APEGGA and Alberta Create Programs
to Help Newcomers Find
BY GEORGE LEE
(With CCPE and PEO News Releases)
APEGGA Past-President Mike Smyth, P.Eng., and the Hon.
Clint Dunford, Alberta Minister of Human Resources
Employment, take part in official ceremonies to open
Directions for Immigrants in Trades and Professional
Careers, June. 6. Mr. Smyth is at left, and Mr. Dunford
is cutting the ribbon. The centre, operated by Bow
College, reflects a growing emphasis on helping internationally
educated graduates adapt to the Canadian employment
A national project to help internationally educated graduates
blend into the professional workforce enters its action phase
in the new year. Meanwhile, many initiatives to smooth the
transition are already underway within APEGGA, Alberta post-secondary
institutions and Alberta service groups.
Darrel Danyluk, P.Eng., chair of the From Consideration
to Integration Steering Committee, says much of FC2I’s
foundational research work is complete. “We know that
many immigrants with a background in engineering want to work
in the profession once they are here,” says Mr. Danyluk,
who is also president of the Canadian Council of Professional
Engineers and a past APEGGA president. “But we also
know they face cultural barriers, employment difficulties
and challenges in accessing clear information.
“We looked at each of these areas, in addition to
the licensing process itself.”
Among other improvements, FC2I’s recommendations
- Accurate and consistent information about the engineering
profession licensing process, employment situation and support
agencies, prior to and after internationally educated graduates
arrive in Canada
- Effective relationships between immigrant serving agencies
and regulatory bodies
- The creation of a provisional or temporary licence for
internationally educated graduates, once they have met all
requirements other than their one year of Canadian experience
- And a single-source Internet portal for engineering information
for internationally educated graduates.
In Ontario, major funding for an initiative that fits one
of the recommendations was announced last week. Professional
Engineers Ontario, the engineering self-regulatory body in
Ontario, received $2 million over two years from the provincial
government there to develop an Internet portal.
APEGGA has also taken some of the FC2I recommendations to
heart. Members approved the creation of a provisional licence
at last year’s Annual General Meeting. And the Registration
Department is currently making the application system more
understandable and user-friendly.
Also, APEGGA’s Mentoring Program has expanded into
a second pool for mentors and protégés interested
in giving or receiving career advice. Aimed at protégés
who aren’t yet employed, the pool is for grads of any
program. But one of its major target groups is internationally
The Association is building the relationships mentioned
in FC2I. Registration Director Mark Tokarik, LL.B., P.Eng.,
and other APEGGA managers are meeting often with agencies
and groups that serve immigants, to discuss the issues facing
internationally educated professionals.
An information night in July, for example, brought about
75 members of Edmonton’s Indo-Canadian engineering community
to the APEGGA office, at the request of the Indo-Canadian
Engineers Association of Edmonton. ICE, as the group’s
known, is a prime example of the kind of organization springing
from a need for smoother integration.
Said Dinesh Gupta, P.Eng., president of the group: “ICE
was formed earlier this year with the purpose of having Indo-Canadian
professional members assist well-educated professionals from
their homeland in merging successfully in their new environment.”
Edmonton Centre for Newcomers and NAIT
On Oct. 18, APEGGA Internal Affairs Director Len Shrimpton,
P.Eng., and Professional Development Manager Nancy Toth attended
the graduation of a bridging program of the Edmonton Mennonite
Centre for Newcomers. Called the Engineers’ and Technologists’
Integration Program, it boasts 45 graduates who were honoured
at the NAIT event.
The 10-month program — which comprises courses at
EMCN from January to April and courses at NAIT over the summer
months — helps newcomers qualify for technologist in
training membership in the Alberta Society of Engineering
Technologists. They then become eligible for CET membership
after one year of Canadian work experience.
By the time of the graduation ceremonies, 20 members of
the class had already been hired in the civil, mechanical
and electrical engineering fields. Some will go on to become
professional engineers, once they’re established in
“This is a bridging approach. It allows newcomers
to do work that’s close to or equivalent to what they
were trained for at home,” says Luella Gaultier, the
manager of programs for immigrant professionals at the Edmonton
Centre for Newcomers. “A strong relationship with APEGGA
and APEGGA’s permit holders is very important to us.”
The program is an unqualified success. It began in 1997
with about 15 people in the class, and this year, about 250
people applied for the 45 available positions. “It’s
very competitive to get into this program. And there are economic
benefits, for Alberta and for its participants,” says
Jim Gurnett, executive director of the Edmonton Centre for
“But it’s also a program about human beings, and
the difficulties they face when they come here,” he
The ETIP program has been such a success that the centre
has expanded the concept into the accounting profession, with
a pilot program currently in place.
New Centre Opens
In Calgary, integration received a major boost with the opening
of Directions for Immigrants in Trades and Professional Careers,
June 6. Operated by Bow Valley College, the centre is funded
by Alberta Human Resources and Employment, and the Government
Ellie Khaksar, supervisor of the centre, says it provides
information on the labour market and work expectations in
regulated occupations. It also provides information on the
“This service is essential to assure that immigrant
professionals can find employment in the same area of their
education. It is also important that Alberta’s future
labour market needs are met through access to this pool of
educated, experienced individuals,” says Ms. Khaksar.
Participants must have at least two years of work experience
in their field of education, and the centre also screens participants
for Canadian Language Benchmark Level 6 in English. Once accepted,
participants can attend information sessions and be referred
to the services they’ll need.
“We support our clients with one-on-one career coaching
for 52 weeks. During this period, we invite them to participate
in group sessions with networks and guest speakers from the
industries,” says Ms. Khaksar. “To date, we have
had 325 clients inquire about different services.”
Use will likely stay strong. Calgary absorbs more than 2,200
immigrants each year with at least one bachelor’s degree.
Over 700 have at least a master’s degree. “More
than 80 per cent of the individuals who come to us needing
service are engineers,” says Ms. Khaksar.
Calling On Industry
Salim Sindhu of the Alberta Association of Immigrant Professionals
says the various services available are responses to “a
very complex problem.” The association, affiliated with
the Calgary Immigrant Educational Society, is run by immigrant
professionals, for immigrant professionals.
The association’s aim is to ensure equal employment
access to the estimated 5,000 professionally qualified immigrants
who arrive in Alberta each year. Most of them are trained
as engineers, says Mr. Sindhu.
In the late 1990s, Canada began opening its doors to more
immigrants in the professions. Now, through the efforts of
service groups and federal initiatives such as FC2I, the country’s
social network is attempting to catch up.
Industry needs to prepare itself, too, says Mr. Sindhu,
who has written papers on the subject.
“Within 20 years, most of the professionals available
will not have been educated in Canada,” he says. That
means major changes are necessary to the corporate cultures
within individual companies.
Mr. Sindhu advises them to start preparing now — for
their own economic wellbeing, but also for that of their country.