Immigrants to know sooner if credentials acceptable in Canada

The federal Conservatives are planning to reduce the time it takes for internationally-trained workers to have their foreign credentials recognized.

TORONTO — The federal Conservatives are planning to reduce the time it takes for internationally-trained workers to have their foreign credentials recognized.

The Canadian Press has learned the government will announce Monday that foreign-trained workers who apply to be licensed in 14 different fields will be told within one year whether or not their qualifications match Canadian standards. A news conference is scheduled for Toronto to make the announcement.

By the end of 2010, the one-year timetable will be in place for foreign-trained architects, engineers, pharmacists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, registered nurses, medical laboratory technologists, and financial auditors and accountants.

The changes will be expanded to include six more fields by the end of December 2012: teachers, dentists, physicians, engineering technicians, licensed practical nurses, and medical radiation technologists.

The federal government is touting the changes — otherwise known as the Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications — as a way to attract international talent to Canada and allow immigrants to reach their full potential.

There are signs that potential isn’t being tapped into: a Statistics Canada study released earlier this month comparing foreign-born and Canadian-born workers found that immigrants were more likely to be overqualified for their jobs.

Forty-two per cent of immigrant workers between 25 and 54 had a higher level of education than their jobs required, compared to 28 per cent of Canadian-born employees, the study said.

Average hourly wages for immigrant workers in that same age group were also $2.28 lower than for Canadian-born workers.

“I see a lot of qualified immigrants working in restaurants as dishwashers or as waiters, waitresses . . . it’s mainly manual work, not (work using) skills that they have,” said Sang-Hee Park, the board president of the Korean Canadian Women’s Association.

A social worker in her native South Korea, Park immigrated to Canada nine years ago. She said she spent two years working in a Toronto clothing store and had to take extra classes before being accredited here.

Park said the governments proposal is “very positive” but wanted to know more about how Ottawa plans to work with organizations that accredit and license certain professions, like architects or engineers.

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