Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women’s Services (MCAWS) & Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists BC (APEGBC)
Skilled labour shortages, credential recognition and the under-utilization of highly trained immigrants were making national headlines. Conventional job support programs were ill-suited to the task and the Provincial government needed to find new solutions to fill real labour market needs, without financial incentives for employers.
Because of a very high number of internationally trained engineers (ITEs) living in BC, the Ministry created a Pilot Project in partnership with the BC Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists (APEGBC). This was the first comprehensive project of its kind.
The Pilot was designed to help ITEs overcome unique cultural and institutional barriers to becoming a professional in BC. The Pilot had three objectives:
- Develop and implement a training & work experience model,
- Improve the quality and accessibility of relevant information for stakeholders, and
- Review and revise P.Eng. registration policies & procedures to mitigate systemic barriers.
Kim Walker Community & Environment was initially contracted by the Ministry to facilitate a steering committee, identify key issues, and consult with stakeholders. As it became clear that the Ministry also needed someone to manage the project, Kim was contracted under APEGBC to manage sub-contractors, work plans, schedules and the Project Management Team. Key deliverables included:
- An action research framework, participant selection criteria, and project evaluation plan,
- Terms of reference for evaluation, work experience and training contracts,
- Organization and facilitation of stakeholder focus groups, interviews, information exchange sessions,
- Plain language and policy analysis workshops, and individual coaching for participating ITEs, and
- Background reports, newsletters, minutes, public presentations, web pages, information resources for internationally trained engineers and employers, and a Final Report.
This project has been viewed as setting precedent for other skilled immigrant labour market and international credential assessment initiatives across the country. Specifically, the Pilot Project influenced and directed change in the following ways:
- The internationally trained engineers who participated in the project gained new skills, and career opportunities. All had taken advantage of the various training opportunities ranging from technical and other engineering related courses to career development and cross cultural workshops. More than half had gained relevant employment by the end of the project. However, the depth of insights and learning on what it takes to fully integrate immigrants into the professions was a major accomplishment for everyone involved.
- Three significant resources were developed to address inter-cultural communication barriers: APEGBC Membership Application Guide and Registration Website pages, a Self-Assessment Tool, and Online Resource for career development. Additional resources have since been developed for APEGBC staff and volunteers.
- Over 90 policy and procedure issues were identified by APEGBC staff. Immediate changes included a new Provisional Member category, a fee policy for first time members, and streamlining of several registration application procedures. APEGBC has since followed up with additional policy changes such as requirements for work experience, English proficiency, and competency based assessments.
- New government funded initiatives were subsequently established, such as BC Skills Connect, to expand opportunities for skilled immigrants.