The federal government is giving Alberta $530,000 to fly officials overseas to assess foreign nurses as part of a pilot project to speed up recruitment.

Ottawa announced the funding Tuesday for Alberta, whichneeds several thousand nurses to fill existing vacancies.

Nurses interested in moving to Alberta traditionally need to travel to Calgary's Mount Royal College to take assessment exams. To save them time and cost, the pilot project will allow assessors to travel overseas and evaluate nurses in their own countries.

To qualify as a nurse in Alberta, they must have their experience, education and English skills assessed. Educational upgrades can take as little as a few weekends or up to a year.

Process could speed up by3 or4 months

Pam Nordstrom, director of the nursing school at Mount Royal College, said it can take up to two years for internationally trained nurses to emigrate to Canada, but by doing the assessment in person overseas, that time can be cut by three or four months.

She said Mount Royal officials recently travelled to Britain, Ireland, Qatar and Dubai to assess 33 nurses of which two-thirds have called about getting licensed in Alberta.

"So we're very pleased that this is a very promising result, better than we first anticipated," said Nordstrom. "Thirty-three assessments in 3.5 weeks is an astounding number because that represents almost a third of what we did all of last year."

Joselita Aguilar is an intensive-care nurse from the Philippines who upgraded her skills to get licensed in Alberta next year. She said the cost of coming to Canada and not knowing if you're qualified is daunting.

"The cost of doing assessment is quite less now and it will be much easier for the nurses to come here doing only the bridging program and the assessment already," she said.

Alberta evaluated 100 international nurses last year, and hopes to boost that to 600 though this pilot project in Calgary and Edmonton.