British Columbia

Credentials, language just 2 barriers faced by refugee professionals

You know the story about the immigrant doctor driving a cab? It's a common situation, says an immigrant group, and an engineers professional organization doesn't want that to happen to Syrian refugees coming to B.C.

The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C. wants to help get trained refugees working

The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C. says engineers tend to be well represented in just about any group, and there's reason to believe the coming wave of Syrian refugees will contain some as well. (Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press)

With a wave of new refugees set to come to the province, the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C. is taking steps to make it easier for them to get their foreign credentials recognized.

According to the APEGBC's director of registration, Gillian Pichler, engineer is a fairly common profession and many of the coming refugees will have training.

"These refugees are in a very unique situation where they're going to have some very specific challenges, and we would like to be prepared to help them when they do arrive on our doorstep," she told On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko.

All sorts of immigrants face barriers when it comes to getting their credentials recognized and finding work in their field in a new country, said Pichler.

There could be language issues, financial issues, and they might not be able to get their universities to send them documentation, she said.

Common problem for many immigrants

The problem of immigrants working outside the field of their expertise is widespread, according to Joan Andersen with Mosaic, a non-profit organization that helps with immigrant and refugee settlement.

"We've all heard the stories of the doctors driving the cabs," she said. "Those stories are all true and the statistics do bear out that internationally trained professionals, whether they're immigrants or refugees, have a hard time getting work in our country that's commensurate with their skills, education, and experience."

Andersen says that only one in four to one in five immigrants to Canada is working in a field and pay grade for which they're qualified.

And Pichler agrees that professional organizations like hers have a responsibility to help immigrants with their credentials.

"I think we all have a responsibility," she said. "As a professional regulator we do have limitations in what we are able to do, because we need to maintain our high standards for entry into the profession … however, we might be able to help these folks as well as maybe connect them with some mentors."

To hear the full story, listen to the audio labelled: Engineering success: engineers want to help refugees into profession


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