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If their credentials were recognized, they could, as a group, earn $13.4 to $17 billion more annually, according to the report, Brain Gain 2015: The State of Canada's Learning Recognition System.

Beyond language, one of the biggest problems with immigration and accepting refugees is the refusal to accept credentials or a lack of accreditation evidence. This could be easily fixed with a little upfront investment. 

If someone has the skills and knowledge, they should be able to challenge the accreditation process and exams and gain accepted credentials. If they have gaps, they should be given grants or student loans to fill these gaps and get accredited. At the same time, intense language training can be provided, focused on the basics and their profession at first and then expanded.  

Then we would end of up with skilled workers instead of highly educated janitors. This would help the economy grow faster while reducing the drain on healthcare, social services, and the legal system caused by poverty. It would transform an immense waste into a vast, renewable resource, an investment in the full potential of our people and country that would profit us all tenfold.

Canadians would earn $17B more annually if their credentials were recognized, study says

Report finds 844,000 Canadians are unemployed or underemployed because their skills are not recognized

By B.C. Almanac, CBC News Posted: Jan 27, 2016 12:32 PM PT Last Updated: Jan 28, 2016 4:24 PM PT

Not recognizing immigrants' skills and credentials — as well as those with out-of-province credentials and experiential learning — is costing the economy up to $17 billion a year, says a new report by the Conference Board of Canada. (Credit: Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Nearly 850,000 Canadians are unemployed or underemployed,  more than 60 per cent of whom are immigrants, because their credentials are not being fully recognized, according to a new report from the Conference Board of Canada.

If their credentials were recognized, they could, as a group, earn $13.4 to $17 billion more annually, according to the report, Brain Gain 2015: The State of Canada's Learning Recognition System.

"We estimate that over 844,000 Canadian adults now face learning recognition challenges, including over 524,000 with international credentials, almost 200,000 with out-of-province credentials and 120,000 with experiential learning not recognized in a credential," the report states.

Up to $17B in lost earnings

The $17 billion in potential earnings is a dramatic increase from a previous study the board did in 2001, which estimated Canadians could earn $4.1 to $5.9 billion more if their credentials were recognized.

"The challenge has risen faster than the rate of change," said Michael Bloom, vice president of industry and strategy for the board.

"Even if you discount things like inflation, growing population, you still end up with a bigger problem than ever before."

The report suggests that improving how credentials are recognized could potentially increase the annual incomes of those affected by an average of $15,000 to $20,000 per person.

"The big driver here is the fact that there are more high-skilled jobs that ever before and fewer low-skill jobs," Bloom told B.C. Almanac host Gloria Macarenko.

"So the more we depend on skill and knowledge in our economy, the more we need our credentials recognized, and that means every time someone isn't recognized it costs them more, and ultimately it costs all of us more."
The recommendations in the report include modifying the immigrant selection process so that learning credentials are recognized and exporting Canadian post-secondary education curriculum and programs into other countries.

Labour market information

Nick Noorani, the founder of Canadian Immigrant Magazine, said it is just as important for immigrants to have access to comprehensive labour market information as having their credentials recognized.

Noorani, who is also a managing partner of Prepare for Canada, said this information would help, for example, immigrants who are doctors realize the steps they have to go through to practice medicine in Canada, and what demands different regions have for doctors.

"When immigrants arrive there's insufficient emphasis on follow up, how they can enhance their soft skills, what are alternative careers," Noorani said.

To hear the full story listen to the audio labelled: New study finds that Canada has much to gain by recognizing immigrants' learning credentials


  • An earlier version of this story said immigrants could earn $17 billion more annually if their credentials were recognized, but that figure also includes those with out-of-province credentials and experiential learning.
    Jan 28, 2016 4:23 PM PT

Some advice from someone with experience: 

Pro Post: Are You an Underemployed Skilled Immigrant? You Have Options

Are you a skilled immigrant looking for work in Canada? Experience requirements can be challenging hurdles – but you do have options. Pro poster Pracheer Saran shares the top resources for career-bridging programs and educational services for newcomers.

Pursuing the Canadian Dream

When Gihan Weerasinghe moved from Sri Lanka to Canada as a landed immigrant, he thought his good days had begun. Armed with experience as a chartered accountant, and considering the high demand for accounting professionals worldwide, he thought landing a job would be a cakewalk.

He was instead in for a rude surprise when he found his exprtise counted for little and that he lacked so-called “Canadian” experience. To support his family, including three children between seven and 12 years of age, both Gihan and his wife did odd jobs in call centres and retail stores.

Three and a half months after moving to Canada and with no real job in hand, the Weerasinghes were debating whether to move back to Sri Lanka when a ray of hope emerged. In one of the government-provided classes Gihan took for immigrants looking for jobs in their field, an employment counselor suggested he take bridging courses provided by several universities and colleges in Canada.
However, pursuing the courses would be a monetary challenge; a large chunk of the family’s savings was already going toward accommodation. and providing for a family of five.

After consulting with his education counselor and doing his own research, Gihgan considered applying for the Ontario Student Association Program (OSAP), but knew he could be waiting a long time before receiving funds. And it wasn’t just the money – Gihan felt short on time, and wanted to see the other options available to new immigrants. Going to a traditional bank wasn’t an option, as interest rates were high, and his credit history was lacking.

Micro-Loan Options

He stumbled upon a second option while searching the internet: the Immigrant Access Fund (IAF), which runs programs operated by non-profit societies for skilled immigrants.
They provide micro loans to people like Gihan who, because of a lack of collateral, employment and credit history, could not access mainstream credit. These short-term loans (two years or less) can be used for studying or supporting oneself while attending school for the occupation you had worked in your home country.

Gihan fulfilled the eligibility criteria, which required applicants be a permanent resident, a Canadian citizen, a protected person, or a provincial nominee living in a territory or a province other than Quebec and British Columbia. The company provides loans of up to $10,000 with an interest rate of 4.5 per cent annually (Bank of Canada Prime rate plus 1.5 per cent, set quarterly). Their offices are located in Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Regina. For other cities, they use Skype, Face Time, and or phone to reach out to their clients.

Bridging Programs and Work Resources For Immigrants

There are several similar programs designed to aid immigrants looking for work across Canada. For example, if you live in Winnipeg (or plan to move there as a skilled immigrant), you may qualify for Recognition Counts, a two-year program providing micro loans of up to $10,000 to low income group individuals and skilled immigrants who were dentists, engineers or other skilled workers in their home countries. The program also includes career and financial counselling and guidance for re-accreditation and training requirements. There is no loan fee, a fixed interest rate of prime plus 2 per cent, and can be paid back over five years, with repayment and interest kicking in within six months of finishing the program, or 90 days after acquiring a job in their chosen field – whichever comes first.

In addition, there are several scholarships, internships and apprenticeship grants for Canadians, which though competitive, are still out there and can be availed. The government also has a Resettlement Assistance Program and an Immigration Loan Program for people seeking refugee or asylum status in Canada.
These are just some of the provisions available to new skilled immigrants stuck in underemployment. They just require a little research and determination. If Gihan did it – so can you!

About the Author: Pracheer Saran

I am a travel enthusiast and a freelance writer who loves to write about my escapades, from travel to beer – but when it comes to finances, I still had a lot to learn. I first moved to Canada five years ago, and as a new immigrant, getting a credit card to building a credit history was a mammoth task for me. I mostly learned from trial and error – and am still learning!

There is some homework a new immigrant can start a few months before moving to Canada to ensure a smoother settlement. So fasten your seat belts and join me for an informative ride as I share the challenges of managing my daily finances, hunting for my first job, battling high car insurance rates, buying my first house and securing a mortgage.