When TRIEC began, a key employment barrier faced by immigrants was a lack of recognition of international credentials and experience.

Our newly released State of Immigrant Inclusion report has found that today, some employers are better at recognizing international credentials, but that there is more work to be done.

We spoke with Shamira Madhany, managing director at World Education Services Canada (WES) and deputy executive director, on the way forward in recognizing the skills and credentials of internationally educated professionals.

The report tells us there is still work to be done in ensuring the recognition of international skills and credentials. Many employers don’t recognize them or see them as an asset to their business. Why is recognition so important?

Shamira Madhany: The labour market is changing; Canada’s population is aging and we’ll need to rely on the contributions of new Canadians to replace those exiting the job market. Businesses will need to take a very serious approach to how they can include international talent into their organization if they want to succeed going forward.

Labour shortages are becoming worse and there’s a felt impact on the bottom line for businesses. A recent study from the Business Development Bank of Canada revealed that “over 39% of SMEs [small- and medium-sized enterprises] are struggling to find new employees.”

As businesses feel the effects of this labour shortage, the urgency to find solutions and look to new sources for hires will become a greater priority. Understanding the skills and credentials of internationally trained professional is a crucial first step in hiring.

What are some of the barriers employers are facing in recognizing international credentials?

SM: When a hiring manager or human resources professional sees a résumé from a Canadian-educated candidate, they often recognize the institution. They know many of the large universities and top colleges. So there’s a familiarity there that they can trust based on the institution’s reputation. They don’t have that with an international institution or program. First, there’s this issue that they simply aren’t familiar with the international credentials.

But, I think we’re also facing a lack of understanding as to what a credential evaluation means – what information can an employer glean from it, and can it be trusted? WES is providing an authenticated evaluation, but many don’t comprehend the significance of it as it relates to a candidate’s qualifications for any given role.

There are still many employers who don’t understand what it means when they read “Evaluated by World Education Services as equivalent to […] in Canada” on a résumé. The “equivalency statement” is an important part of a WES evaluation. It helps employers understand how a candidate’s educational accomplishments compare to similar credentials in Canada.

What does “authenticated” mean in relation to credentials?

SM: It means employers can trust that WES is basing the evaluation on credible evidence of an applicant’s academic accomplishments. WES ensures the authenticity of documents.

Documents used in our evaluations must be received directly from the awarding institution. When that is not possible, WES sends documents submitted by individuals back to the issuing institution or examination body for verification. When an employer receives a credential evaluation, they can feel confident in WES’ own commitment to authenticity and accuracy.

WES evaluations are prepared using our custom-built database, a unique resource that enables WES to perform detailed evaluations quickly and consistently. The database contains over 40 years of WES research including data on over 200 countries and jurisdictions, 45,000 educational institutions, 20,000 credentials and equivalencies, and 1,600 grading scales.

What can we do moving forward to ensure that international credentials are recognized?

SM: The sector (WES included) needs to do a better job of educating employers on how to understand international credentials. We need to assure hiring managers, human resources professionals – everyone hiring – that a credential evaluation is a reliable, credible, and trusted source to ensure the qualifications of an internationally educated candidate.

It also goes beyond credentials – we need to continue to change the thinking. International experience is an asset and a candidate without “Canadian work experience” is not a liability but a gold mine for new ideas, new perspectives, and better results for the business. This will become increasingly important as changes in the labour market are resulting in a shift away from formal academic credentials toward a skills-based approach to hiring. We see technology companies like Google and Shopify who no longer require formal degrees, and instead are looking at the skills and competencies a candidate can contribute. We’ll see in the coming years how this change impacts institutions in higher education, professional licensure, and the wider employment spectrum. We need to consider how newcomers, who gained their skills and experience outside of Canada, will prove their contributions.

TRIEC has been doing a tremendous job over the last 15 years in shaping the conversation on immigrant inclusion. This is an enormous task though and it takes leaders, key influencers, and cross-sector collaboration to create systemic change. We see in the report that there has been some change; but, there’s still room for improvement. The unemployment rate for recent immigrants with a bachelor’s degree is twice that of their Canadian-born counterparts.

At an individual level, we all have a role to play as well. We each need to continue conducting conversations around diversity, inclusion, and recognition. It takes brave champions to make meaningful progress.