Careers: How Many Engineers are Necessary for Canada?
by Efim Cheinis
Published March 2005. Some information in this article may be outdated.
"Why do some newcomer professionals work as pizza deliverers?" This question was discussed at a meeting with Kirsten Williams, Senior Program and Policy Consultant of Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.
A foreign engineer thinking about immigration to Canada has certainly looked into the National Occupational Classification List, where he, or she, has found many engineering positions. Once he understood that Canada needs engineers, he began the immigration process. Further, he has sent his engineering diploma, for example, to Professional Engineers Ontario, and soon received a letter saying that he meets Canadian requirements of engineering qualification. Under an assumption that he will quickly find a job, the foreign engineer has come to Canada.
Upon arrival, he or she begins sending tens or even hundreds of resumes, which get no response. He begins to understand that finding an engineering job for a new immigrant is practically impossible! The holder of an engineering diploma gets frustrated and feels deceived. Having spent all the money brought from the old country, he or she is happy to find any survival job like delivery driver, construction worker, store clerk, security guard, etc. A good education and valuable experience are unused, and Canada does not receive the expected benefit from immigration.
Does the Canadian government know about this?
"Yes, the Government of Ontario knows," said Kirsten Williams. "Some skilled newcomers living in Ontario are unemployed or have survival jobs. We try to resolve this problem and help internationally educated newcomers. It is not easy, because 120 thousand immigrants come to Ontario every year, and 100 thousand of them settle in Toronto. And many of the internationally trained engineers are not ready to work as engineers in Canada."
What does Ms Williams mean, "not ready'? There are many barriers to overcome.
In order to work as an engineer in Canada, it is necessary to have an engineering diploma, but this is not enough. In spite of the higher English or French language requirements set by the Consulates of Canada, language proficiency for the majority of professionals is not good enough for work on highly technical engineering positions. Besides, many immigrants, working as engineers in the homeland, sometimes carried out completely different duties than what are needed in Canada and described in the Canadian National Occupational Classification. Additionally, internationally trained engineers often do not know important Canadian standards, rules, codes and regulations, lack professional terminology or have a poor computer background. Another factor is that Canadian employers prefer to hire engineers with Canadian diplomas, certificates, experience and references. Therefore, before entering the Canadian job market, immigrating engineers have to create a serious career plan and to do lots of preparation work.
Another problem is that Ontario simply cannot employ all newcomer-engineers. For example, Ontario will require 25 thousand new engineers by the year of 2015, but in only the last five years, 40 thousand newcomers with engineering backgrounds have arrived in our province, and thousands more will be graduating from Ontario universities as well. That is why some newcomer-engineers have to work as technicians or technologists, change their occupation, open a small business or move to another province.
What does the Canadian government do to help newcomer engineers find jobs?
"Our work is conducted in several directions," said Kirsten Williams. "We research the immigrants who have arrived in Ontario, determine the level of their education, their experience and occupations. First of all we want to help immigrants who have occupations that Ontario desperately needs."
Because employers seek candidates with good English communication skills, the government has opened and funded language assessment centers. From here they are referred to appropriate ESL schools, where they will improve their language skills and more easily integrate into the Canadian job market.
16 pilot projects, funded by 19 million dollars, have been opened for internationally trained professionals. These projects include internship workplaces for highly skilled professionals, who have received education abroad. The internship duration is from 4 to 12 months with a monthly salary of $1,667. Internet sites: www.careerbridge.ca and www.equalopportunity.on.ca have more details about these projects. One can submit on-line application forms for participation in these projects, but not all applicants can be accommodated.
Several organizations provide a help for newcomers:
- Accessible Community Counseling and Employment Services (ACCES);
- Centre for Foreign Trained Professionals & Tradespeople (CFTPT);
- Career Action for Newcomers (CAN);
- Jewish Vocational service (JVS);
- Skills for Change;
- Mentoring Partnership;
- Ontario Network for Internationally Trained Professionals (ITP).
Most of them are funded by the government.
Another problem is certification. To be licensed in Ontario, internationally trained engineers need at least four years of experience, one year of which must be in Canada under the supervision of a certified engineer. Because engineering is a regulated occupation in Canada, foreign-trained engineers must also take some additional training courses and write some technical exams, which are not easy.
Therefore, the Government of Ontario funded 2 million dollars for two years for the special program to help internationally trained engineers to obtain a Canadian certificate. This program has been developed and carried out by the Professional Engineers Ontario (www.peo.on.ca). However, immigrant-engineers must realize that while it is possible to work in Canada as an engineer without the certificate, you cannot call yourself a professional engineer, and you are obliged to work under the supervision of a certificated engineer who will bear the responsibility for your actions.
A similar service can help you become a certified technician or technologist (http://www.options-engineering.ca).
The Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), coordinates employment actions for newcomers. The council works to improve access to employment for immigrants in the Toronto region and supplies them with valuable information, so that they are better able to use the skills, education and experience that they bring with them to Canada.
All these Government actions will make the internationally trained engineers more attractive to Canadian employers and will facilitate their job searching skills. By finding an appropriate job, engineer-immigrants can realize their creative potential, provide a high standard of living for their families, and make a real contribution to the Canadian economy.