One of the most common settlement difficulties faced by newcomers in Canada is credential recognition. Because countries differ in educational standards, what might have been a Bachelor of Engineering in one country may be considered a two-year equivalency in Engineering Technology in another country, or it may translate as partial completion of a Master of Engineering in a different place. In an idyllic future, there may be some kind of standardized international post-secondary educational credential recognition, but for now every time you go to a new country, your credentials need to be re-evaluated.
As part of the educational recognition process in Canada, you may be asked for high school transcripts, certificates and other proof of registration from the time you were a youth to the present. Some of these documents might not exist, or they may have been forgotten or destroyed, so the process can be frustrating. Let’s see if we can make it a bit easier for you.
The first step
A quick way to get started on the educational credential recognition process is to go to the World Education Service (WES) website https://www.wes.org/ca/. They have a free online form you can use to submit general information about your program, degree or trade. This form will give you a general idea of where you stand with regard to Canadian educational standards, and you can get more specifics with their paid service.
Alberta has its own specific version of this same form administered by the International Qualifications Assessment Service (IQAS). You can find it here: http://work.alberta.ca/immigration/international-qualifications-assessment-service.html. This government agency issues certificates that compare educational and training credentials from other countries to educational standards in Canada and can help you whether you are in the process of immigrating or if you just plan to work or study temporarily.
Regulated vs. non-regulated
Next there is job credential recognition to consider. There are two kinds of jobs in Canada, those that are regulated and those that are non-regulated. A regulated profession has a professional association or trade board that grants membership and sets certain standards for its members. According to World Education Service’s (WES) tracking of Canadian newcomers, Immigrants who seek work in regulated professions are frequently more successful at finding work in their field, but it is not easy to go through the regulatory process and it can be costly. Since there are fees associated with accreditation, find out whether or not you need a professional or trades designation before paying any fees.
Here are a couple resources to help. You can find a list of regulated Canadian professions, listed alphabetically, here: http://occinfo.alis.alberta.ca/occinfopreview/info/browse-certification.html and there’s an Alberta-specific list as well: http://work.alberta.ca/documents/professional-regulatory-organizations-using-iqas.pdf.
On the Alberta IQAS site there is a checklist for all the things you need to prepare for accreditation. It takes time to gather the requisite documentation, so set that expectation and then be patient with yourself and with the bureaucratic process; you will have to deal with a lot of people before you have what you need.
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More resources to get you through the process
If you are considering a move or if you are in the middle of this process, you might be wondering why everything seems so arduous. I don’t have an easy answer there, but I can say that studying or working in Alberta means you need to have credentials, and that once you have them, you are much more likely to be seriously considered for a position here that aligns with your aspirations. The good news is that there are many organizations and resources available to help you along.
One way to improve the experience is to contact your regulatory body and explain what would be helpful to you during the recognition process. Most professions are working to clarify and simplify procedures and tests for the accreditation process so constructive input from people using their service can help both sides reach their goals more efficiently.
After contacting your regulatory body, another space for general information about accreditation can be found online: the Canada Job Bank site. Once there you can choose the “Explore Careers” tab and learn the education and skills equivalents that apply to your desired position. Through some basic navigation, check if jobs in your field are named differently than they may be in other countries (job labels frequently change from country to country), find information about the current job market, and look through the new jobs that are being advertised. Check out more on credential recognition here: http://www.jobbank.gc.ca/content_pieces-eng.do?cid=223.
As a last resource on our list, let’s look at what the World Education Service now provides. WES has begun employing its user data department to regularly review their own data and now tracks recent immigration statistics so they can better respond to foreign credential recognition needs. Based on their findings published May, 2015, WES has moved forward to create new online methods that link newcomers with potential employers, and they’re providing users with more specific online information about job search and Canadian job preparation. To help facilitate the process for job seekers, WES recently added to their services a few things you might want to check out:
The journey ahead
From the WES report, the fact that new immigrants do not always stay in the same province where they first arrive has become a critical piece of information. When moving to a new province or territory, it can be difficult to navigate the varying regulatory requirements between provinces. They suggest a central space to provide clear information and more collaboration with immigrant serving organizations, credentialing bodies and government departments to show what skills can be transferred across jobs.
But, that central space has yet to be established and there is still much to be done to have the credential recognition process become more user-friendly. My hope is that having this quick overview and the accompanying websites to reference will help you point your feet in the right direction!
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For getting your skills recognized, general information for Alberta:
Foreign Qualifications Branch Alberta Government
Applying for credential recognition: http://work.alberta.ca/Immigration/apply.html
Working in your occupation in Alberta:
Alberta occupational information:
Canadian Immigrant Information Program
World Education Services (WES)
Report May 15, 2015: www.wes.org/ca/info/WES_Considering_Canada_report.pdf
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