More new Canadians will have access to federal loans to help get their professional training up to national standards as part of today’s federal budget.A government source tells The Canadian Press that the pilot foreign credential recognition loan program is set to be made permanent.
The program dates back to the 2011 election campaign, when the Conservatives promised to do more to help internationally trained workers find jobs in their field once they arrived in Canada.
Or, as the Tories often put it, to ensure that doctors don’t come to Canada and end up driving cabs.
An often-cited problem was the fact that many immigrants didn’t have the financial means to take the exams or courses required by Canadian regulations and lacked the credit history to get bank loans to cover the costs.
In 2012, the government introduced a three-year pilot loan program aimed at solving these problems and provided up to $15,000 in support.
The money can be used for anything from covering tuition for training to the price for licensing exams, even child care, if it means the applicant can go back to school to upgrade his or her skills to match Canadian standards.
According to a presentation on the program by the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation, $6-million-worth of loans were given, out in the first year, to more than 1,000 people, and less than 1 per cent defaulted on paying them back.
An estimated 24 per cent of foreign-educated immigrants work in regulated professions, for which they were trained. This compares with 62 per cent of the Canadian-born population, according to the presentation.
The federal government has been working for more than a decade to try and close this gap, but the challenge for Ottawa has always been that most regulated occupations are overseen by provincial governments, so there is not a lot of room for federal action.
Earlier this month, a panel appointed by the government to examine immigrant outcomes cited the issue of foreign-credential recognition as one of the most prominent barriers to the economic success of new Canadians.
It made six recommendations, including requiring the regulated professions to introduce single pan-Canadian standards and ensuring that people will know what they need to meet the standards before they get to Canada.