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Overcoming the Credential Challenges of Newcomers

by Kyla Frankowski

Lutherwood recently collaborated with The Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre and numerous other community partners in the delivery of a Global Skills Conference. This conference offered the chance for internationally trained professionals to meet sector representatives, attend skill building workshops, network with employers and browse exhibitor booths. Today's post is an extension of the information shared at the conference.

Newcomers to Canada often face many challenges when looking for work in their professional job. As an Employment Advisor who works directly with professionals who have immigrated to Canada, I can attest that one of the biggest frustrations is unrecognized credentials and international education.

There are typically three reasons that foreign credentials can be a stumbling block to finding employment. First, the employers who make the hiring decision may not fully understand how your education from another country compares to that of Canadian training. Second, if your profession is regulated in Canada an evaluation of your credentials is usually a required first step in the process of being able to work in that professional job. Third, the financial cost associated with credential assessments can be high which makes it hard for newcomers to access.

So, what can you do to overcome this challenge? There are some basic steps you can take to ensure you are on the right track and making the best financial investment for your future.

First, you need to find out if your profession is “regulated” or “non-regulated” in Canada. Many professional jobs such as Nurse, Architect, Teacher, and Electrician are regulated and require that you have a special license. Licensing requirements vary by profession and from province to province, but usually require evaluation of your education and experience, and may require examinations and further training. Many, if not most, regulated professions conduct their own assessment of your foreign credentials and do not accept assessments from outside agencies. As a start, I would recommend visiting the Working in Canada website to help you find out if your profession is regulated or not. This website will also give you the name for the regulatory body of your profession so you can find out about the licensing process and invest your money wisely.

What if your professional job is part of the “non-regulated” group in Canada? In this case, employers themselves decide how to view your education or experience rather than licensing organizations. My recommendation is to survey some of your target companies and find out if a credential assessment would be valuable to them in the hiring process. If they say “yes” you know that it will be a good investment. The truth of the matter is employers prefer to hire people they feel they can trust to get the job done. As a job seeker, how do you build trust with an employer? There are a number of ways: build a relationship through networking and information interviews, get a recommendation from a friend, or show the employer how your foreign education and experience match that of Canada. One way to show that your foreign credentials match Canadian training is through a credential assessment by a recognized agency. There are two agencies that are most commonly suggested: ICAS and WES. They each offer different types of assessments and charge different fees.

You may find it helpful to talk with an Employment Advisor about your options and programs that offer financial support before you decide. Adapting your professional skills and experience to fit within a new country is challenging. But with a bit of time, dedication and support, you may be surprised at how quickly you can find the work you are looking for.