For immigrant engineers, getting to work(the process of getting a job) in Quebec is often an obstacle course. The Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec (OIQ), an organization which regulates access to the profession, is preparing changes for 2018 to facilitate the professional integration of engineering graduates from abroad.
New Methods of Access to the Profession
For immigrants who have graduated in a country that is not a signatory of the Washington Agreement, or outside of France, obtaining the Junior Engineer’s License is currently is possible by passing through exams. The OIQ has instead decided to opt for a more personalized approach of the treatment of candidates’ files. The professional experience of a candidate will now be taken into account in addition to the academic background. The OIQ aims to help new comers by supporting them with university training, internships, supervised projects etc.
Another goal of the OIQ is to reduce the timeframe required before granting an individual a junior permit, which currently stands at 16 months. “We have set ourselves an 8-month target,” says Kathy Baig, president of the OIQ. The organization also aims to increase the graduation rate to 75%.
The new provisions should be implemented as early as next summer. A platform will be set up to better support immigrants wishing to work as engineers.
A Lighter Procedure
This step towards greater recognition of prior learning and skills is well received by organizations that support immigrant engineers. “This formula is both less rigid and more equitable than the one in force”, says Fabien Cornu, coordinator in charge of the engineering project at the Clef pour l’intégration au travail des immigrants (CITIM). “This is an essential step”, says Catherine Klein, president of the Francogénie association, which is aimed at engineering graduates from France and elsewhere.
If the junior engineer licensing process is to become more flexible, it will become more complex and uncertain. “Today, by looking at the compass tool offered on the OIQ website, the person knows for sure how many exams they will have to go through,” explains Fabien Cornu. Once the new formula is in place, this same person will have to wait for the review of their file before knowing what awaits them throughout thethe process.
Other Obstacles to Overcome
Will these new measures be enough to improve the professional integration of engineers trained abroad? Probably not. Membership of the OIQ alone is not enough to land a career as an engineer. “The unemployment rate of immigrants remains higher than the rest of the population”, says Catherine Klein. “We would like to see employers more willing to give newcomers a chance and overcome their reluctance to hire them.”
Once accepted by the OIQ, the engineers have the status of a junior for a period ranging from 12 to 36 months. What’s important to note is that the aspiring engineer is ranked as a junior, meaning that all the work that they complete must be approved by their seniors before it can be approved. This creates a discrepancy as employers prefer to hire experienced engineers that are capable of performing tasks without needing to have it approved. “The placement of juniors remains a challenge”, says Fabien Cornu, who indicates that the OIQ is in the process of thinking about this problem.
For Fabien Cornu, the news announced by the OIQ should not make us forget that admission to the order is not an end in itself. “It’s important for newcomer engineers to understand that it will take them three to five years to reach their career goal [in Quebec]”, says Fabien Cornu.
This realism is also shared by Catherine Klein. “These measures represent a step forward, but not a panacea, she tempers. Despite the favorable economic environment and the retirements that are freeing up positions, foreign-trained engineers must avoid thinking that working in their field in Quebec is easy. ”