How many people have obtained a degree abroad and, once arrived in Canada, cannot work in their field? Despite a widespread labour shortage in the country, how are degrees recognized?
A chemist becomes an early childhood educator, an engineer drives a taxi, or a doctor is recycled into a laboratory technician. How many oversea graduates do not work in their field once arriving to Canada? Despite a widespread labour shortage in the country, how are degrees recognized?
“Everything depends on the country and the degree,” explains Nisrin Al Yahya—co-ordinator of the employability project La Maisonnée, a support service and liaison for Montreal region immigrants. “Many immigrants arrive from countries thinking their diploma will automatically be recognized, this is rarely the case,” she adds.
And the recognition process can be longer than they think. Those arriving unprepared might have a lengthy wait before finding a job corresponding to their skills and experience. Additionally, many give up because the recognition process is overcomplicated and might require upgrading their knowledge.
La Belle Province possesses its own set of rules and provisions regarding recognizing degrees, following the example of other Canadian provinces where the school systems vary from one another. At first sight, most degrees are recognized in Quebec, but it is in fact, more complicated than that. Al Yahya highlights, “There is nothing simple in this domain.”
In 2008, Jean Charest, the Premier of Quebec back then, ratified the Entente Québec-France sur la reconnaissance mutuelle des qualifications professionnelles [The Quebec-France Agreement on the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications.] with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy. An agreement aimed at facilitating the recognition of degrees of certain professionals in both countries. From then on, nearly 81 professions (architect, accountant, and social worker), trades (notably millwrights, electricians, or plumbers), and other jobs in the insurance, security, and financial instrument domains, were recognized.
For others, they might have to consult the Évaluation comparative des études effectuées hors Québec [Comparative Assessment on Studies outside Quebec]. This is the expert opinion released by the Ministère de l’immigration et des communautés culturelles [Ministry of immigration and cultural communities]. Before consulting it, you must verify if the employer, professional order, or educational institution needs this document to proceed before hiring. Some employers require it, while others can recognize or evaluate candidates without passing through the ministry.
If new arrivals want to work with in the civil service or teach, they have to take the comparative assessment. The person may also be required to retrain before they can ply their trade: “For example,” Al Yahya explains, “If a candidate possesses an accounting degree and five years of experience, but hasn’t mastered specific software or Canadian taxes.”
The situation is different if an immigrant practises a profession regulated by a professional order. According to the Centre d’information canadien sur les diplômes internationaux, 20% of the Canadian population practises a regulated profession (veterinarian, electrician, plumber, physiotherapist, doctor, engineer, and more.)
In Quebec, there are more than 50 professions controlled by professional orders. The orders evaluate and recognize immigrant diplomas, according to their criteria. That is why there are no general rules and degrees are not automatically recognized in Quebec’s system.
Even if the system can appear complicated, Al Yahya knows that “Quebec does not want to harm immigration, but want to conserve the quality of employees in place.” For her, lots of effort is done to help immigrants have their degrees recognized: “When there is equivalence, we give it!”