Language Learning
Internationally Educated Professionals
Immigration and Settlement
Spotlight on Employers
Cultural Diversity
Gandy Associates
 
 
Financial Post | 2009-02-25
Newcomers set to play critical role - expand / condense article

Workplace Reality
by Mary Teresa Bitti

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Diversity is about numbers. One in five Canadians is born on foreign soil. According to the 2006 Census, the level of immigration in recent years has been unprecedented. A walk through the streets of Toronto or Vancouver puts a face to those numbers. According to Statistics Canada, six in 10 visible minorities live in those two cities. That\'s 40% of their populations. In Montreal, one in six people is a visible minority (defined by the census-takers as persons other than Aboriginals who are non-Caucasian), representing 16.5% of the population.

Between 2001 and 2006, Canada\'s foreign-born population growth rate was four times higher than that of the Canadian-born population during the same period. The numbers continue to trend upward.

What does that mean for the workforce? A lot.

StatsCan reports that immigrants who arrived in the 1990s accounted for 70% of the net labour force growth between 1991 and 2001. By 2011 -- thanks to a shrinking population-- Canada will rely 100% on immigration for net labour market growth. By 2031, we will rely on immigration 100% for population growth. But that\'s another story.

Canadian businesses are not as good at tapping into this diverse labour pool as they should be and it\'s costing them, says Ratna Omidvar, president of the Maytree Foundation, a private non-profit in Toronto dedicated to fighting poverty and working with business to help immigrant workers put their education and experience to work. A Conference Board of Canada study quantifies the cost to the Canadian economy of not using the skills of immigrants at anywhere between $2.4-billion and $3.4-billion a year. \"Only four of 10 skilled immigrants are attaching themselves to the workforce at a requisite level that speaks to their past work experience,\" Ms. Omidvar says.

With the economy slowing and labour markets loosening up, people may argue, why should we care? \"The point is there are short-term priorities and there are long-term priorities and we have to meet them both,\" Ms. Omidvar says. \"Immigration is not the only solution to many of our national labour force issues, but it is one solution and we ignore it at our peril.\"

And let\'s not forget the looming workforce shift precipitated by the all-powerful Baby Boomers -- nine-million-plus strong in Canada -- who are preparing to retire. \"Yes, the economy is soft, but there are demographic factors that are real,\" says Anne Sado, president of George Brown College in Toronto.

\"For example, the average age of a nurse in Ontario is 47. If you don\'t start recognizing the capabilities and credentials of new immigrants coming to Canada, we are going to be hard-pressed to have the right people in place when we need them.\"

It may fall to the business leaders in our hyper-diverse cities -- Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal -- to leverage the under-utilized immigrant workforce.

Canada\'s most ethnically and racially diverse city is stepping up. DiverseCity: The Greater Toronto Leadership Project launched eight initiatives to help diversify leadership in business, the non-profit sector and on the civic stage across the greater Toronto area. The idea for DiverseCity was born during the 2007 Toronto City Summit when more than 600 Toronto leaders came together and called for a holistic effort to diversify leadership to create a more prosperous GTA.

DiverseCity is sponsored by the Maytree Foundation and the Toronto City Summit Alliance, the two co-founders of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), which included employers in the design, delivery and implementation of initiatives to bring the skilled immigrant closer to the labour market.

Employers in the program provide internships as key partners in a mentoring initiative that has provided more than 3,000 matches in the city. They also are working with TRIEC to document their best practices in a way that is easily consumable across the GTA, creating a march of ideas. For example, Royal Bank no longer asks for place of education on its applications. What does that mean? An MBA is an MBA is an MBA. And that, says Ms. Omidvar, is huge. \"That means more of the internationally educated hiring pool gets a chance to make their case. Once they get that interview, it\'s rarely held against them. It\'s getting in the door.

\"But we are not satisfied with doing better in Toronto,\" Ms. Omidvar says. \"Together with the McConnell Family Foundation, we are taking the TRIEC initiative to other urban centres. Vancouver is starting its own response led by employers, as is Montreal.\"

There is a strong business case for diversity and performance, particularly when it comes to senior management and the director level. International studies show diversity leads to innovative thinking, which leads to improved financial performance. Without diverse leadership, companies risk group-think.

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Financial Post | 2009-02-25
Newcomers set to play critical role - expand / condense article

Workplace Reality
by Mary Teresa Bitti

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Diversity is about numbers. One in five Canadians is born on foreign soil. According to the 2006 Census, the level of immigration in recent years has been unprecedented. A walk through the streets of Toronto or Vancouver puts a face to those numbers. According to Statistics Canada, six in 10 visible minorities live in those two cities. That\'s 40% of their populations. In Montreal, one in six people is a visible minority (defined by the census-takers as persons other than Aboriginals who are non-Caucasian), representing 16.5% of the population.

Between 2001 and 2006, Canada\'s foreign-born population growth rate was four times higher than that of the Canadian-born population during the same period. The numbers continue to trend upward.

What does that mean for the workforce? A lot.

StatsCan reports that immigrants who arrived in the 1990s accounted for 70% of the net labour force growth between 1991 and 2001. By 2011 -- thanks to a shrinking population-- Canada will rely 100% on immigration for net labour market growth. By 2031, we will rely on immigration 100% for population growth. But that\'s another story.

Canadian businesses are not as good at tapping into this diverse labour pool as they should be and it\'s costing them, says Ratna Omidvar, president of the Maytree Foundation, a private non-profit in Toronto dedicated to fighting poverty and working with business to help immigrant workers put their education and experience to work. A Conference Board of Canada study quantifies the cost to the Canadian economy of not using the skills of immigrants at anywhere between $2.4-billion and $3.4-billion a year. \"Only four of 10 skilled immigrants are attaching themselves to the workforce at a requisite level that speaks to their past work experience,\" Ms. Omidvar says.

With the economy slowing and labour markets loosening up, people may argue, why should we care? \"The point is there are short-term priorities and there are long-term priorities and we have to meet them both,\" Ms. Omidvar says. \"Immigration is not the only solution to many of our national labour force issues, but it is one solution and we ignore it at our peril.\"

And let\'s not forget the looming workforce shift precipitated by the all-powerful Baby Boomers -- nine-million-plus strong in Canada -- who are preparing to retire. \"Yes, the economy is soft, but there are demographic factors that are real,\" says Anne Sado, president of George Brown College in Toronto.

\"For example, the average age of a nurse in Ontario is 47. If you don\'t start recognizing the capabilities and credentials of new immigrants coming to Canada, we are going to be hard-pressed to have the right people in place when we need them.\"

It may fall to the business leaders in our hyper-diverse cities -- Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal -- to leverage the under-utilized immigrant workforce.

Canada\'s most ethnically and racially diverse city is stepping up. DiverseCity: The Greater Toronto Leadership Project launched eight initiatives to help diversify leadership in business, the non-profit sector and on the civic stage across the greater Toronto area. The idea for DiverseCity was born during the 2007 Toronto City Summit when more than 600 Toronto leaders came together and called for a holistic effort to diversify leadership to create a more prosperous GTA.

DiverseCity is sponsored by the Maytree Foundation and the Toronto City Summit Alliance, the two co-founders of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), which included employers in the design, delivery and implementation of initiatives to bring the skilled immigrant closer to the labour market.

Employers in the program provide internships as key partners in a mentoring initiative that has provided more than 3,000 matches in the city. They also are working with TRIEC to document their best practices in a way that is easily consumable across the GTA, creating a march of ideas. For example, Royal Bank no longer asks for place of education on its applications. What does that mean? An MBA is an MBA is an MBA. And that, says Ms. Omidvar, is huge. \"That means more of the internationally educated hiring pool gets a chance to make their case. Once they get that interview, it\'s rarely held against them. It\'s getting in the door.

\"But we are not satisfied with doing better in Toronto,\" Ms. Omidvar says. \"Together with the McConnell Family Foundation, we are taking the TRIEC initiative to other urban centres. Vancouver is starting its own response led by employers, as is Montreal.\"

There is a strong business case for diversity and performance, particularly when it comes to senior management and the director level. International studies show diversity leads to innovative thinking, which leads to improved financial performance. Without diverse leadership, companies risk group-think.

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Canadian HR Reporter | 2008-11-17
Uncapping hidden talents of internationally trained professionals - expand / condense article

Communication training can remove numerous barriers
by Teresa McGill

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Employers hear the message repeatedly: The workplace is changing. Oft-quoted projections from Statistics Canada show, by 2011, immigration will account for virtually all net labour market growth.

But there’s a problem — and it’s not the stereotypical engineer driving a taxi, unable to find work in his field. It’s that many gifted, internationally trained professionals (ITPs), having secured employment in their field, eventually become frustrated with barriers to career success.

Despite their technical talents, they may find themselves assigned a narrow range of work duties, excluded from direct customer contact, leadership opportunities and normal career advancement. That’s because their language skills are often lacking and employers don’t know how to resolve this dilemma.

Not all training is suitable

While many employers have recognized both the barriers and the need for communication skills development for ITPs, not all training options fit the bill. Employers must assess which content is most crucial: Core language skills, strategic business communication skills or cultural awareness.

Core language skills: The basics — pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary — are an obvious starting place. But workplace communication performance improvements can be painfully incremental. Grammatical and linguistic skills can be measured with the 12-level Canadian Language Benchmark system, which suggests 200 hours of instruction are required to advance one single level. What workplace could afford this commitment to training, and how many professionals would tolerate the pace?

Strategic communication skills: These skills are a potential target for development, particularly in workplaces involving teamwork, customer interface or leadership roles. In navigating complex interpersonal interactions, strategic skills such as persuasion, problem solving, rapport building, concise-thought presentation and active listening are crucial. A modest amount of training in these areas can bring noticeable gains in on-the-job communication.

Unfortunately, the training often lacks the linguistic substance required by ITPs — along with ample opportunity to practise them in work-related scenarios. Training managers should assess whether the training offers an appropriate combination of linguistic training and pragmatic interpersonal depth.

Intercultural awareness: This is another essential area of development for ITPs. At play in the workplace are largely unconscious, cultural assumptions that go beyond issues of visible attributes and lifestyle such as dress, holidays and cuisine. When deeper issues — expectations about hierarchical work relationships, team roles, risk tolerance and directness of communication — are brought to the surface and demystified, the effect can be significant on career mobility, collegial rapport and customer service.

When a new employee is frustrated by her manager’s “weak leadership,” while her manager has labeled the worker as “high-need,” this is likely a culturally based role issue. When a project team meeting polarizes into two camps — blunt expressions of opinion on one side and eye-avoiding reticence on the other — cultural factors may be at play, with parties on both sides puzzling over why their leadership efforts have not been acknowledged. This interpersonal quagmire can undermine productivity and employee engagement, and increase the likelihood of driving away highly skilled and motivated employees.

So what works?

A new hybrid of training is emerging to meet the needs of a dynamic, culturally diverse work environment populated by highly educated ITPs.

Training programs should include strategic business skills such as persuasion and active listening, enriched with a context-relevant matrix of English language skills. They also offer the key to unlocking workplace interpersonal interactions by enhancing awareness of culturally based assumptions and behaviours.

For employers whose goal is to attract, develop, retain and promote top talent of international origin, hybrid communication training can be a godsend. It enables ITPs to engage as full contributors in the workplace and to progress through the expected stages of career development. Uncapping the talent of these high-level professionals pays handsome dividends in an organization’s success and growth.

Teresa McGill is president of Gandy Associates, a training company based in Mississauga, Ont., specializing in communications education. For more information, visit www.gandy.ca.

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The Globe and Mail | 2007-05-02
Language, experience hamper career climb - expand / condense article
by Wallace Immen

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Accountant Vince Dong says he sees all too many immigrants in his profession hit a "concrete ceiling" that traps them at entry levels because their English skills limit their ability to deal with clients and get assignments that could win promotions.

So he's launching a program that will teach immigrant accountants the language skills needed for their profession.

"I see a lot of immigrants in accounting who have passed English-language proficiency tests but are still unable to speak confidently with clients about technical issues. This relegates them to being background people," says Mr. Dong, owner of tax consulting service Ad-Vice Inc. in Toronto.

"There are professional concepts, terms, slang and idioms that people need to be able to understand and be comfortable in conversing with clients, and these are not taught in English as a second language programs," Mr. Dong says.

Mr. Dong is on the right track, according to a major study from Statistics Canada released this week which found that, even when immigrants land jobs, a lack of language skills and working experience in Canada prevents them from reaching their full potential.

But too many employers are not taking the initiative to help them get what they need to make it in their professions, experts say.

The StatsCan study found that a solid speaking knowledge of one of Canada's two official languages is vital to immigrants who want to adequately use their professional skills. It concludes that, the higher immigrants' abilities in spoken English (or French in Quebec), the more likely they are to land a high-skill job in the profession they trained for, says Owen Phillips, Ottawa-based senior methodologist for Statistics Canada who crunched the numbers.

The survey tracked 12,000 immigrants who arrived in Canada in 200l and 2002, interviewing them six months, two years and four years after their arrival, Mr. Phillips said.

Within six months, 58 per cent reported they were able to speak English "well" or "very well." Another 35 per cent said their speaking ability was only fair or poor. And 7 per cent were not able to speak either English or French at all.

But even after four years, 46 per cent said they considered themselves underemployed and were struggling to find a position more appropriate to their skills.

As well, 50 per cent said another barrier they faced was employer requirements that they have Canadian work experience before they could be hired. Their job experience in another country was ignored by employers.

The survey found just 51 per cent of immigrants aged 25 to 44 were employed six months after their arrival. The rate rose to 65 per cent for immigrants in Canada for two years and 75 per cent after four years. That compared with a national employment rate in that age group of 81.8 per cent over the four years.

Language training stands out as the major factor that increases immigrant employability, the study found. Forty-five per cent of immigrants surveyed said they had taken language training in English since coming to Canada.

This study is a message to employers that they should be much more concerned about recruiting skilled immigrants and giving them the opportunities and training they need, says Joerg Dietz, associate professor of organizational behaviour at the University of Western Ontario's Richard Ivey School of Business.

"I can only shake my head about the fact that half of these people said they were turned away by employers because they did not have Canadian experience," Prof. Dietz says.

That's "ridiculous" because, within five years, it is projected that immigrants will be the only source of growth in Canada's skilled labour force, he explains.

But employers are not taking the lead in advancing immigrant skills, particularly in language training specific to professions, says Mr. Dong, who is setting up the Language Education for Accounting Professionals program opening in Toronto this month to fill that gap, he says.

There's a waiting list for LEAP's six- and 12-week courses, which cost $400 to $735, and will be available in other cities across the country if the Toronto operation succeeds, Mr. Dong says.

He hopes employers will agree to pick up the tab.

But those in the program are willing to make the investment for their future in Canada, he says.

The StatsCan findings bear this out. Despite their difficulties, 84 per cent of the immigrants reported they are happy they decided to relocate to Canada, citing a better quality of life as the main reason.

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Toronto Star | 2005-09-30
Population report urgent wake-up call. - expand / condense article

Editorial

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Although this week's demographic report from Statistics Canada was designed primarily to provide Canadians with a detailed picture of past population trends, it also gave them a pretty good look into the future. Because past population trends tend to play such a large role in shaping the future, the StatsCan numbers contained a clear warning to Ottawa that it needs to make some dramatic policy changes — and soon.

Here is what those numbers tell us:
Canada's fertility rate of 1.5 children per woman means parents are not even "replacing" themselves. This, in turn, implies a continuing aging of the population to the point where deaths will outpace births within 20 years. As a result, the natural changes in the population will shift from increases to declines. That may happen even at current immigration levels.

So, in the coming years, immigration will become increasingly important to Canada's population growth. Indeed, by 2025 it could well be the only source of growth.

At the same time, the median age of Canadians is likely to rise from 38.7 years now to 42.5 years in 2020 and 43.6 in 2025, unless there is a dramatic increase in our immigration levels.

Prime Minister Paul Martin is well aware of the economic and social implications of this demographic arithmetic. It is a major factor in Ottawa's decision last week to boost immigration targets to 320,000 a year within five years. That's up nearly 100,000 a year from current levels. In a speech earlier this month, Martin made the case for raising Canada's immigration targets by spelling out the impacts our aging population will have on our workforce. "Within 10 short years," he said, "there will be only 3 1/2 working Canadians for every senior citizen, down from five today. By 2015, our domestic labour force will actually start to shrink, so all of the net growth will need to come from new Canadians."

While that demographic arithmetic is indisputable, Martin's recognition of the need to raise Canada's immigration targets is only one part, albeit an important one, in developing a new immigration policy. It is just as important for Ottawa to create the tools both to ensure we get the kind of immigrants we want and need, and to give them the support they require to fulfill their own aspirations and those the country has for them.

Simply put, Ottawa has failed far too many immigrants in the past — and Canada has lost out as well. Because of these failures, too many new immigrants who have brought skills and knowledge to this country have ended up driving taxis or wasting their talents in other low-paying jobs.

If this country doesn't offer all would-be immigrants the chance to realize their potential, we could well lose them in the emerging global competition that is sure to heat up. Canada is far from alone in its need to entice newcomers to the country. When the median age in Canada hits 42.5 in 2020, in Europe it will be 52, which will mean the competition for capable immigrants is going to be fierce.

To his credit, Martin has acknowledged the ways in which Ottawa has let many immigrants down. In his speech, he spoke of the imperative "to be more active in recruiting immigrants who meet Canada's evolving needs." He stressed the importance of improving the "social and economic integration of new Canadians, including language training, credentials upgrading and recognition." And he mentioned the need for providing additional federal funding, and directing it to where it is needed most.

But if there is one place where Martin must translate words into action, it is in Ontario. This province still takes in more than half of all new immigrants, and yet it cannot begin to meet their settlement and integration needs — for housing, training, upgrading, and career assistance — on the limited funding that Ottawa provides. Despite the strain the influx of newcomers put on Ontario, the province still receives roughly one-fourth as much money for immigrant settlement as Ottawa gives to Quebec.

No doubt the Statistics Canada report is a wake-up call to Ottawa. The message is that in updating its immigration quotas and policies, it must do much more than simply throw open Canada's doors.

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Toronto Star | 2005-06-21
Getting most out of our workforce - expand / condense article
Teranet partners with Gandy Associates to offer English communication training to employees.

Perceptions of immigrant workers must change: Council New website will post successful workplace strategies
by Nicholas Keung - Immigration / Diversity

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At Toronto's Teranet Inc., hiring managers are told to distinguish a skilled immigrant's formal language proficiency from softer communication skills such as accent, word usage and style - cultural differences that have no bearing on a candidate's qualifications for a job. At Etobicoke's Iris Power Engineering Inc., recruiters use technical skills-based interviews rather than conversation-based interviews to decide who get the vacant positions.

At Mississauga's NoAb BioDiscoveries, all job applicants need to have credentials verified by a government-recognized service provider before undergoing interviews by a team of managers to "eliminate unintentional biases."

These Greater Toronto companies' successful diversity workplace practices will no longer be a secret with today's launch of a new website (www.hireimmigrants.ca) by the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, or TRIEC.

The website, which is free, provides an online self-assessment to recommend human resources professionals with specific strategies for organizations. Viewers can also learn from other employers' experiences through profiled strategies.

"It's just too expensive not to do something about (workplace diversity) because (otherwise) you lose the opportunity to take the best candidates and recruit the valuable workforce skills in the current Canadian business environment," said Marilyn Barber, human resources and development vice-president for Teranet, whose company profile is among 18 other employers showcased on the website.

TRIEC manager Elizabeth McIsaac said one of the not-for-profit organization's key objectives is to change employers' perceptions on hiring skilled immigrant workers "by doing the right thing."

Last year, TRIEC hired a consultant to survey employers to find the best practices to improve access to employment for immigrants in Greater Toronto. Of 130 companies initially examined, 40 had detailed follow-up surveys.

"I don't think we have the best practices in Canada yet, but we have some promising practices," McIssac said.

"Employers can be uncomfortable about it, but if you tell them you understand they're doing a good job and want them to share the practices with others, they are happy to do it as long as they don't feel they are being measured up to something.

"These strategies apply to big companies or small companies depending on different situations," noted McIsaac, adding that the initial survey was funded by Canada Heritage and the website Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Teranet's Barber said the e-service solutions company recognized that most skilled immigrants who have been hired have a good foundation in English, but lack the ability to communicate effectively in work-specific situations such as presentations or business writing.

Eight years ago, management offered a six-course communications program, focusing on pronunciation, conversation, idioms, presentations, business writing and leadership communication skills.

"In a country where we're trying very hard to be politically correct, some people are actually surprised that we'd bring attention to our employees who're having some difficulties in the language ... in getting understood. But they are grateful and appreciate the opportunities," explained Barber.

Teranet's 800 employees in Ontario come from 61 countries.

Because of its international clientele, Markham-based LEA Group, a consulting engineering firm, conducts businesses in different languages.

Employees familiar with a particular culture have written welcome notes in a prospective client's language and they also bring new knowledge to the workplace.

"It is great that Canada welcomes so many people from other parts of the world. Once they arrive, we have to make sure their life is productive," said LEA chair and chief executive officer John Farrow, adding that one-fifth of his 100 Canadian staff were educated and trained overseas. They speak 60 languages among them.

"We are in the business of selling expertise. Our expertise is in the head of the people we hired. We can't afford to just hire the talents in Canada. We are not doing it for charity by hiring immigrants. It just makes good business sense to hire the best talents out there."

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Toronto Star | 2004-02-18
Pathways can lead to engineering jobs - expand / condense article
Engineers benefit from Gandy Associates’ Language for Leadership training, offered as part of Pathways program.

Special day more than feel-good exercise
by WALLACE IMMEN

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It took Rakesh Shreewastav nearly three years after he immigrated to Canada from Nepal to land a job in engineering, but at least he found work in his profession.

Despite having the help of professional recruiters, only 16 of the 29 who graduated with him from an intensive program to prepare foreign-trained engineers to work in Ontario found employment.

Nevertheless, Paul Martin, a director of the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, which ran the Pathways program, believes it was a success.
He points out that many recent Canadian engineering grads aren't able to find jobs either.

"There is a myth out there that immigrants come here and are stuck driving taxis because the bad old professional associations are preventing them from having their credentials recognized," Mr. Martin says.

But that isn't the case in engineering, he says.

"There are too many engineers out there and not enough jobs for them.

"The problem isn't with credential recognition, because 60 per cent of foreign-trained engineers can get licensed without having to write a single exam."

The statistics for just one year sum up the problem, he says. There were 8,700 engineering graduates from schools across Canada in 2001, while about 16,300 immigrants entered the country with the intention of working in engineering, according to data from the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board, and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

About 54 per cent, roughly 8,800, of those foreign-trained engineers settled in the Toronto area, which represents only 17 per cent of the Canadian engineering job market.

"That means there were more immigrant job seekers in Toronto than Canada's entire engineering graduating class," Mr. Martin says.

For Mr. Shreewastav, the road to employment was unexpectedly potholed.

When he arrived in Toronto in the winter of 2001, with advanced training and work experience in Russia, "I had only positive expectations," he says.

However, even though his qualifications were sufficient for him to work as an engineer, he needed the Ontario designation as a professional engineer, a P. Eng., to get the job he wanted in civil engineering. "It was," he says, "a very slow and lengthy process."

Ontario and most other jurisdictions in Canada require a full year of work experience in Canada to make sure applicants have a knowledge of the local codes and standards and business practices.

That's where the Pathways program came in.

It was "a really great step towards professional designation," says Mr. Shreewastav, who has found a job with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

The demand for the Pathways program was overwhelming and the participants were chosen from more than 2,500 applicants, Mr. Martin says. It included six weeks of intensive classroom training in Canadian workplace norms, work readiness and communication skills.
The society has stopped taking applications while the results of the first two pilots are re-evaluated by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, which financed the program.

Meanwhile, officials across the country are developing a national approach and Mr. Martin is a member of a federal task force on foreign engineering graduates that expects to report a national strategy for breaking down barriers to employment by May.

The task force, which includes representatives of government, professional associations and immigrant settlement agencies, is aiming for a co-ordinated "grassroots" approach by government and non-government groups on regulations, training, credential assessment and licensing, says Marie Lemay, CEO of the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers, whose members are the 12 provincial and territorial regulatory bodies.

The recommendations will not only be for professional associations, but also for governments, universities and colleges, Ms. Lemay says.

Mr. Shreewastav says he welcomes the advocacy and changes being made by governments and professional organizations for foreign-trained engineers. "But the result, I would say, is not significant yet."

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