Canada has welcomed thousands of refugees this year. Many of them will be ready to look for work, but they may not have been able to bring a record of their qualifications with them. This can be a barrier to finding employment.

With support from TRIEC and Intact Financial Corporation, World Education Services (WES) is piloting an alternative credential assessment project to help Syrian refugees get their qualifications recognized in Canada. We spoke to Marcus Parmegiani, Senior Manager, Partnerships and Development, and Beka Tavartkiladze, Assistant Director of Evaluations, World Education Services to learn more about the project and how it will benefit refugees in starting or continuing their career in Canada.

marcusheadshotQ: What is the Alternative Credential Assessment project all about?

Marcus: With the arrival of over 25,000 refugees in Canada over the past year, there was a need to help refugees have their qualifications accredited. After conducting extensive research on credential recognition issues, and international best practices for alternative credentials, we decided to pilot an alternative credential assessment for refugees and people in refugee-like situations.  With support from TRIEC, we were also able to gain a financial contribution from Intact Financial Corporation towards the project. The assessment is designed to address situations where people cannot – for any number of reasons – obtain documents directly from the educational institutions where they earned their credentials.

Q: How will you be piloting this project with refugees?

Marcus: We officially launched the project on May 18 with our Stakeholder Engagement event. The alternative credential assessment will be available to refugee newcomers referred to WES by our partner organizations (ACCES Employment, COSTI Immigrant Services and JVS Toronto) who have been trained in pre-screening and referring refugee clients to us. The associated fees with the assessment will be waived with the financial sponsorship from Intact Financial Corporation and an in-kind contribution from WES.

Q: What are some of the challenges that WES faces in producing an Alternative Credential Assessment?

Beka: Since the refugees, in many cases, have limited documentation, the challenge is having to reconstruct the candidate’s academic history.  This requires deep knowledge of the country’s education system, course syllabi, current institutional status, etc. We might need to take steps to corroborate our findings, such as interviewing the applicant, before determining if we can complete the assessment.

Q: What has the response been from employers, regulatory bodies and educational institutions to the project?

Marcus: The first assessments were released in late October, and we are engaged with employers, licensing bodies, and educational institutions to gauge their response, acceptance, and use of the alternative credential assessments. In our conversations with these organizations, they are very open and willing to review the assessments and decide upon the degree to which they will use them for applicants’ next steps, which could be entering an educational program, initiating a professional licensing process in Canada or accepting their educational qualifications as a deciding factor in employment.

Q: How will this project be beneficial to Syrian refugees in Canada?

Marcus: Approximately 150-200 refugees will receive an alternative credential assessment during the pilot project.  The assessment will empower them to take a key next step in their journey in Canada, allowing them to further their education, obtain a professional license and in finding employment commensurate with their skills and experience.

In summary, the alternative credential assessment will help refugees take a crucial step in their integration in Canada, with both short term benefits – as described above – and long term impacts on their socio-economic status.

Intact Financial Corporation, on why they wanted to be a part of the program:

Stephanie Sorensen, Chair, Intact Foundation Board at Intact Financial Corporation, said, “The Intact Foundation understands the importance of supporting the Alternative Credential Assessment program at WES. The program will ensure that Syrian refugees are receiving the support they need to successfully resettle in Canada.”

To learn more about World Education Services and their credential assessment services, please visit