Immigration and the Professions
APEGGA and Alberta Create Programs
to Help Newcomers Find Jobs

(With CCPE and PEO News Releases)

It’s Official
APEGGA Past-President Mike Smyth, P.Eng., and the Hon. Clint Dunford, Alberta Minister of Human Resources and 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 Valley College, reflects a growing emphasis on helping internationally educated graduates adapt to the Canadian employment scene.

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 call for:

  • 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.

Alberta Advances
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 educated graduates.

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 Canada.

“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 Newcomers.
“But it’s also a program about human beings, and the difficulties they face when they come here,” he said.

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 of Canada.
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 registration process.

“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.

me | Past PEGGs | PEGG Search | Contact Us