Ontario engineer regulator drops Canadian experience qualification

Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton says Professional Engineers Ontario's move to drop the requirement of Canadian experience from its application criteria as of last week will be a "game changer" for qualified immigrant engineers. McNaughton answers questions at the daily briefing at Queen's Park in Toronto on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn. FNG

TORONTO — Internationally trained engineers no longer require Canadian work experience to be licensed in Ontario, the province’s labour minister said Tuesday, calling the move a “game changer.”

The development for qualified immigrant engineers will help fill roughly 7,000 vacant positions in Ontario, said Labour Minister Monte McNaughton.

“I hear it every day that the single biggest barrier to immigrants landing well-paying jobs is a requirement many regulators have for Canadian work experience,” he said at a news conference at a Toronto construction site.

“This move is a game changer that will help thousands of qualified immigrant engineers pursue their dreams over the coming years.”

Professional Engineers Ontario is the first regulatory association to make the change since the province introduced legislation in October 2021 preventing certain regulated professions and skilled trades from requiring Canadian experience qualifications, unless they get a ministerial exemption, McNaughton said.

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The legislation covers more than 30 non-health-care-related professions and trades, including architects, accountants and electricians.

In Ontario, 300,000 jobs are unfilled and only a quarter of internationally trained immigrants are working in professions they studied, the minister said.

“It doesn’t take a math major to figure out these numbers don’t add up,” he said.

Professional Engineers Ontario said up to 60 per cent of the licence applicants it reviews every year are internationally trained.

Vice-president Christopher Chahine said the change, which went into effect last week, moves the regulator to a model focused on competency, rather than geography.

“We continue to serve the public interest by ensuring all licensed professional engineers meet the rigorous qualifications and that only properly qualified, competent and ethical individuals practise engineering,” he said at Tuesday’s news conference.

McNaughton said he expects regulators subject to Ontario’s legislation to proactively drop any existing Canadian experience qualifications before an end-of-year deadline.

Sara Asalya, executive director of Newcomer Women’s Service Toronto, applauded the change as a “huge win” for those advocating for the removal of unfair measures facing internationally trained professionals.

“We look forward to seeing other regulatory bodies continue to work to remove these Canadian experience requirements,” she said.

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The provincial government said that in 2019, engineers were the fourth largest regulated profession in Ontario – with 85,649 members – and there were 24,258 internationally trained members registered in the profession.

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