Associated Engineering Helps Foreign-Trained Engineers Become Accredited In Canada

Like many thriving Canadian companies, Associated Engineering (AE) faces a shortage of qualified personnel.

“In the last five to 10 years we have seen a lot more work in our sector of business,” says Lianna Mah, AE’s Manager of Business Development. Staffing a growing consulting engineering firm of 700 employees is clearly a challenge.

“In order to meet these demands, our recruitment strategy across Canada has focused heavily on skilled immigrant engineers,” says Mah. But there’s a catch: How does an employer interested in hiring immigrants tackle restrictive licensing rules?

Using innovative approaches to experience, training, and education, Associated Engineering has found a solution. Their plan simplifies immigrant entry into the workplace, while focusing on talent development.

It starts by making sure foreign-trained workers are hired based on essential skills. Once they are within the company, AE helps employees get the accreditation they need to be recognized as engineers.

This involves applied and mentored work experience, and study aid to help them obtain regional licenses. Finally, AE’s partnership with local schools gives the community connection every company needs: Its employees make use of specialized communications courses, while the company gains access to local immigrant talent pools.

Associated Engineering’s efforts are clearly paying off — in 2008, they were recognized as one of the 20 Best Employers for New Canadians. One of the reasons for this success is AE’s commitment to integrate immigrant employees from day one.

This “seamless” experience means skilled immigrant professionals are hired based on essential skills, and remain employed throughout the licensing process.

“It’s in our best interests to bring best-fit candidates up to speed – it makes them feel part of the organization, and helps our bottom line as well,” says Mah. Training and mentoring on local projects helps immigrant engineers fulfill Canadian work experience requirements. But these professional relationships also have a social side: “buddy” systems are used to aid with the immigration process itself, and with group integration.

Of course, making the change to a new workforce isn’t all about integration in the workplace. It’s also about meeting official standing. With several regional Canadian and international offices, AE certainly understands the complex nature of certification. Knowing that it must steer a course through sanctioning bodies simply to do business, the company keeps in close contact with licensing boards, and provides study assistance to newcomers. In this way, AE helps employees achieve certification faster by cutting through bureaucratic complications and reducing the number of exams.

Working with immigrant professionals has produced some outstanding results for Associated Engineering.

Former student Helen Yin is just one example of the company’s successful partnerships with educational institutions. Now an associate of the Vancouver office, Yin “has become a real asset to the AE team,” according to Mah. “Everyone wants her on their projects.”

As a skilled immigrant who has transitioned from student to employee, Yin is proof AE’s office showcases and practicums work. These arrangements are coordinated with local colleges and universities, and are aimed at immigrant students like Yin who are enrolled in skill upgrade programs. If any of their foreign-trained technologists or engineers require communications support, AE also helps develop ESL skills.

For example, according to Mah, the Vancouver office of AE “has worked with Vancouver Community College to design a language program specifically for technologists and engineers.” Financial assistance ensures employees can participate: AE pays the course fee, and encourages staff to bill a portion of their hours to their yearly 32-hour professional development allowance.

Tips for Employers

  • “Seamless” work experiences: Hire based on essential skills, and employ during the licensing process.
  • Build immigrant recruitment and training strategies around local educational institutions.

Associated Engineering, headquartered in Edmonton, has provided consulting engineering services for over 60 years. With over 700 staff, the firm specializes in the water, transportation, infrastructure, and environmental sectors.

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