$4.6M investment helps integrate skilled permanent immigrants

VICTORIA – More skilled immigrants will be able to fully utilize their skills in the BC economy, as the BC government invests in projects and programs to speed up and improve the process for immigrants to get their credentials and qualifications recognized to work in BC.

With approximately one million job openings in the coming decade in BC, immigrants are expected to fill about one-third of the openings to 2020.

With the province having over 280 regulated occupations, an efficient and fair process for immigrants to get their required certification and/or license to work in these occupations is essential to fully utilize the skills immigrants bring to BC. Finding qualified people to fill jobs is a key part to the BC Jobs Plan.

The provincial government undertook a Foreign Qualifications Recognition (FQR) Review focusing on nine high-demand occupations critical to the BC Jobs Plan's growth sectors, including engineers, technologists and technicians, as well as five key trades occupations.

The FQR Review worked with groups like the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC (ASTTBC), the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (APEGBC), which are directly responsible for certifying workers in their respective fields, and the Industry Training Authority (ITA), the credentialing body for the skilled trades.

The FQR Review investigated real and perceived barriers to FQR that unnecessarily impede skilled immigrants from working in occupations they been trained for and where BC has high labour market demand and shortages. In 2011, 50 per cent of new immigrants to BC aged 25+ arrived with a university degree (compared to 23 percent for Canadian born). However, not all immigrants' skills are utilized. Recent surveys suggest about 36 percent of immigrants are employed at a lower level compared to their country of origin.

As a result of this review, the following will take place: building on WelcomeBC.ca, creating new online tools to help immigrants find work that fully utilizes their skills in BC's economy; new interactive Career Options Tool with another 120 occupational guides to help immigrants assess their qualifications before arriving in BC, so they can start working in jobs that match their skills as soon as they arrive; new competency-based assessments for high-demand occupations that are identified in the review to make it easier and faster for skilled immigrants to have their qualifications recognized by BC regulatory occupation authorities; new occupation-specific language programs for high-demand occupations with the focus on BC's priority sectors to improve workplace success and retention; investing in a performance management system for FQR in BC, whereby FQR applications, outcomes, and process timelines will be measured for continuous improvement.

Funding to make this possible is provided by the Government of Canada and the Province of BC. British Columbia has been actively supporting FQR initiatives since 2006 and has invested over $10-million in projects that directly support regulatory bodies, employers, post-secondary institutes and other stakeholders to address challenges identified at each step of the FQR process.

Pat Bell, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour says, "The BC Jobs Plan will help create new jobs over the next decade and we will need more workers than British Columbia can supply. The steps we've taken today after reviewing the needs of BC's labour market point us in the right direction and gives qualified permanent immigrants the tools they need to contribute their skills to our labour and economic goals. I'm proud that BC is taking this proactive approach to economic immigration."

John Yap, Minister of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology and Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism says, "We celebrate cultural diversity in British Columbia. This investment will help ensure those who come to our province with skills, education and training gained in another country have the opportunity to achieve recognition for their qualifications through a fair and efficient process, and contribute fully to our workforce and communities."