Adapting foreign degrees to local requirements

August 30, 2017

Benjamin Franklin once said that ‘an investment in knowledge pays the best interest,’ and many studies show that higher education levels generally lead to higher incomes.

But how much must be spent, in both time and money, before skills and training pay dividends? For new Canadians, the investment could be costly.

Investing in knowledge

“Recertification is a bewildering, lengthy and expensive project,” says Riva Rhythm, a recently landed Canadian retraining to become a teacher.

Before arriving in Canada, Rhythm taught college-level English for several years in India. Yet, to teach in BC’s kindergarten to grade 12 public education sector, a BC Ministry of Education teaching certificate is required. One prerequisite for applying for the certificate is the completion of a teacher training program.

To recertify, Rhythm applied to the Professional Development Program at Simon Fraser University. It is an intensive, full-time program running over three semesters. Although she is eager to return to teaching, she faces significant costs in tuition and in lost income from the interruption in her career.

“Once the initial hurdles [of figuring out recertification requirements] are overcome, the economics come to the forefront,” says Rhythm. “If one enrols in a one-year, full-time program, arranging the tuition fees and making ends meet isn’t an easy task.”

Rhythm is not alone in her struggles. Freda Fernandes, manager of the Career Paths for Immigrants Program at ISSofBC, has worked with many high skilled immigrants during her 15+ years at ISSofBC.

“Under our employment programs for high-skilled immigrants, we see clients who have been teachers, dentists or doctors,” she says. “When they come to Canada, they need to recertify and the process may be long and expensive.”

Fernandes and her team work on action plans with individual newcomers. One reason why a plan is useful is that it identifies gaps in skills and training that prevent successful employment in an immigrant’s chosen profession.

“Some programs have training dollars to support immigrants with upgrading their skills, for short-term training and for re-credentialing,” says Fernandes.

If training is recognized as part of the action plan, and if funding is available within the program, money spent on courses could be refunded. Eligibility criteria vary greatly depending on individual circumstances, and Fernandes urges newcomers to contact an organization like ISSofBC for advice and placement.

Rhythm’s assessment of recertification is grim.

“An immigrant starts with a load of debt and then works to repay it all through the prime years of life,” she says. It is a daunting prospect that tests the firmest of resolutions.

Read more of Betty Shea's article, originally featured in The Source