New Brunswick

New loan program offers to help newcomers get their credentials recognized

Newcomers will now have access to a new federal loan program that will help get their credentials recognized in Canada.

Atlantic Immigrant Career Loan Fund will pay up to $15K towards tuition, exams, materials, travel

Alex LeBlanc, executive director of the Multicultural Council of New Brunswick, said the loan will help people who don't want to go back to square one in their studies but have trouble getting regular bank loans. (Joe McDonald/CBC)

Newcomers will now have access to a new federal loan program that will help get their credentials recognized in Canada.

The Atlantic Immigrant Career Loan Fund will pay up to $15,000 toward tuition, exams, materials, travel and living costs.

"It's a significant challenge for our economy, but, for individuals, it's also extremely frustrating to be working below your skill level," said Alex LeBlanc, executive director of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council.

He said the loan will help people who don't want to go back to square one in their studies but have trouble getting regular bank loans because of their limited credit history.

"It's quite a flexible loan," he said.

The loan is available to people in regulated professions, like nursing, and unregulated professions, like trades or project management.

According to a 2015 Conference Board of Canada report, newcomers could generate at least $13 billion for the Canadian economy if they were able to work to their skill level.

"Credential recognition is a significant challenge for newcomers when they come to, not just New Brunswick, but clear across Canada," he said in an interview with Information Morning Fredericton.

A long-term investment

The program is modelled after a federal pilot project from 2012 called Foreign Credentials Recognition Loans Pilot Project. At the time, LeBlanc said the average loan was about $7,000.

During the pilot, participants accessed these loans from 2012 to 2015 and repayment rates reached 97 per cent.

"As a rule, the pilot was a success because people went, they accessed loans, they got their credentials and afterwards they were earning significantly more," he said.  

"Over the long-term it's well worth the investment."

LeBlanc used the example of a trained nurse from the Philippines working as a personal support worker at Mount Saint Joseph Nursing Home in Miramichi. Before coming to Canada, she also worked as a nurse in Saudi Arabia. 

But when she came to Canada with about 15 other nurses, her credentials weren't recognized as a registered nurse.

Who will benefit?

The New Brunswick Multicultural Council is in the process of assessing how many people will access the loan.

On May 29, the organization launched a survey to see how many newcomers had backgrounds as nurses or personal support workers in other countries and were looking to pursue similar careers in New Brunswick. So far, they have received more than 100 responses from people mostly between 25 and 34 years old with a nursing background.

LeBlanc said he's hopeful the data will help develop solutions that will enable them to pursue personal career goals in the province.  

Although the new loan program will help newcomers, LeBlanc said it doesn't address the broader challenge around credential recognition. Whether it be engineering, nursing, medicine or trades, he said each profession has different regulations for credential recognition.

"It's not like you can solve it for one and transplant that solution to other professions," he said.

Helping with job shortages

But LeBlanc said the new program will help with job shortages, particularly in New Brunswick's health-care sector.

According to a report by New Brunswick's Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, there will be about 8,000 job openings in the health-care and social assistance sectors by 2026.   

"That's a significant hole in the workforce that we're going to have to fill," he said.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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