Path to Practice for Refugees in BC
ACEC-BC member firms have identified that labour shortages and increasing competition for top talent as a significant concern. In response to these challenges, the ACEC-BC Small Firms Council (SFC) recently sat down with Jason Ong, the Director of Registration at Engineers and Geoscientists BC (EGBC), to discuss how member firms can support increasing our talent pool by supporting engineering applicants who are in Canada under refugee status.
In response to the influx of refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict in 2015, EGBC introduced a formal path to registration for refugees in Canada who are unable to access traditional documentation. The permanent increase in refugees – primarily from Syria and Iran – who arrive without documentation that would usually be required to register in BC reinforced that development of a formal process was an important step by the regulator to increase access to professional qualification.
“Canada welcomes thousands of refugees annually, many of whom arrive in our country with professional experience that is in demand. Engineers and Geoscientists BC have responded to the complexity of unexpectedly leaving your home by creating a process that supports refugees who may be qualified to practice engineering or geoscience in BC.
ACEC-BC members know that diverse experience gained through international work is beneficial to our industry and our teams – raising awareness of the alternate registration process is one step we can take to ensure we can welcome and support refugees to join our industry.”
– Erin Martin-Serrano (Hedgehog Technologies), Chair, ACEC-BC Small Firms Council
Accessing the program:
During our conversation, Jason shared that over the first few years of the program there were about 20 applicants per year under the registration policy. These numbers increased to about 40 applicants in 2022. While only a small percentage of the 6,000 total individual applications received by EGBC each year, the policy is a positive step toward removal of barriers to full participation of refugees in professional practice.
To further support those who may benefit from this policy, EGBC waives the application fee.
In some cases, refugees residing in Alberta have been encouraged to apply in BC first under the alternate process. Once licensed in BC, applicants can register in other provinces under mobility agreements.
While it is not known if federal refugee programs share EGBC’s policy with applicants, some applicants noted that they were aware of the program prior to starting their application. Still, the SFC and EGBC believe that raising awareness of the alternate registration process for refugees is relevant for ACEC-BC member firms. Through understanding the program, member firms may be better positioned to hire refugees and support them to pursue their professional license.
Interested in learning more?
Some information on the policy follows. ACEC-BC members with specific questions regarding the application process for refugees seeking engineering or geoscience licensing in BC should be directed to Engineers and Geoscientists BC.
Engineers and Geoscientists BC Policy:
The following are details provided by Engineers and Geoscientists BC regarding proof of qualification for registration:
1) Academic documents such as transcripts, proof of graduation, course descriptions and translations.
In lieu of providing academic documentation directly from the Applicant’s institution(s) of graduation, certified copies of authenticated academic documentation from a trusted third party or copies of academic documentation whose authenticity is verified by a sworn statement by the Applicant, the following will be accepted as equivalent:
- in their own words, the Applicant provides a detailed description of their academic qualifications— listing the institution attended, the coursework completed, the date of graduation and all other details relevant to their academic criteria, with supporting evidence, if available (EGBC may provide a template related to the Canadian Engineering Qualifications Board Syllabus to assist the Applicant and examiners);
- a sworn statement by the Applicant (affidavit) that the description provided accurately reflects the education they have completed;
- verification by EGBC staff using available documented means at their disposal resources, including third-party corroboration by trusted certifying bodies and institutions; and
- attendance at an interview by the examiner and an interviewer versed in the academic programs claimed (e.g., a registrant educated in the country in which the education was gained), with a positive recommendation from the interviewers on the authenticity of the education claimed
Should relevant academic documentation become available, at a later date, the Applicant must contact EGBC and submit the documentation for review.
2) Proof of experience, competency, and references
In lieu of providing an appropriately-validated competency self-assessment the following may be accepted:
- completion of a competency self-assessment—validated, with reference questions (additional feedback) completed as fully as possible, as directed by the Credentials Committee
- submission of an Engineering Report* validated through a successful interview with registrants practicing in a similar field of engineering or geoscience
Resources to Access:
In addition to the policy above, there is an Accredited Employer Program to assist firms in attracting and retaining talent where Applicants are classified as low risk. For more information on this program please visit the Programs Resources – Accredited Employer Program on the Engineers and Geoscientists BC website.