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Internationally Trained Professionals are caught up in licensing bottlenecks

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Myth: Internationally Trained Professionals (ITPs) are not as qualified as Canadian professionals.

Fact: ITPs face certain bottlenecks by licensing authorities before they get licensure, which delays their absorption into their professional fields.

“Internationally Trained Professionals (ITPs) have been able to prove that they aren’t less qualified than their Canadian counterparts. However, we can get better outcomes if Canadian authorities can be more intentional about addressing delayed integration of ITPs into the Canadian workforce environment.”

Not too long ago, intending immigrants all over the world would rather pursue what was called the American dream. The trajectory has, however, changed. Canada became the bride of the world as she opened her doors to immigrants who have helped build the economy. Intending immigrants now pursue the Canadian dream as vigorously as the American dream was pursued.

Scott Gilmore, a former Canadian diplomat and author of the essay “The American Dream has moved to Canada”, spoke with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on the facts behind his declaration and essay. He stated, “No matter how you cut the American Dream or no matter how you describe the American dream, whether it’s life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness or a car, a job and a degree, it’s now become easier in Canada.” Immigrants make the all-important move with their college degrees and professional experiences in their kitty and land here in Canada.

However, Internationally Trained Professionals soon find out that the Canadian dream comes at a cost – professional jobs are not automatic. There are barriers blocking the integration of ITPs. Many professions are regulated and immigrants find it difficult to get employment in their professions in spite of the fact that many are over-qualified with years of experience and high degree of career success in their chosen fields before their arrival in Canada. ITPs have to get their qualifications and experience assessed by licensing bodies who sometimes conclude that such credentials and work experience of immigrants, depending on where they were acquired, are not acceptable. Immigrants are thus forced to resort to “survival jobs”, so-called because they are below the professional status of the immigrants, yet are much needed as a stop-gap survival strategy until they get their accreditation.

Unfortunately, it results in medical doctors driving cabs, or accountants washing dishes in restaurants, engineers, bankers working as servers or working as receptionists. It makes them underutilized and tests the resilience of the professionals who face the bottlenecks with professional bodies and associations over their lack of “Canadian job experience”, language barriers in certain instances and workplace integration encumbrances. The careers of immigrants often stalls upon landing here in Canada.

It is because of this singular factor that it is assumed that Internationally Trained Professionals are deemed not as qualified as Canadian professionals. Once they get the required licenses and authority approvals, they perform excellently as well as, if not more than their native counterparts. This is why the Canadian government actively seeks to admit immigrants who have skills in fields such as medicine, engineering, or skilled trades where Canada has shortages of skilled workers. Unfortunately, it mostly turns out to be a hamster wheel for these foreign-trained professionals.

For instance, there is an acute shortage in the healthcare sector in spite of the fact that over 1.6 million people work in the sector. With COVID, shortage in the healthcare sector has been more exposed. In the next decade or so, over half a million healthcare workers will be retiring which will further put the sector in dire circumstances. Hence, there is a drive to recruit more professionals to address the shortfall. But when they get here, they face the same constraints experienced by landed seniors.

For a clearer understanding of some bottlenecks faced by ITPs, dentists’ requirements are a case in point. Dentists have to receive a certificate upon successful completion of the written examination and OSCE, which is the Objective Structured Clinical Examination. In addition, dentists must also be licensed with the Dental Regulatory Authority (DRA) in the province where they intend to work. And that isn’t as easy as it sounds either. To get the DRA, they must show proof of a language score, obtain practical working hours, and submit character references. None of the requirements come cheap or easy. They definitely take time to process too.

Take this statistics of immigrants in the Canadian healthcare sector:

  • Immigrants account for 1 out of every 4 health-care sector workers.
  • In Canada, immigrants make up 37% of pharmacists, 36% of physicians, 39% of dentists, 23% of registered nurses, and 35% of nurse aides and related occupations.
  • More than 40% of newcomers to Canada between 2011 and 2016 who were working in the health-care sector were employed in the important areas of nursing and residential care facilities, as well as home health-care services.
  • The story is the same in the Science and Technology sector. 34% of people working in scientific research and development services across Canada are foreign-born.
  • Nearly 500,000 immigrants working in Canada are trained in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
  • Immigrants represent 24% of the national workforce but account for 39% of computer programmers, 41% of engineers and more than 50% of all chemists.
  • International students represent 12% of students in the country’s post-secondary education system but account for 27% of all students enrolled in mathematics, computer and information sciences programs and 19% of all students in architecture, engineering and related programs.
  • Many international students enrolled in STEM fields will stay and build their careers in Canada, enhancing our capacity for innovation and helping us build a stronger economy for the future.

    Clearly, from the above statistics, ITPs have been able to prove that they aren’t less qualified than their Canadian counterparts. However, we can get better outcomes if Canadian authorities can be more intentional about addressing delayed integration of ITPs into the Canadian workforce environment.

    The bottom line is, if immigrants prosper, we all do.

By The Editorial Board.

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