The Foreign Credentials Recognition Loans Pilot
In so many ways Manitoba has been a leading province in attracting immigrants and providing much needed support for their integration to life in the province. We have, of course, the enormously successful Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program and a whole range of integration support programs and initiatives from the Entry Program, the Academic Credentials Assessment Service, the Immigrant Centre, Manitoba Start, Success Skills, Employment Projects of Winnipeg, N.E.E.D.S., the various bridging programs, a highly effective English language programs for newcomers and, of course, the long time Credentials Recognition Program. These are only some of the things we have come to take for granted in Manitoba.
Canada, in sharp contrast, has been following instead of leading the provinces in providing support for newcomers. This imbalance is now being addressed, in a measured way, by the federal government, who have announced their own version of a recognition program for immigrant professional newcomers. The target group is internationally trained immigrant professionals and the measure has a familiar to ring to it: The Foreign Credentials Recognition Loans Pilot.
On February 22, 2012, the government of Canada announced the launch of the three-year pilot project that will make it easier for internationally trained professionals to have their credentials recognized and to be able to find employment in their professional field. Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development made the announcement jointly with Jason Kenny, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.
“Our government’s top priority is job creation and economic growth,” said Minister Finley. “In the Economic Action Plan, we made a commitment to help internationally trained professionals cover the costs of having their credentials recognized. Today we are delivering on that commitment.”
Minister Kenny added his support for the measure: “Today’s announcement is part of the Government’s commitment to making it easier for immigrants to join the Canadian labour market. We want newcomers to be able to use their skills as soon as possible in Canada and work to their full potential. It’s good for them and good for the Canadian economy.”
The Foreign Credentials Recognition Loans Pilotis part of $18 million commitment the Government of Canada made in its 2011 budget for the Next Phase of Canada’s Economic Action Plan. The pilot will cover the cost of licensing exams, training and skills upgrading for internationally trained workers. The delivery of the program appears to have been placed in the hands of community-based partners, such as non-government and non-profit organizations, to deliver the financial assistance to eligible workers. The announcement mentions by name several participating agencies such as S.U.C.C.E.S.S. who will provide assistance to over 350 internationally trained workers in the greater Vancouver area who would be expected to pay back the loans within a flexible time period. In addition, Immigrant Access Fund Saskatchewan has received $1.7 million to help 290 internationally trained workers.
The much-publicized announcement was accompanied by endorsements from spokespeople for IAF Saskatchewan, the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, the Chinese Professional Association of Canada and the CEO of S.U.C.C.E.S.S. who all rose in praise of the initiative.
Yes, it is important for the federal government to get involved in assisting newcomers with their professional integration. The question is important to all Canadians who should be concerned about the under-utilization of foreign trained professionals. It is tragic for the individuals who cannot readily work in their professional areas and detrimental to the Canadian economy as whole. Are there alternative ways of assisting this target group?
Of course, I would be remise if I did not rise in praise of Manitoba’s Credential Recognition Program, which is based upon the grant system and addresses the issue in two different ways: a wage subsidy program for employers who provide the foreign trained professionals with Canadian experience in their professional field, or financial assistance to cover the costs of licensing exams, books etc. but is limited in terms of funding. The Manitoba Credential Recognition is currently out of money and has not been accepting new applications since September 2011. At this time I shall temper both my praise and criticism for the federal initiative by saying that it should be given a chance (a three-year pilot) to show how effective it is or if it is more effective than the Manitoba-type approach has been. The Foreign Credentials Recognition Loans Pilot is, however, a move in the right direction and should be accepted as such.
Michael Scott BA (Hon), MA, is a 30-year veteran of Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program who works as an immigration associate with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. He can be reached at 838 Ellice Avenue in Winnipeg, (204) 783-7326 or (204) 227-0292. E-mail: email@example.com