By Anja Karadeglija
Ontario Construction Report writer
Engineers Canada launched a new website in January, aimed at internationally-trained engineers interested in immigrating to Canada, while a report it released found the country is facing a shortage of experienced engineers.
The website provides information about how an engineer from another country can immigrate, become licensed and find a job in Canada.
The goal is to make sure internationally-trained engineers have the right information about the requirements and process of becoming licensed in Canada, as well as the rules around working without a license, said Kim Allen, CEO of Engineers Canada.
“What we’re really trying to do is to ensure that everybody has all the information they need before they make the decision to immigrate to Canada, because you can actually start the process as early as possible, and get credentials recognized and so on, before they come,” he said.
This information is important because often, immigrants receive false information about practicing their profession in Canada from the wrong sources, typically relying on family and friends, Allen said.
Allen, who was previously the CEO and registrar of Professional Engineers Ontario, recalls going into sessions with internationally-trained engineers who would argue with him about the licensure requirements.
“So what you want to try and do is say is don’t rely on family and friends, they probably don’t know what it is, have one source of information that would be very credible and would secure them down the right path,” he said, noting that some engineers waste a great deal of time doing the wrong things.
Misinformation is a common problem; some immigrants come from jurisdictions with no licensure requirements at all, and the idea of having to be licensed is foreign to them, Allen added.
It’s both in their best interest and Canada’s to employ them as quickly as possible, he said.
Also in January, the organization released an October 2012 labour market study that found Canada is facing a shortage of engineers with more than 10 years of specialized experience.
“It’s a chronic problem… there’s lots of people graduating from engineering schools, and so there’s a chronic unemployment of the new grads, and that leads to the chronic shortage of the experienced people,” Allen explained.
Graduates end up using their skills in other careers, creating a shortage of professional engineers to fill management positions 10 years down the line.
Over the past five or seven years, there’s been a growing understanding about the infrastructure deficit, and that steady work is needed to keep the necessary supply of engineers available, he said.
Because work in the construction industry is more cyclical, the problem there tends to be more acute, Allen added.
Engineers Canada hopes the new website can help fill the shortage outlined in the report by bringing in more internationally-trained engineers.
“The majority are people with a lot of experience. There aren’t many that are just starting out,” Allen said.
He added that bringing in the experienced engineers that are needed is a problem other countries are experiencing as well.
“What you’ve got to factor in is that it’s not just Canada that’s facing this challenge…. So you’re actually going to be competing for [engineers] with a number of other countries that have the same types of issues.”
However, Allen is optimistic about the future and doesn’t believe the problem will get worse in the future.
“I think there’s been good investment by provincial governments across the country in Canadian engineering education,” he said. “I think where the time and focus needs to be is that how do actually… engage more of the graduates in and keep them as practicing engineers.”