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Life of Canadian PI by Ethel Clemente Fernandez

Taking the road less travelled

    R.Llanes with G. Koropatnick APEGM President
Rosario with APEGM President G. Koropatnick
  R. Llanes with husband Max
With her husband, Max
  R Llanes with new professional engineers 2007
Rosario (R) with new professional engineers in 2007

by Ethel Clemente-Fernandez

When there’s only one option to reach your dreams, you either pursue that dream or give it up. The thought of uncertainty, the fear of the unknown or of what’s out there are usually the most common things that hold people back. But Rosario Marquez Llanes is not someone to give up on a dream easily, even if it means taking the road less travelled.

Rosario grew up in Project 6, Quezon City with her four other siblings. Her father passed away when she was 14 leaving her mom to raise all five of them and somehow manage to send them to school.

Her older brother, who was in civil engineering, inspired Rosario to pursue a similar profession. She had a knack for numbers and was really good at math; thus, she decided to take chemical engineering because it was the more popular career path for women in engineering at the time. In 1980, she graduated from the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines with a bachelor degree in chemical engineering, and then passed the board exam a year later.

After graduation, Rosario worked in the field of technical sales in the Philippines for almost 11 years. She, along with her three young children and spouse immigrated to Winnipeg in 1993 where most of her and her husband’s family had already settled. Upon her arrival, she immediately submitted her credentials to the University of Manitoba (U of M). Since chemical engineering was not offered there, the U of M gave her an acceptance letter in the Faculty of Chemistry. She decided not take that route, as she was not seeking to obtain a second degree.

She recalled that things were different back in 1993, when employers usually would look for Canadian experience. That frustrated her since she was only applying for her first job in Canada. She eventually managed to work in a fast food chain, but only for a month, as that was not where her heart belonged.

Her big break came in 1997, when she finally got her first engineering work experience as a process specialist in an aerospace company in Winnipeg. She met many immigrant engineers in the workplace who were registered as professional engineers. This gave her the inspiration to take a step in her engineering career in Canada. She was now very determined to get back to her chosen profession. In September of that same year, after submitting all her academic credentials to APEGM, the Board of Examiners gave her eight courses to complete under the proficiency examination program.

In 1997, the IEEQ (Internationally Educated Engineers Qualification) program was not yet in existence, but even so, she would not have been able to get into the program since chemical engineering was not offered in any educational institutions in Manitoba. Taking university courses would have been an easier route to take, but she did it the hard; she challenged and passed all eight confirmatory exams.

At times there were bumps in her chosen path and she almost gave up. She had to work full-time, be a mother to three young children and study all by herself at the same time. In 2007, after ten long years, she finally reached her destination when her dream became reality.

Her proudest moment came when she attended the recognition ceremony for new engineers that same year and finally received her certification as a Professional Engineer in the province of Manitoba.

Rosario is currently working at Valeant Pharmaceutical International in Steinbach, Manitoba as part of the engineering validation team. Prior to this, she worked as a process engineer at Standard Aerospace in Winnipeg.

Looking at how things are now compared to what she had to go through, the process of obtaining professional certification from APEGM is now much easier, as there are several options to choose. This should further fuel the desires of Filipino immigrant engineers to pursue their profession.

As part of IEG (Immigrant Engineers & Geoscientist) Roadmap to Engineering Project through Engineers Canada, short video testimonials are available where a number of immigrant engineers (including Rosario) had the opportunity to share their testimonials on different topics facing immigrant engineers. To provide you an idea what they are all about, she invites all to visit the Engineers Canada website.

As Rosario puts it, “be persistent in your desire to achieve your goal.” She further states that the roadmap to engineering in Canada may be long and tiring, but whatever it takes, it is still worth the wait.

In parting she shares this invaluable information and advice:

“For those new immigrant engineers who wish to find work in his profession, go to Service Canada. They have a job bank. It is recommended to come up with a good resume and prepare well for an interview. Search through the Internet for job openings from different industries across Canada. Do not concentrate on the career section of the newspaper. Talk to immigrant engineers. Do professional networking. Get connected with different industries. APEGM has career opportunities on their website.

“For those who wish to pursue their profession in Manitoba, financial aid may also be available for those eligible immigrant professionals who need to undertake some formal training in order to regain their professional license in Manitoba. This program is offered by the Professional Immigrant Pilot (PIP) Project.

“If your employer is offering educational benefits, take advantage of those opportunities.

“You have to dream big. Remember, if others can do it, I am sure you can do it too!”

Ethel Clemente Fernandez is a registered member of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of the Province of Manitoba (APEGM). She currently works for a federal crown corporation and is serving on the Executive Committee of the Filipino Members Chapter (FMC) - APEGM. For inquiries, please e-mail