Employment: Bridging Programs in Western Canada

Canada is internationally known as a country with excellent immigration programs for skilled workers and qualified professionals. It is important to know the rules and regulations of the province or territory you want to call home – only the right preparation and proper licensing will ensure a chance to put your expertise to work.

Engineering, health care, and a variety of other professions are regulated; and in order to be able to work in a regulated occupation, you must perform two steps – credentials assessment and proper licensing. There are many programs available in Western Canada to accomplish those steps, and they differ from province to province.

British Columbia

In British Columbia, the ICES (International Credential Evaluation Service – www.bcit.ca/ices) will assess international credentials for a fee, something you can do before you come to Canada. Another option is the Skills Connect Program (www.skillsconnect.ca), which is available to immigrants with a Permanent Resident (PR) card, and is administered in various locations throughout the Metro Vancouver area. For a full list of criteria and locations please check the FAQ section of the Skills Connect website.

The program is funded by the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia, and is free of charge. Once registered, you’ll receive a full assessment of your language skills and international credentials, as well as skills upgrading and job placement counselling. A separate part of the program offers similar services for health care professionals, but does not include the cost for required training and courses. Some of these costs can be offset by obtaining government grants, and Skills Connect Health will provide grant application assistance.

BC is the only Western province with a central access point for immigrants; other provinces offer similar possibilities, though you’ll have to deal with a number of different authorities and agencies if you apply.

Alberta

The Province of Alberta has a program for internationally-trained professionals, the Bridge to Employment program. The agency for credentials assessment is IQAS (International Qualifications Assessment Service, www.employment.alberta.ca/immigration/4512.html) which provides different types of assessment, depending on your occupation and education. IQAS charges a fee for all applicants; however, the assessment can be part of Bridge to Employment, depending on the program.

The Bredin Institute in Calgary (www.bredin.ab.ca) and the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (www.ccis-calgary.ab.ca) both offer upgrading programs for a variety of occupations like engineering, pharmacy and various trades. Many of these programs are free for immigrants, like those offered by the Centre for Skilled and Internationally Trained Professionals (CSITP) within the Bredin Institute. The CSITP provides career coaching, study groups, referrals and job placement help.

The Calgary Catholic Immigration Society offers a free, intensive Engineering & Technology Upgrading Program, funded by Alberta Human Services. Some of the mandatory criteria for this program include having a foreign engineering degree, meeting a certain language benchmark, and being an Alberta resident for at least 90 days before applying. You can apply during the mandatory information session. Applicants selected for the program receive skills upgrading as well as AutoCAD training.

Saskatchewan

Immigration Saskatchewan’s program is similar to Alberta’s. The credentials assessment authority is the same (IQAS); however, assessments from the ICES in British Columbia are also accepted.

Bridging programs in Saskatchewan are available for health professionals and engineers, and are funded by the province. Upgrading courses are administered by the University of Saskatchewan. Immigration Saskatchewan suggests checking their website for updates, since changes to simplify the program are in progress (www.saskimmigrationcanada.ca/your-occupation-in-saskatchewan/).

Information for the International Medical Graduate Program can be found at www.usask.ca/cme/international.shtml. the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan also provide information on the engineering program on their website (www.apegs.sk.ca).

To support immigrants financially, the IAF (Immigrant Access Fund, www.iafcanada.org) will provide micro-loans to qualifying immigrants for assessment and licensing purposes. The program is available to permanent residents of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Manitoba

Manitoba will recognize credentials that have been assessed by either the ICES or IQAS; there are also bridging programs in place for qualified professionals. a list of available programs can be found on the website of Immigration Manitoba (www.immigratemanitoba.com/working-in-manitoba/profession/learning-opportunities/). Some of these programs are free, some charge a fee. The criteria for qualification also vary; some programs require permanent resident status, while others accept immigrants with work permits. The Internationally Educated Engineers Qualification Program (IEEPQ), for example, is administered by the University of Manitoba, and lists the total cost for the program at about CDN$6,800.00.

To help offset some of the costs, the Credentials Recognition Program will reimburse eligible expenses up to 50% (max. CDN$2,250.00). Information for this program is available on the website mentioned above.

There are many opportunities for international professionals in the Western provinces. Preparation is the key to success, and with the wealth of information available, doing this important homework should be easier than ever!