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Immigrant Engineers

Sat May 1, 2010

Licensing of Immigrant Engineers Efficient, Accessible, says APEGNB

Executive Director Points to Regular Contact with Multicultural Associations

The tale of a qualified immigrant engineer forced to drive a taxi cab because he or she can't get licensed in New Brunswick is a myth, says Andrew McLeod, executive director of the Engineers and Geoscientists New Brunswick.

The licensing process for engineers in New Brunswick and Canada is hailed as one of the most efficient, accessible and cost-effective of any professional association, said McLeod in an interview (May 10).

"We feel we are open for business. We looked at 17 different ways we needed to change our profession to integrate more international engineers into our associations Canada-wide.''

He said the association has implemented almost all 17 of them.

For example, McLeod said, the New Brunswick association is in regular contact with multicultural associations in the province and does presentations on the licensing process for immigrant engineers.

The application form for approving foreign credentials is online at the association's website and once it's filled out, an applicant will quickly be informed of what they need to do to work here as an engineer, he said.

"We feel we've done a very good job.''

(In early May), Dr. Kanza Hashmat, chairman of the education and health committee of the Asian Heritage Society of New Brunswick, called on the provincial government to speed up the approval of credentials for immigrant professionals.

The Liberal government said it's working on the issue.

But McLeod said the engineering association's system is working fine and it's frustrating when people complain about it before getting the facts.

"If a (qualified) international engineer is looking to be licensed in New Brunswick we can do it in almost four months," he said.

There are three ways an international engineer can get a licence in the province: attend a Canadian engineering university; attend an approved engineering school on the association's international data base; or go through a full review of credentials if his or her engineering school isn't on the list.

"We need course descriptions, we need official transcripts," said Kate Sisk, director of registration for the association, about an applicant from an unapproved school.

"We basically go through every course they have ever done and try to match it to a Canadian Bachelor of Engineering degree." She said within four months the association can tell an applicant if his or her training is sufficient and if not, where he or she needs to improve.

"They will know exactly what they need to do," said Sisk.

An applicant must also have one-year experience working as an engineer in Canada or the United States or working to Canadian standards offshore, take a professional practice exam and be able to speak English or French, said McLeod.

An applicant with five years experience can request an oral review by the association's experience review committee, which can waive the written exam, said Sisk.

While the applicant is waiting for approval, he or she can work as an engineer-in-training, she said.

They just can't sign off on any work unsupervised, she said.

Sisk said the association, which represents 3,800 registered engineers, got 47 international applications last year. About 50 a year is normal, she said.

The association may have to hire a full-time staff member to oversee international applicants, said McLeod.

He said approximately 30 per cent of all immigrants to New Brunswick claim to be engineers, although some are the equivalent of technicians.

McLeod said the association's credential system has been in place for decades.

The first international engineer was approved in 1950 in New Brunswick.

He also said engineers are unique in that their Canadian credential system is uniform so if an engineer is approved in New Brunswick, he or she can work anywhere in the country as long as he or she registers with the relevant provincial association.

"We are held up as the shining star," said McLeod.