Thursday, March 29, 2012

Immigrants to get skills tests abroad


BY TOBI COHEN, POSTMEDIA NEWS MARCH 29, 2012

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced plans to hire an outside company to assess the educational credentials of new-comers before they arrive in Canada in a bid to keep foreign physicians from having to drive cabs when they arrive.

Kenney said the government will issue a request for proposals within the next two months in the hopes of selecting a third-party organization that can begin conducting these overseas assessments before 2013.

"The overall goal here is to better select and better support potential immigrants before they come to Canada so they can hit the ground running once they arrive by integrating quickly into our labour market," he told a business audience of professional regulators Wednesday.

"Once this process is in place, we think this will result in a significant improvement in the points grid system we use to assess applicants to the foreign skilled worker program."

Kenney said the idea is to "be more upfront and honest" with would-be newcomers by giving them a sense of how their credentials stack up against some-one with a similar Canadian education. It would also help screen out those without adequate levels of education.

In other words, simply having a degree in a particular field will no longer be enough to garner an individual points toward acceptance as a skilled worker.

While this is the sort of thing that ought to be part of visa officers' jobs, Kenney suggested it's an impossible task for them.

"Our visa offices simply don't have the time or expertise to do a qualitative assessment of every single applicant," he said. "This is an opportunity for specialized assessment of their credentials and their education by going to the experts - Unlike immigration officers, they know what the standards are to be licensed as an engineer or as a physician in Canada."

That said, the pre-arrival assessment does not guarantee applicants will find work in Canada commensurate with their skills, nor does it guarantee they'd become licensed in their field.

That lies with the professional regulatory bodies in the jurisdiction in which the individual intends to settle - and that, Kenney suggested, is a whole other problem.

In many ways credential recognition is a provincial responsibility, outside of Citizenship and Immigration's jurisdiction, he said.

He suggested some regulatory bodies have been overly protectionist and ought to "do a lot more" to streamline their processes.