Citizenship and Immigration Canada Launches Its Foreign Credentials Referral Office
by Dale Sproule
With immigrants currently accounting for 100 per cent of the labour force growth I Southern Ontario – and soon to reach that level across the entire country – it is obvious that the future economy of Canada depends on newcomers. In order to reach economic targets and prevent labour shortages, Canada must do more than simply maintain the current levels of immigration. The numbers need to increase.
But over the past several years, word has started going out that Canada is not the easiest place to get your foot in the door. Statistics show that the average new immigrant takes a year or more to find a job – and when it finally happens, it will probably not be in the field or at the level the person was expecting.
Approximately 16 per cent of immigrants give up within the first year and return to their countries of origin, while a fairly large percentage of those who stay in Canada remain unemployed for at least one more year.
The Province of Ontario acknowledged the importance of the immigration issue with the formation of Citizenship and Immigration as a separate ministry. The Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration (MCI) has taken increased responsibility for immigrant programs. Soon after launching their excellent website (now at www.ontarioimmigration.ca), Citizenship and Immigration Minister Mike Colle introduced Bill 124, which was passed in legislature in December. This bill enforces some groundbreaking initiatives that make it easier for internationally trained professionals to become licensed and certified to work in Ontario. And earlier this year, the provincial Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities announced the transfer of $525 million in programs from the federal government (Service Canada) to the provincial government (Employment Ontario).
On May 24, 2007, Diane Finley, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada announced the launch of the first phase of the Foreign Credentials Referral Office (FCRO) – welcome evidence that Canada’s Conservative government is not just aware, but very concerned about this country’s international reputation and equally concerned about the welfare of the immigrants who come here believing that professionals in their field are in demand and they will be able to find a good job soon after arrival.
The main goal of the FCRO is to help internationally trained professionals get their credentials assessed and recognized more quickly. But, in fact, you don’t have to be a professional to take advantage of the information and the tools provided by this Office to help you hit the ground running in the Canadian job market.
What Does the Foreign Credentials Referral Office Do?
Cheryl Grant is the Executive Director of Canada’s newest initiative to help internationally trained individuals find work in their field in Canada.
You can actually hear the excitement in Grant’s voice when she talks about Canada’s new Foreign Credentials Referral Office, especially when she offers a guided tour of the FCRO website (www.credentials.gc.ca).
“Click on the Working in Canada tool,” she says. “Now enter an occupation. If you enter nurse, you are given a choice of 16 Canadian occupation titles. Read the descriptions [which are from the National Occupational Classification] and select the one that best describes what you do.” The choices in this category include a large number of possibilities from babysitter, farm manager, childhood educator, nursery and greenhouse worker to registered nurse and licensed practical nurse.
“When you find the right definition,” instructs Grant, “you hit ‘continue’ and it will take you to a screen where you can select where in Canada you want to work. After you choose a province and area, you get a report telling you if it’s a regulated profession, what you must do and where you should go to get accredited, including names of organizations and their contact information. Plus all sorts of other information, like job prospects, wages, training information in case you need to upgrade your qualifications. It’s all there.”
As impressive as the website is, there is much more to the FCRO initiative than some fancy online tools.
The main components of the initiative are:
- You can visit and get help in person or take advantage of the dedicated phone service at Service Canada outlets across the country. This service will grow from six to 320 outlets by fall 2007. The toll-free number is: 1-888-854-1805 or TTY 1-800-926-9105 (in Canada only).
- A website – www.credentials.gc.ca – that enables prospective immigrants from around the world to learn about their occupation in Canada. They can find out whether they need a special license or accreditation to practice their profession. They can check to find out how their occupation in Canada differs from the same occupation in their country of origin and find out the demand for people in their field in various parts of Canada. This service is not only available to residents of Canada. Grant says, “When people apply to immigrate to Canada, they receive an acknowledgement letter from the Canadian government. In that letter, they will be told about the FCRO and the resources available to help them get started on the job search/credential recognition right away.”
- The Foreign Credential Recognition Program is making major investments with professional and regulatory bodies to help ease the way for foreign trained individuals in such fields as medicine, engineering, information and communications technology and biotechnology, as well as in non-regulated occupations such as tourism, textiles and trucking.
- Over $4.5 million has been invested in Association of Canadian Community Colleges’ Canadian Immigration Integration Project to deliver overseas information services to help skilled worker class immigrants prepare for immigration. There are currently pilot offices in China, India and the Philippines. These pilots will be evaluated and CIC will look at expanding orientation sessions overseas.
- Canada’s new government has also announced approximately $18.8 million in funding to enhance and stimulate development of online information in Canada.
The Office will need to collaborate closely with partners since assessment and recognition of credentials is a provincial/territorial jurisdiction. In order to make progress in improving FCR processes, the Office will be working with all partners, including the provinces and territories, prospective employers and a wide array of other stakeholders.
“Too many newcomers can’t get jobs they have been trained for,” as Minister Finley said when announcing the program. “Today we are delivering on our promise to do something about it.”
And the best thing about the FCRO, is that it is something that will keep on growing.