B.C. to remove barriers for internationally trained professionals: premier

B.C. to remove barriers for internationally trained professionals: premier
The British Columbia government has introduced legislation Premier David Eby says should reduce barriers for internationally trained professionals in the province. Eby speaks at a press conference in the rotunda at the legislature in Victoria, Monday, Oct. 16, 2023.

The British Columbia government introduced legislation Monday that’s expected to add skilled workers into the labour force more quickly by reducing barriers for internationally trained workers from more than two dozen professions.

Alice Wong said she’s one of those professionals who is finally starting work in B.C. after a lengthy and frustrating journey to have her credentials recognized.

Wong said her path to accreditation was “marked with challenges, obstacles, frustrations, and doubts,” despite obtaining a degree in social work in Hong Kong that was assessed as being equivalent to the master’s level in B.C.

“To practice social work in B.C., I’m more than willing to learn, to put a lot of effort in it, but I was also expecting a fair recognition process,” she told a news conference after provincial officials announced the legislation.

Wong said she hopes the new law will provide essential supports and streamline the process for internationally trained professionals, because her experience struggling to secure work in her field as a new immigrant is not unique.

Premier David Eby said the province cannot leave people with talent and experience on the sidelines, given labour shortages it’s facing now and in the coming years.

“We have many unfair processes that force new arrivals to British Columbia to go through incredibly complex, contradictory, hard-to-understand, expensive, repetitive processes that are frustrating and ultimately cause people to give up and work in a field that they’re not trained in,” the premier said during the news conference.

Eby said those unfair steps include redundant language testing and a “catch-22” requirement for work experience in Canada before obtaining accreditation.

He said newcomers must account for at least one third of more than one million jobs expected to open in the province over the next decade if those positions are to be filled.

The legislation, if passed, would require regulatory bodies to remove “unfair barriers” for 29 different professions, including veterinarians, lawyers, teachers, paramedics, early childhood educators, architects and natural resource professionals, Eby said.

The act builds on work the B.C. government has been doing to reduce barriers for internationally trained health-care workers, he added.

“More than 500 internationally educated doctors have gone through our expedited process with the College of Physicians to be able to start work, and we have nearly 3,000 more nurses that are already applying to come through that process as well.”

Andrew Mercier, the minister of state for workforce development, said he’s heard from professionals who have struggled to work in their field after moving to B.C. and one conversation with an engineer from Iran has stuck with him in particular.

The engineer went through the process of having his credentials recognized, but he was told he needed two years of relevant work experience in Canada, Mercier said.

“What he told me was, ‘My 20 years in Iran was not worth one single day in Canada,'” the minister said.

“We’re going to be removing that barrier,” he said.

The legislation would also end duplication in English-language testing, Mercier said, adding he’s heard numerous times about “the cost and the affront to dignity of constantly retesting language skills” among workers already living in B.C.

He said the new law, set to take effect next summer, would establish maximum processing timelines for regulatory bodies and enhance transparency by mandating those regulators to share details on their assessment processes.

Mercier said the legislation would also create a new superintendent responsible for promoting fair credential recognition and enforcing compliance.

The act affects 18 regulatory authorities, the province said in a statement.

Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2023.

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