Engineers in Ontario first to remove Canadian work experience requirement

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Canadian Design and Construction Report staff writer

The Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) has become the first association in the province to remove Canadian work experience from licensing application criteria after the Ontario government banned regulated professions from requiring domestic experience in more than 30 occupations.

“It’s an all-too-common experience: meeting a skilled newcomer trained as an engineer, doctor, or accountant, working in a low-wage job that has nothing to do with their profession,” said labour minister Monte McNaughton in a statement Tuesday announcing the change. He added that removal of the Canadian experience requirement has the potential to help thousands of otherwise-qualified professionals pursue their dreams while maintaining Ontario’s licensing and exam requirements.

The labour ministry says 300,000 jobs are unfilled across the province, including thousands in engineering.

At the same time, studies have shown only a quarter of internationally trained immigrants in Ontario work in the regulated professions they trained for. Currently, even if a newcomer has the skills and technical ability to pass their profession’s licensing exams, they may still be barred from registering in their profession without Canadian work experience.

“Each year, up to 60 per cent of the engineering licence applications that PEO receives are from internationally trained engineers,” said PEO president Roydon Fraser. “By no longer requiring proof of Canadian experience when applying for an engineering licence, PEO will effectively ensure that qualified, international applicants can be licensed more quickly.”

He said the PEO, with 85,649 members, “will continue to ensure all professional engineers meet rigorous qualifications for licensing and that only properly qualified individuals practice engineering through a competency-based assessment model and other methods for evaluation.”

Before the criteria change came into effect at the PEO Tuesday licensing had required one year of work experience under the supervision of a professional engineer licensed in Canada as part of a requirement for four years’ experience in total. In 2018 the Institute for Canadian Citizenship said on top of the Canadian work experience, immigrants face barriers to licensure and engineering employment in Canada due to a complex licensing process and some employers’ preference for Canadian born engineers.

Ontario is the first province in Canada to ban Canadian work experience requirements to help newcomers work in the professions they trained for. In December all such requirements for Canadian experience by self-regulated professions will be automatically voided unless an exemption is granted by the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development.

Introduced as part of the omnibus Working for Workers Act, 2021, the new legislation eliminates Canadian work experience requirements for professional registration and licensing unless an exemption is granted based on public health and safety risk. It also allows applicants to register faster in their regulated professions when there are emergencies (such as a pandemic) that create an urgent need for certain professions or trades.

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