Many of the topics in the recent report submitted by the Panel on Employment Challenges of New Canadians complement those being discussed at the Canadian Immigration Summit 2015, namely the importance of immigration, the need for collaboration among the many Canadian stakeholders, efforts to recruit and integrate newcomers to Canada, reforms to immigration for skilled tradespeople, licensing and settlement issues.
The Panel learned there is nothing irrevocably wrong with the system in place to integrate new Canadians into the labour market. All of the required components are available in some form; however, the system itself simply does not work well enough, seamlessly enough, or quickly enough.
The consultations identified a number of promising practices, but also clearly demonstrated the need for better collaboration among the many stakeholders.
In the consultations, individual respondents and immigrant-serving organizations both mentioned foreign credential recognition difficulties and inadequate Canadian experience most frequently as an obstacle to obtaining relevant employment in Canada. Other frequently mentioned difficulties were perceived employer bias, inadequate labour market information and cultural adaptation challenges.
The report provides six recommendations:
• Require each regulated occupation to develop a single pan-Canadian standard and a single point of contact, and insist that the assessment process be initiated from abroad by prospective immigrants and tracked in the immigration system.
• Develop a broader strategy for alternative careers, with a more prominent role for regulators, which will support newcomers who are unsuccessful in the licensing process or those who make it their first career choice.
• Create a sense of shared responsibility among all stakeholders for helping immigrants find jobs that match their skills, with a focus on engaging employers in this regard.
• Task a group composed of diverse stakeholders to advise governments on an ongoing basis on the broader issue of integration of newcomers.
• Produce better, more coordinated labour market information targeted at newcomers.
• Educate communities on how to attract and retain newcomers.
The Panel’s recommendations align with the government’s current approach to better integrate immigrants into the labour market through its priorities on foreign credential recognition (FCR), settlement and immigration.
Canada has made considerable progress on FCR, including working with its provincial and territorial partners to improve credential recognition in 24 high-priority occupations that represent many newcomers.
In addition to improved FCR for internationally-trained physicians and engineers, a microloans pilot project will help internationally-trained workers cover the cost of having their credentials recognized. More than 1,500 skilled newcomers have benefited from these microloans.
The Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications, under which high-skilled newcomers in 24 priority occupations – including some 5,600 engineers, 3,100 physicians, 2,000 pharmacists, 1,100 physiotherapists and 1,200 dentists – are already bene-fitting from improvements to foreign credential recognition.
An Action Plan for Better Foreign Qualification Recognition, a renewed multilateral approach endorsed by the Forum of Labour Market Ministers last fall to better help new Canadians have their qualifications recognized faster. This plan focuses on improved pre-decision supports, including access to the first steps in assessment overseas, clearer communications and transition supports to better ensure that the skills and experiences of newcomers are fully utilized in the Canadian labour market.
The Medical Council of Canada and Engineers Canada will receive matched funding to develop transparent new online tools and processes to more quickly, fairly and easily recognize the qualifications of internationally- trained medical and engineering professionals.
These tools and processes will be better aligned with the Canadian immigration system and our labour market needs.
The Medical Council of Canada will receive $6.7 million from the Government of Canada for its project.
A streamlined and equitable assessment for foreign-trained physicians, it will in turn contribute close to $7 million in cash and in kind.
The project will give prospective physicians from over 80 countries easier access to the path into our health care system by streamlining the exam process.
Engineers Canada will match federal funding of $779,000 for the development of its Online Competency Assessment System.
Engineers Canada’s project will make the Canadian engineering assessment system available internationally through the web and will considerably accelerate the licensing process for qualified foreign-trained engineers.
This will help respond to the fact that some 95,000 professional engineers are expected to retire by 2020, many with more than 10 years of experience.
Currently, they are not being replaced fast enough by Canadian graduates.
“Every time we can help a newcomer to Canada plug their skills and experience into the Canadian workforce, everyone wins,” said Pierre Poilievre, Minister of Employment and Social Development.
“It’s a source of pride and provision to the individual and their family, which in turn benefits local communities and strengthens our national economy.
“All levels of government need to adopt more common-sense approaches that help newcomers take on meaningful work more quickly.”