Please watch Jason Kenney outline the United Conservative commitment in the video, and continue reading below for more information.
Many newcomers arrive with great hopes and skills only to become trapped in survival jobs, underemployed because Canadian businesses and professional licensing bodies won’t recognize their degrees, credentials, or experience. In fact, new immigrants with university degrees are four times more likely to be unemployed than university grads born here.1
This “doctors-driving-taxis” problem causes great stress for immigrant families, whose education and skills are not being used to their full potential. It also represents a significant loss of economic productivity for the Alberta economy.
According to the Conference Board of Canada, Canadians would earn up to $17 billion more annually if their learning credentials were fully recognized.2 The report estimates that:
• 844,000 Canadian adults face challenges having their learning recognized, up from 540,000 in 2001.
• Immigrants are the largest group, with an estimated 524,000 international credential holders affected by a lack of learning recognition.
• Almost 200,000 people with out-of-province credentials and 120,000 with hands-on, experiential learning not recognized in a credential also face education recognition challenges.3
It is important for Alberta’s occupational bodies to maintain high professional standards, protecting public safety and consumers in the assessment of skills and qualifications. It is true that some immigrant professionals do not have education or skills commensurate with Alberta standards. However, the experience of many highly-trained immigrant professionals suggests that some professional and trade regulators have unnecessarily complex procedures for licensure, which can sometimes cause professionals to spend years jumping through regulatory hoops while their skills atrophy.4
While many licensing bodies have made considerable progress in streamlining their credentialing procedures in recent years, there continue to be concerns that some regulators create unnecessary barriers to licensure as a form of labour market protectionism. In the words of the Conference Board of Canada:
“To some extent, occupational bodies are conflicted in that they have a joint mandate to both serve existing members and to ensure that new members are worthy of admission. Sometimes this joint mandate favours existing members over new members and occupational restrictions morph from public safety management to old-style protectionism. Protectionism can manifest itself in a lack of openness and unfairness to new members.”5
If elected, a United Conservative government will work to knock down unfair barriers to the full economic inclusion of new Albertans, while maintaining our high professional standards. We will implement a Fairness for Newcomers Action Plan, which will include:
• Introduction of a Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act modelled on similar legislation adopted by Ontario in 2006.6 This law will help ensure that members and potential members of regulated professions are governed by practices that are transparent, objective, impartial, and fair.
• Creation of a Fairness for Newcomers Office with a $2.5 million budget7 that will work with regulatory bodies and publicly identify and hold accountable those with unreasonable barriers to credential recognition.
• Organize a Premier’s Summit on Fairness for Newcomers. The Premier will invite all of Alberta’s professional and trade regulators, together with immigrants, employers, and settlement agencies to develop a strategy for Alberta to have the quickest and fairest assessment of foreign credentials and education in Canada.
• Put foreign credential recognition on the agenda of the First Ministers’ Meeting to push for faster action on the Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications8, which is an effort to get regulatory bodies across Canada to harmonize their credentialing procedures.
• Create an Alberta Government Mentorship for Newcomers Program, modelled on a similar federal program9, to match immigrant professionals with mentors in the public service who can help to guide them through the process of credential recognition and finding employment at their skill level.
• Support and expand the work of the International Qualifications Assessment Service10 (created by a previous Progressive Conservative government) that assesses foreign degrees against the Canadian post-secondary standard.
• Work with non-profit groups like Windmill Microlending11 (formerly the Alberta Immigrant Access Fund) to expand access to low-interest loans to immigrant professionals who need bridge financing to upgrade their skills and pay for certification exams. Windmill’s micro-loans are backstopped by philanthropists, have a 97 percent repayment rate, and on average help to triple income for program participants.
• Support the work of immigrant settlement agencies to offer skills upgrading to underemployed foreign professionals.
• Work with the federal government to offer pre-arrival orientation to foreign nationals selected for permanent residency in Alberta to encourage them to apply for credential recognition and educational assessments before they arrive in Canada.
- https://www.conferenceboard.ca/temp/ddd6fb48-7375-484f-bb99-112857b8af53/7607_BrainGainII_RPT-E.pdf, p. 73.
- Reprofiled from existing programs.