stakeholders can yield positive results, some further challenges, as noted by the presenters, will continue to require attention. First, that there are few alternatives to the traditional credential-based assessment approaches, and educational institutions may not offer individual courses to ITIs to fill discrete gaps in their educational credentials rather than redoing their entire degree. Access to programming in areas such as orientation to the profession, bridging programs/gap-filling programs, opportunities for Canadian work experience, and occupation specific language training were all identified as initiatives that respond to some of these challenges.

Second, in non-regulated occupations, where it is up to employers to decide whether the individual meets the job requirements, it was observed that newcomers’ foreign credentials sometimes seemed to be less valued by employers than a Canadians’ foreign credentials in cases where they studied abroad. Initiatives to address this gap could include assisting employers in further understanding foreign credentials, as well as an awareness of the skills and assets that immigrants bring and how they can contribute positively to helping increase the Canadian workplace participation.

Session 6 - Best/Emerging Practices: Workforce Participation – Individual

Workforce participation is a desired outcome for many newcomers. Employment allows newcomers to earn an income to support themselves and their families and to become more integrated in their community and society. To optimize their employment opportunities, immigrant skill sets must be aligned with labour market demands. Presenters noted that it is important to monitor labour market demands so that employment integration programs can respond to the changing skills requirements over time.Note de bas de page 7 Presenters highlighted the best practice of targeting sub-populations of ITIs with specific skill levels or a combination of high and low skills and language skills, etc.) when designing programs. This approach helps to orient programs so that they address the specific needs of each group which in turn results in faster integration of workers.

Bridging programs facilitate skilled workers’ integration into the workplace. The Ontario Bridge Training Program was presented as a best practice. Their programs include institutional engagement, soft skills training (communication skills, job shadowing), as well as technical skill support (assessments, licensing exam preparation, etc.). Expanding regional programs nationally was identified as a way to stretch limited resources, instead of spending funds on “reinventing the wheel”. It was also recommended that if a program is identified as high quality, communication and collaboration should be used between organizations to increase its benefit for all stakeholders.

Language skills are essential to obtain employment. Programs and training on workplace specific communication skills can allow newcomers to display their technical skills, while improving their higher-level language skills such as grammar and pronunciation. ISANS’ Language in the Workplace Program was presented as a best practice in this area. The Program teaches an individual industry-specific terminology, which improves confidence and employer-employee communication. Customizing the language program to the specific workplace’s needs allows the participant to gain basic communication skills and work-based vocabulary. Improved language skills allow participants to discuss their work more easily and to ask their employer or colleague questions, giving them an opportunity to display their technical skills. Interpretation services are essential to help reduce confusion, ease communications and facilitate learning in the new work environment. Such programs can help reduce dependency on government supports by creating new connections and opportunities, reducing unemployment, retaining newcomers and building businesses.

Presenters also stated that those who have poor literacy skills in Canada’s official languages can benefit from language programming until a basic literacy level is reached. A basic level of English or French is necessary to access services, but also to read important notices and manuals, for instance those related to health and safety.

Presenters noted that ongoing client maintenance post programs are essential since individuals often require additional support after an intervention or program has taken place. It was also noted that this best practices encourages participants to be open and flexible about their career goals helps them to better navigate their career path in Canada. If they do not meet the local requirements for their industry or if jobs in their field are unavailable, it was noted that, providing participants with labour market research and skills mapping/profiling can help them identify alternative careers and opportunities to gain Canadian work experience.

Hiring newcomers should not be viewed as a charitable action on the employers’ behalf. Newcomers have many assets from which employers may benefit, such as bringing innovation, having high productivity levels and access to foreign markets. It was suggested that employers could also benefit from cultural competency training. Companies within certain fields, such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM occupations) are often in the vanguard when it comes to cultural competency because they have a history of acquiring top foreign talent to remain competitive.

To facilitate exposure to, and recruitment of, foreign talent and to help assist highly skilled newcomers gain their first professional Canadian work experience, BioTalent Canada offers employee pre-screening and wage subsidies to employers that hire ITIs as a way to help employers find and hire top talent.

Other industries have not had the opportunity to catch up yet. A best practice cited to educate employers in this area, is employer training programs, such as cultural competency training. This training provides employers with a better understanding of foreign cultures in order to assist in mutual cultural adaptation and improved communication.

Session 7 - Best/Emerging Practices: Workforce Participation – Employers

Providing immigration and FQR support services to employers, not just immigrants, is an important part of the economic integration of newcomers. Support is needed because employers often do not know where to start when it comes to hiring new immigrants, or they may have concerns about how the new hire would cope in the workplace. The involvement of industry partners to create champions for hiring immigrants in the employer realm was noted as a best practice that can help facilitate initial employment conversations.

Programs that provide employers with training and tools to identify, recruit, and retain foreign-trained talent, as well as helping them understand what foreign credentials mean, were identified as a best practice that assists greatly in the employment process. BC’s Immigrant Employment Council program, BC JobConnect, provides an easy-to-use online tool connecting British Columbia employers to job-ready newcomers. The tool helps employers meet their workforce requirements while providing a platform for newcomers to showcase their skills. These interventions allow employers to focus on the skill set being presented, not the employee’s background or culture. When working with employers, it was recommended as a best practice to use a responsive approach. Let employers identify needs and plan programming/interventions based on their own analysis.

As many immigrants have years of experience and are highly skilled but lack formal qualifications, shifting the focus away from foreign credential recognition and towards competency recognition may help their integration into the workforce. Competency assessments are being developed for different trades, with some being offered online. Based on their assessment score, some organizations offer curriculum for development of the areas the applicants are lacking as well as alternative job suggestions based on their current skillset. After credentials/competencies have been verified, mentoring and networking are often an overlooked step for economic integration. This is an important support for newcomers, as many jobs are made available through mentoring and networking. Facilitating these processes through programming is important and helps newcomers find employment.

Pushing competency assessments earlier in the immigration process to the pre-screening stage allows applicants to have a better understanding of what a Canadian career path might look like, helping them to decide if a move to Canada is the right choice or if they need to adjust their expectations for employment. Further funding initiatives were also recommended. Government funding allows program staff to focus their time on important aspects such as strategy, instead of fundraising. Government funding also allows organizations to expand programs nationally, providing opportunities for collaboration, expansion and employer driven innovation.

Partnerships can provide great value when developing programs for employer support. Knowing all stakeholders’ strengths and expertise is important, as is the need to be respectful of each other’s boundaries. Looking for gaps in programming and seeing which partners can fill those gaps (program expansion versus new program creation) keeps required resources to a minimum.

Conclusion

The conference provided a number of emerging and best practices that included innovative and effective tools as well as initiatives and activities that support the integration of immigrants in the Canadian labour market, from pre-arrival to employment. Common to each session was the importance of collaboration to leverage existing work, expand knowledge and avoid duplication. Below are some of the important emerging and best practices presented:

(i) Governments & Regulatory Bodies. Identified best practices to support informed decision-making for immigrants before they arrive in Canada and through to employment included:

  • Providing complete and updated information to newcomers for both pre- and post-arrival so that they are able to make informed decisions about coming to Canada, their career pathway(s), and their expectations of finding jobs in their intended occupation; and,
  • Continuing to collaborate among stakeholders, including governments, service providers, employers, regulators, educational institutions and individuals, to provide the supports needed along the pathway from pre-arrival to employment.

(ii) Governments, employers, educational institutions and immigrant service agencies. Best practices to support employment and training were identified by those who provide:

  • Access to language training, gap filling programs, and skills upgrading for immigrants to obtain and retain employment;
  • Mentoring of immigrants by experienced workers or professionals and networking with others employed in their field;
  • Access to programming for immigrants that link newcomers to employers, including temporary placements;
  • Ongoing information sharing and dialogue between service providers to identify barriers, complementary programming, as well as referral opportunities, to avoid duplication and promote workforce integration; and,
  • Cultural competency training for employers to identify the benefits of immigrant workforce participation, such as improved innovation, increased levels of productivity.

(iii) Governments and immigrant service organizations. Identified best practices to support improved awareness and programming included:

  • Engaging in outreach to employers about the benefits of hiring new immigrants; and,
  • Recognizing that sharing challenges is as important as sharing success stories to foster continued learning.

The challenges of FQR are many, but significant improvements and developments are being made across the country by a multitude of stakeholders. With continued effort and collaboration, FQR processes will continue to improve, benefiting newcomers, employers and the Canada economy. 

Annex A – Challenges and Opportunities for Change/Action

Preparation & Pre-Arrival Supports

Challenges:

  • There is a lack of clear information for applicants on what is to be expected during application processes, such as the costs required and length of time, during both pre- and post-arrival phases in obtaining licensure.
  • Economic immigrants are selected to live in Canada based on – among other things – an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) report used by IRCC to authenticate the foreign credentials of applicants and determine equivalency to completed Canadian credentials for awarding education points under the immigration selection process. An ECA gives candidates a better sense of how their education fits into the Canadian labour market and allows more informed choices about whether to immigrate to Canada and which career path to pursue if they do. ECAs are used for immigration purposes and do not guarantee automatic employment or licensing in any particular occupation. Applicants often do not anticipate the more in-depth qualification assessments that regulatory bodies conduct that include education, work experience, training, language skills as well as other competencies and factors.

Opportunities

  • Ensure easy access to information pre-arrival, especially for those in regulated occupations, allowing them to make informed decisions about coming to Canada and their employment options, including access to realistic information about employment prospects in their field.

Assessment Services/Methods

Challenges:

  • There is a need for post-arrival supports for new immigrants. These required supports may be additional language resources, mentoring, and access to educational information.
  • There is a gender component to be considered when delivering services. For example, women with families may face additional barriers upon arrival, and may need child support.

Opportunities:

  • Provide general settlement services that include continuous program options and ongoing mentoring.

Work-Based Performance Assessment of Competencies

Challenges:

  • Employers have difficulty understanding the equivalency of foreign qualifications and work experience. They sometimes lack the know-how or confidence to integrate newcomers into their workplaces.
  • Continue working with service provider organizations to hire/engage ITIs;
  • Offer mentoring/placements to identify talent and help retain good workers;
  • Requiring employers to take cultural competency courses as a condition of receiving funding may yield positive outcomes; and
  • Continue working with employers to foster employment for newcomers.

Collaboration & Role of Regulations

Challenges:

  • Regulators are facing capacity issues as applications increase, causing wait times and an inability to conduct assessments when needed.
  • Balancing public protection while increasing the speed of FQR processes is imperative. All stakeholders must be involved to ensure success.

Opportunities:

  • Complete an environmental scan for services to avoid duplication and learn from others who are doing well;
  • Assist in expectation management (e.g. inform newcomers about cost and length of licensure process and provide them with research based on their training and career pathways);
  • Continue collaborative efforts that bring together profession-specific stakeholders, with stronger emphasis on employer involvement to provide orientations, address skill or knowledge gaps, and promote effective workforce integration is also recommended;
  • Continue to encourage collaboration between stakeholders, including employers, immigrant agencies and governments;
  • Keep in mind the importance of explaining the role of professional regulatory bodies in providing public protection; and,
  • Maintain the integration and accuracy of information on their websites will also be helpful.

Workforce Participation

Challenges:

  • Varying levels of language skills are required in both regulated and non-regulated occupations for entry into the Canadian labour market has been deemed a challenge to workplace participation of ITIs.
  • ITIs experience challenges even after they become licensed. For instance, even if internationally trained doctors pass three medical exams and become licensed they may not be able to secure residency due to the lack of spaces.

Opportunities:

  • Support the development of language skills, offering language training in the workplace (or 'workplace communication skills') as well as work placements (e.g. trades and engineering profession), which can lead to full-time employment;
  • Develop cultural competencies;
  • Enable employed ITIs to assist in the training of new individuals;
  • Leverage volunteers (employed Canadians) to network and meet with newcomers, creating employment connections and assistance, as well as building newcomers’ knowledge of the Canadian labour market; and,
  • Continue to provide mentoring, networking, and connections for newcomers to businesses/workplaces.

Annex B - Glossary of Terms

Certified: “Certified” means that a worker holds a certificate, licence, registration or other form of official recognition issued by a regulatory authority, which attests to the worker being qualified and, where applicable, authorized to practice a particular occupation or to use a particular occupational title in the territory of that Party. (The Canadian Free Trade Agreement: Article 711, 1). “Certified” & “licenced” are sometimes used interchangeably; however, certification is sometimes viewed as an employment requirement rather than a legal requirement.

Designated occupation, trade or profession: An occupation, trade or profession that has been deemed by law or regulation to be appropriate for setting training requirements or for which a person may receive a certificate of qualification, or both.

Fairness Commissioners: Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia each have commissioners or officers responsible to ensure that foreign qualification recognition practices are transparent, objective, impartial and fair. Their titles and mandates differ, but for simplicity, this report refers to all four as “fairness commissioners”.

Foreign Qualification Recognition: The process of verifying that an individual’s credentials are valid and the individual’s underlying knowledge, skills, work experience, and education as obtained in another country is comparable to the standards established for the same Canadian professions and trades.

Immigrant Employment Councils (IECs): IECs, through multi-stakeholder collaboration, help employers meet the challenges of a diversified workforce and understand the business case for hiring internationally trained immigrants, while at the same time allowing immigrants to network through initiatives such as mentoring programs.

Licensure: A restricted practice or a restriction on the use of an occupational title, requiring a licence. There can be different stages, or levels, of licensure depending on the regulatory body and occupation. For example, “provisional licensure”, grants the applicant the ability to practice in their occupation within specific limits and conditions, while they work towards meeting full licensure requirements. Licensure often includes both the right to use a title and the right to practice. In some professions, individuals may perform much of the work even if they are non-licenced, but they cannot use the title, e.g. accounting.

Members of Professions: Applicants who meet the three sets of requirements: qualification, good character, and administrative are registered as members. It should be noted that not all members are necessary licenced. As an example, an individual may be a member of Ontario’s Chartered Professional Accountants, but not licenced as a professional account. In this case, while the individual that is a member but not licenced may work in the accounting field, there are certain activities he or she is not authorized to perform.

Qualifications vs credentials: “Qualifications” cover the total set of competencies of a candidate, and can include education and experience obtained abroad, as well as professional credentials. “Credentials” are usually used more narrowly to refer only to a professional designation.

Regulatory body: A body mandated by law or regulation to establish, monitor and enforce standards for licensure and practice in an occupation, in large part to ensure safety of the Canadian public with respect to the public’s interactions with that profession.

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