Atlantic Immigrant Career Loan Fund aims to help newcomers get Canadian credentials

Worthwhile initiative:

When Dr. Michael Fatokun moved to Atlantic Canada from Nigeria in 2018, he wished to give his family a better life and continue practising medicine. A new program is set to make that process a little easier.

The Atlantic Immigrant Career Loan Fund (AICLF) is supposed to help up to 200 newcomers like Fatokun pay for the credential recognition process.

“Even if you have come with some funds, you still need (a) substantial amount of funds to take exams,” said Fatokun.

Through the fund, newcomers are able to borrow up to $15,000 over four years in professions not eligible for student loan funding. Loans are also available for permanent residents or Canadian citizens to cover the costs of training, testing, licensing and living costs.

AICLF is delivered in partnership with the Multicultural Association of Fredericton, MAGMA in Moncton and the Saint John YMCA. The New Brunswick Multicultural Council will cover all rural areas.

The New Brunswick Multicultural Council is also commencing a provincial survey to determine how many newcomers in the province have training and experience as nurses or personal support workers. This data will be used to improve training and employment programs.

“We recently launched a survey to identify how many immigrants in the province were interested in that field, and over 150 respondents have come forward in the last week,” said Alex LeBlanc, executive director of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council.

The regional approach to providing credential recognition started with medical professionals, engineers and accountants and will now expand to include project management and trades.

Between 2018 and 2027, the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour estimates a total of 8,223 openings in nursing- and personal support worker-related positions. At the same time, the province will welcome hundreds of newcomers with training and experience in these exact fields.

Fatokun is awaiting his exam results and hopes to be practising medicine again by early 2020.

Source: Atlantic Immigrant Career Loan Fund aims to help newcomers get Canadian credentials

Fonction publique: des ingénieurs de l’État issus de l’immigration se disent victimes de discrimination

The ongoing challenge of foreign credential recognition and related barriers:

Le gouvernement Couillard refuse depuis deux ans que des ingénieurs de l’État issus de l’immigration soient payés en fonction de l’expérience qu’ils ont acquise dans leur pays d’origine. Une « hypocrisie », selon leur syndicat, alors que Québec veut faciliter l’intégration des immigrants au marché du travail.

Le 28 août 2015, 23 ingénieurs du gouvernement formés à l’étranger ont écrit au ministre des Transports de l’époque, Robert Poëti, pour demander une révision des politiques de classement du Ministère.

Ils soutiennent que leur expérience à l’étranger n’a pas été considérée par le ministère des Transports du Québec (MTQ) au moment de leur embauche. Ils ont donc été classés dans des échelons salariaux qui ne reflètent pas le nombre d’années de pratique.

DROIT DE PRATIQUE

Ces professionnels ont pourtant réussi tous les tests imposés par l’Ordre des ingénieurs (OIQ) et obtenu leur droit de pratiquer au Québec.

« Nous trouvons que cette situation est inéquitable et ne tient pas compte de l’analyse rigoureuse de nos dossiers qu’a faite l’OIQ et les expériences reconnues par ce dernier pour nous attribuer des permis d’ingénieurs », peut-on lire dans la lettre.

« De plus, elle va à l’encontre des articles 16 et 19 de la Charte des droits et libertés de la personne du Québec », ajoutent les plaignants.

Dans une réponse écrite envoyée en février 2016, la directrice des ressources humaines du MTQ, Brigitte Duchesne, se montre sensible à la situation de ces employés. Elle soutient avoir adressé une « demande formelle » au secrétariat du Conseil du trésor, « de façon à soutenir une éventuelle reconnaissance de [leurs] expériences en génie acquises hors Canada ».

« CHEAP LABOUR », DÉNONCE LE SYNDICAT

Or, un an plus tard, rien n’a bougé, dénonce le président de l’Association professionnelle des ingénieurs du gouvernement (APIGQ), Marc-André Martin.

« Le gouvernement se paye du “cheap labour”, dénonce-t-il. Il est au courant de la situation et il ne fait rien. »

Il cite en exemple le cas d’un ingénieur qui a travaillé pendant cinq ans en Roumanie avant d’immigrer au Québec. Lors de son embauche au ministère des Transports, il a été rémunéré au plus bas échelon salarial, car il venait tout juste d’obtenir son permis de pratique de l’Ordre des ingénieurs. S’il était rémunéré à la hauteur de sa véritable expérience, il gagnerait environ 10 000 $ de plus par année, dit M. Martin.

Source: Fonction publique: des ingénieurs de l’État issus de l’immigration se disent victimes de discrimination | Martin Croteau | Politique québécoise

Tories want to cut red tape for skilled immigrants. What else is new? – Macleans.ca

An overview of where the Conservative leadership candidates stand on foreign credential recognition – no much new for a perennial issue.

The evaluation of IRCC’s efforts under the Conservatives, which were largely information, path-finding and referral services, does not indicate a strong correlation with improved outcomes for foreign-trained professions (Evaluation of the Foreign Credentials Referral Office (FCRO)):

A large part of Justin Trudeau’s campaign focused on reforming the Conservatives’ policies, but that’s not the case when it comes to skilled immigrants. Erin Tolley, a political science researcher at the University of Toronto who focuses on diversity in Canada, said the Liberals have been largely silent on the issue. Their platform didn’t include promises on immigrant skill utilization, and all they’ve done is tweak economic immigration policy. Tolley says it’s Conservative governments that are most active on skilled immigration reform because they see it as an economic issue.

That’s why when Conservative leadership hopefuls nearly unanimously said Canada needs more skilled immigrants, I had to know where they stood on reaccreditation. The campaigns of Kellie Leitch, Maxime Bernier, and Lisa Raitt did not make their candidates available for an interview, but nine other candidates agree that the federal government has a role to play in tackling the problem.

Nearly every candidate I spoke with said Canada needs to sharpen its focus on economic immigration. Former immigration minister Chris Alexander wants 70 per cent of Canada’s immigrants to be selected on the basis of skills, education, and language, rather than family reunification. Under the Harper government, that number hovered in the mid-60 percentiles, while the Liberals lowered 2016 targets to the mid-50s. Alexander’s message is clear: whether they come in as a response to our needs or in a steady stream, skilled immigrants help prop up the economy.

…But during the first debate, none of the candidates addressed how we will make sure those skills are part of the job market. Alexander and Steven Blaney said they would build on Jason Kenney’s work as immigration minister if they came to power. That means providing incentives to businesses, including tax breaks and the ability to let them tell the government what kind of skills they’re looking for, and having discussions with professional associations that often help immigrants gain their credentials. The associations could play a role in both educating new immigrants about how to get accredited and loosening standards for newcomers.

….Finances are one of the barriers for new immigrants, according to the U of T study. Others are a lack of job experience, language barriers, and even “lack of knowledge of Canadian professional ‘lingo.’”

To fill many of the gaps, Erin O’Toole said, Canada relies on migrant workers. Part of the reason is immigrants can’t use their degrees. For O’Toole, there are two steps to a solution. The first is to start a process of recognizing credentials sooner, concurrent with the application, and the second is working with provinces to streamline cross-provincial recognition.

The majority of candidates who spoke to Maclean’sechoed O’Toole’s ideas. Michael Chong added that Canada needs to be “giving immigrants a clear-eyed view of what the credentials are worth in Canada so they know what they will need to transition.” Andrew Scheer said, “If the work was done on the front-end and we were able to bring provinces together, in a lot of cases you wouldn’t need to qualify and re-certify.”

It’s possible they are right, but policy takes a long time to implement—and it takes even longer to figure out whether or not it works. Tolley also says there are barriers governments can’t tackle outside of raising awareness. For example, research shows foreign-sounding names are discriminated against by employers, and there is no policy that helps immigrants retroactively.

Source: Tories want to cut red tape for skilled immigrants. What else is new? – Macleans.ca

Skilled immigrants wasting their talents in Canada

Ongoing issue with degrees of complexity that take time and effort to address. Their children, of course, will not face the same disadvantage as the chart below indicates, given born and educated in Canada:

“There’s a joke in Toronto that the best place to have a heart attack is in a cab because there’ll be a doctor driving that cab,” said Margaret Eaton, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.

In reality, fewer than one per cent of immigrant doctors drove taxis, according to the 2011 National Household Survey. 

But almost half never get to practice medicine in Canada. 

Instead, they wind up as nurses, sonographers and care aides, among other related fields that don’t use their full skill set, even though they may have years of experience abroad.

This is a common experience for skilled immigrants.

Academic studies show that those who do find work in their field often end up working below their level of qualifications.

In Ontario, many foreign-born and educated engineers have ended up becoming IT managers, janitors and truck drivers, 2011 data shows. Top jobs for foreign-born and educated accountants outside of their field include bookkeeping, serving food and working as cashiers.

matching_jobs_pies

Part of the problem can be chalked up to the fact that, in recent years, immigrants have been more likely to come from countries like India, China and the Philippines, where the education system is different from the European countries, where immigrants flowed from in decades past. 

In many cases, they may also have a lower level of English skills. 

The cost of this mismatch is significant. 

In 2015, the Conference Board of Canada estimated that if Canadian employers and professional regulatory bodies did a better job of recognizing immigrants’ skills, they would earn an additional $10 billion to $12.7 billion annually and would pay more tax. 

Added to that is the huge emotional toll on these newcomers, especially when they wind up working survival jobs in cleaning, fast-food restaurants and retail, said Naghmeh Rezvani, a career practitioner at the Centre for Newcomers in Calgary.

 In January 2015, the Conservative government introduced a new system for selecting skilled immigrants called Express Entry that tries to tie permanent residency to the economy.

Those with a job offer backed by a labour market impact assessment, which proves they were selected because no Canadians were available for work, receive bonus points that help them get permanent residency more quickly.

Last year, cooks, food service supervisors and retail store supervisors were among the top 10 invited occupations because they had such jobs in hand. They made up almost one out of every five immigrants selected.

This outcome has critics concerned. They say immigrants employers hire are not necessarily the same as those who will boost Canada’s economy in the long run.

“All it is is their first job,” said David Cohen, a Montreal immigration lawyer. “A lot of candidates with excellent human capital are being squeezed out.”

The federal government is looking at doing away with the labour market assessment requirement but plans to increase the role of Express Entry in the future.

Having a job offer on arrival does have benefits. Immigrants who come without one struggle to find work because they lack Canadian experience, soft skills and social networks that would help them break into their field.

The Canadian labour market is “very parochial,” said Kelly Thomson, a  York University professor who studies foreign professionals.

“We have a tendency to compare them to Canadians and say, ‘Oh, they don’t speak as good English,’ instead of thinking, ‘Oh, they speak multiple languages. How is that an advantage for my business?’ or ‘They have a large international network.’”

Those in regulated professions face the biggest struggle. According to staff at the Centre for Newcomers in Calgary, it can take immigrants in many professions at least three years to transfer their qualifications, if they succeed at all. 

Source: Skilled immigrants wasting their talents in Canada | Calgary Herald

Helping immigrant nurses a ‘win-win’ for Canada: Study

An example where more effective foreign credential recognition and related bridging programs can help:

As baby boomers age, Canada faces a looming health-care crunch that will be exacerbated by a projected shortage of tens of thousands of nurses.

That makes it more important than ever for Canada to help foreign-trained nurses qualify to practice here, according to a Conference Board of Canada study.

Each dollar invested by Ottawa and provincial governments in helping registered nurses acquire Canadian licences generates $9 in future income tax revenue — a nine-fold return, according to the study — not to mention their contributions to the care of the country’s rapidly aging population.

With seniors outnumbering children for the first time ever, according to new Statistics Canada figures, and a projected shortage of 60,000 nurses by 2022, investing in bridging programs makes immense sense, experts say.

“This is a win-win for Canada and the internationally educated nurses (IEN),” said Michael Bloom, the conference board’s vice-president in charge of industry and business strategy. “The concept of investing in career bridging programs is good and sound. It yields returns.”

According to the study, more than half of immigrants with health professional backgrounds have trouble getting their foreign credentials recognized in Canada, compared to just 40 per cent in other regulated professions.

In 2011, only 54 per cent of foreign-born and educated nurses had a job that matched their education in Ontario, with unemployment rates among foreign-trained registered nurses at 6 per cent and 8.3 per cent among registered practical nurses.

Source: Helping immigrant nurses a ‘win-win’ for Canada: Study | Toronto Star

Stephen Harper to pledge funds to help new Canadians find work in their field

Relatively few citizenship and immigration related announcements so far in the campaign. This recycled and possible expanded one from the Conservatives:

CBC News has learned that Harper will visit a Markham, Ont., manufacturing plant, where he will announce new money for the Foreign Credential Recognition Loan program.

The federal government introduced the program in 2011 as a pilot project. It was made permanent just this year, when the budget put aside $35 million for it over five years. Today’s announcement is expected to add even more money to the program.

According to the government, 36 per cent of new Canadians face financial barriers in getting their foreign credentials recognized. The costs range from $100 to $25,000, and can include paying for retraining or recertification exams.

Professionals affected range from physicians to those who work in the Red Seal trades, which include dozens of professions that have a set of nationally recognized standards, such as electricians, engineers and plumbers.

Source: Stephen Harper to pledge funds to help new Canadians find work in their field – Politics – CBC News

Immigrant nurses face new hurdles with Ontario’s licensing changes

Another example of foreign credential recognition challenges. Given that the certification  is test scenario-based, expect that the main challenge is not technical but contextual and related to how one interacts with patients and colleagues.

But the lack of appropriate training and feedback should be addressed:

The report, released this summer, found that “some internationally educated applicants do not receive adequate explanation about their shortcomings on the OSCE.” And since there are no appeals or repeat tests allowed, “it leaves applicants with no option but to proceed to bridging education if they wish to continue with their RN application,” the report says.

“It is unclear why, regardless of the number of gaps identified in the OSCE, applicants who want to proceed with their RN application must take an entire bridging program. There is no sound justification for the ‘one size fits all’ approach.”

The college said it brought in the OSCE test for foreign RN applicants because it is an objective tool to evaluate competencies.“

It is not an ‘exam’ in the usual sense of the world. It is a holistic assessment of the applicant’s knowledge and experience. . . . They come out of it with a better understanding of which missing competencies they need to address,” said Clarke.

“It’s like getting a second opinion about how well an applicant’s education and experience match the competencies required of a nurse in Ontario.”

Immigrant nurses face new hurdles with Ontario’s licensing changes | Toronto Star.

Skilled immigrants face hurdles in finding jobs, government report says

More on foreign credential recognition and some of the barriers, some legitimate (i.e., Chinese legal training and experience does not prepare one to practice in Canada), others, such as Canadian experience, are more of a grey area.

The challenge of learning the culture and language of general social interactions likely takes some time:

The participants — including doctors, pharmacists and engineers — said language barriers and requirements for Canadian experience on some job postings pose the biggest problems.

They said they suspected that Canadian experience requirements were “a coded way for employers to favour the Canadian-born,” the report said.

The participants also pointed to a lack of Canadian connections or networks and “difficulty in general social interactions due to language and cultural differences.”

The participants didn’t feel the issue of formal recognition of credentials was a major barrier to employment. There were also differences of opinion on the value of foreign credentials, depending on the participants country of origin.

“Many Chinese participants believe their training and work experience from China are of limited use in Canada because they feel that everything in China is so radically different from Canada that there is no way it could be applicable,” the report read.

“It was noted that a law degree from China in no way prepares anyone to practise law in Canada.”

A spokesman for Employment Minister Jason Kenney said the government commissioned the study in order to determine why skilled immigrants had trouble finding work. He added that the Tories plan to unveil initiatives soon aimed at tackling the problems.

“It’s a big priority for the fall,” said Nick Koolsbergen.

Skilled immigrants face hurdles in finding jobs, government report says – Politics – CBC News.