Foreign-trained engineers will no longer need Canadian experience to work in Ontario, according to Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO), the licensing and regulating body for professional engineering in the province.
PEO becomes the first regulator to act on new provincial legislation, announced in 2021, that’s designed to make it easier for newcomers to practise in the profession or trade for which they’ve trained.
Under the legislation, regulating bodies must remove the requirement for Canadian work experience from their licensing process by December 2023.
The bill will also ensure applicants don’t have to take multiple language proficiency tests for immigration and professional licensing; enable applicants to register faster in their regulated professions when there are emergencies (such as a pandemic) that create an urgent need for certain professions or trades; and ensure the licensing process is completed in a timely manner.
“By instituting this important change and moving to a model that focuses on competency rather than geography, PEO will effectively ensure that qualified, experienced and ethical international applicants who bring their skills and talents to Ontario can be licensed more quickly than before, so that they can actively contribute to the economy as professional engineers,” Christopher Chahine, PEO’s vice-president, said during a livestreamed announcement on May 23.
Chahine said that, annually, up to 60 per cent of those applying for an engineering licence are internationally trained.
Calling it a historic moment in the way PEO licences its professional engineers, the removal of Canadian work experience as a requirement represents a process that is “equitable, transparent, fair and efficient,” he said.
Chahine said PEO expedited the change to be effective as of May 15.
Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said only a quarter of internationally trained immigrants in the province are working in professions they’ve trained for, and the Canadian work experience required by many regulators remains the “single biggest barrier” to many immigrants to Ontario being able to work in their area of expertise.
“An immigrant may have the international experience, skill, and technical training to pass all licensing requirements to work in their field, but when they come to Canada, it counts for virtually nothing,” McNaughton said.
Ontario is currently short of roughly 7,000 engineers in Ontario, he noted.
McNaughton commended PEO for taking a proactive approach to the legislation, encouraging other regulating bodies to follow suit.
Otherwise, the legislation will automatically come into effect in December.
“Whether you represent architects or land surveyors, my expectation is for every regulator to be proactive and not wait until December 2,” McNaughton said.