Deal to speed credentials for foreign professionals

TheStar.com – News/Canada – Deal to speed credentials for foreign professionals: Ottawa and provinces agree to framework to get foreign-trained workers in jobs more quickly
Published on November 30, 2009.   Susan Delacourt Ottawa Bureau

OTTAWA–The federal government and the provinces are unveiling a major agreement on Monday to help foreign-trained professionals get their credentials recognized in Canada.

By next December, the federal and provincial governments will have a system in place to start recognizing international credentials in eight occupations, including architects, registered nurses, engineers, financial auditors and accountants, medical laboratory technologists, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists.

Within three years, another six occupations will be added to that list, including physicians, teachers of kindergarten to Grade 12, dentists, engineering technicians, licensed practical nurses and medical radiation technologists.

Ottawa is billing the pact as an important new step for improving the employment prospects of professionals educated abroad, who are forced to work in low-skill jobs because their training isn’t recognized here.

“We’ve long recognized the importance of this and we’re pleased that the provinces have stepped up to get this agreement,” said a Conservative government official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley is to make the announcement in Toronto on Monday, along with several representatives from the provinces.

It has been called the doctors-driving-cabs problem and one that has dogged this Conservative government and its Liberal predecessors. Immigrants, an increasingly important constituency, have been vocal in their frustration at the labyrinth of bureaucracy and rules they need to navigate to have their professional training recognized in Canada.

Adding to the problem is the fact that all provinces have their own systems for professional recognition.

Statistics Canada has estimated that six in 10 newcomers end up working in different fields than the ones in which they worked abroad.

The agreement is the result of a first ministers’ meeting last January, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the premiers announced they would come forward by this fall with a plan for “concerted action to provide timely assessment and recognition of foreign qualifications.”

About $50 million was set aside over two years by Ottawa in its 2009 budget to move that plan forward. Provinces will kick in to the plan as well.

Monday’s announcement is called the “pan-Canadian framework for the assessment and recognition of foreign credentials” and comes a couple of months after the deadline of September, 2009, set by the first ministers to reach an agreement.

In a background document obtained by the Star in advance of Monday’s announcement, the government explains that the goal of framework agreement “is to articulate a new joint national vision, guiding principles and desired outcomes for improving the assessment and recognition of newcomers’ qualifications.”

Studies have estimated the failure to recognize international credentials of potential workers costs the Canadian economy $2.4 billion to $15 billion a year.
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Deal will cut waiting time for foreign professionals, Finley says

Ottawa says it will let foreign-trained workers know within one year whether their credentials allow them to work in their profession in Canada.

Minister of Human Resources Diane Finley, speaking in Toronto, says attracting and retaining the best international talent is critical to Canada’s long-term economic success.

Finely says beginning Dec. 31, 2010, foreign-trained architects, engineers, pharmacists, physio and occupational therapists and registered nurses will be among the groups that fall under the new framework.

Doctors and others are slated to be included in the one-year timetable by the end of 2012.

The new framework also pledges that federal, provincial, and territorial governments will strive to create better services for immigrants before they arrive in Canada and once they’re in the workforce.

Ottawa says the governments will work with regulatory bodies, colleges and universities, and other “key partners” to make the changes happen.

- The Canadian Press
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