As policymakers and employers look internationally to solve labour shortages, this brief will take a closer look at efforts to recognize foreign credentials both within Canada and around the globe.

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International labour shortages

Countries around the world have taken steps to simplify their immigration and visa processes in the race to attract and retain international students and workers amidst labour shortages. Before we dive into Canada, let’s look at what other countries are doing.

Germany has eased access to their labour market for international workers. The country plans to introduce a job seeker visa that will allow migrants six months to look for work without a job offer. The Chancenkarte or “opportunity card” uses a points-based system. Germany also promises to allow foreigners to obtain dual citizenship, something that is currently permitted in very specific cases. There are unconfirmed reports that the country plans to reduce the time it takes for skilled migrants to become eligible for German citizenship from five years to three.

The Australian government put forward proposals to increase visa durations and extend the right to stay and work for student visa holders. Australia’s higher education system has taken a blow since the COVID-19 pandemic. Significant drops in international student enrollment and revenue declines in 2021 led to sectoral job cuts of nearly 20 per cent.

English is Nigeria’s official language and their standard language of instruction but many post-secondary institutions in the U.S. and Canada require Nigerian students to provide proof of English language proficiency prior to admission. In response to a request to remove this requirement by Olumuyiwa Igbalajobi, a Nigerian academic at the University of British Columbia, the University of Alberta now officially recognizes English as the official language of instruction in Nigeria.

Canada’s federal government eases barriers

In our last brief, we mentioned the possibility of plans for Canada to develop permanent residency pathways for undocumented workers. Since then, the federal government has confirmed that the plan is in the works. The program aims to create a path to permanent residency to up to 500,000 immigrants who work in the country.

Canada will now allow foreign-trained doctors to apply for the federal express entry system. The system, used to recruit in-demand workers who wish to become permanent residents, considers the fee-for-service model used by most of the country’s doctors as self-employment and thus deems them ineligible. With doctors now exempt, it will be easier for physicians who have already filled critical vacancies to remain as permanent residents.

Within Alberta, the College of Physicians and Surgeons announced a five-year pilot program to “accelerate the registration of internationally-trained physicians.” The pilot will remove the three-month Preliminary Clinical Assessment portion of the Practice Readiness Assessment for those with comparable credentials. Eligible workers will move straight into the three-month Supervised Practice Assessment.

International students studying in Canada are only eligible to work off campus up to 20 hours per week. As of Nov. 15, Canada will temporarily remove the requirement to help out with intense labour shortages. The temporary measure will remain until 2024. Canada has also launched a pilot program that will automate the process to extend study permits.

Moving educators across borders

Manitoba’s Frontier school division is “aggressively” trying to find educators to fill labour gaps, chief superintendent Reg Klassen told CBC News. Credential recognition in the province is a challenge for teachers moving from other provinces. The report adds that a graduate degree for an Albertan teacher is not recognized in Manitoba. The North West Territories is also facing a substitute shortage as the pool has dropped from around 120-100 to 60 with roughly half available on a day-to-day basis. The French substitute pool sits at seven for the territory.

Northern and Interior B.C. districts are looking for “non-certified substitutes.” The B.C. Teachers’ Federation president told Global News that teachers are leaving for increased wages and lower cost of living elsewhere, like Alberta. Alberta and B.C. have a longstanding memorandum of understanding in place to recognize teaching credentials from either province without additional requirements but Alberta is still experiencing some challenges.

Rockyview schools in Alberta lacked teachers for some classes at the start of the school year. Teachers backed out for various reasons and then the school had to fill positions, which can take time. Alberta’s 2021 Labour Mobility Act, awaiting proclamation, is meant to reduce interprovincial credential barriers and included teachers. Stay tuned to see if the Act helps ease staffing pressures for teachers and other positions.

Canada is not alone. In their World Teacher’s day joint statement, the heads of the OECD, UNICEF, ILO, and Education International said 24.4 million  primary teachers and 44.4 million secondary teachers will be needed “to achieve universal basic education by 2030.”  In June, the United Kingdom opened up teaching positions to foreigners with “equivalent credentials and at least one year’s classroom experience.” Could provincial governments do the same as Alberta or U.K. to attract teachers from other parts of the country or even internationally?

Digitalization of credential process

Finding talent and verifying their credentials can be a lengthy process. Setting up digital identity technology can also be time consuming as governments transition from paper-based systems. Fine tuning legislation to address concerns and shifting contexts can stall bills, as recently happened in the UK. Privacy issues need to be addressed as Canada’s Privacy Commissioner pointed out in the office’s latest annual report. As policymakers resolve these issues, the technology is starting to roll out in Canada and elsewhere. ATB Financial in Alberta launched Proof, its digital wallet for credentials. Ethiopia’s nation-wide student digital blockchain ID program in partnership with Cardano will see an estimated 500,000 IDs issued in the coming months. The program will initially include primary and secondary students with post-secondary to follow.

Other news

  • As the Brief has followed the evolution and development of the NWT’s Polytechnic University, readers may be interested in the new Facilities Master Plan. The plan sets out the five-, 10-, and 50-year plan for the institution and its facilities.
  • Manitoba students will have more seats in high demand fields. The University of Manitoba’s Respiratory Therapist program will expand and the province has also inked a deal to add more Manitoban students to Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Leger’s latest Tech and Innovation survey provides insight into how Albertans and Canadians see their opportunities in tech. The survey found that “Albertans and Ontarians are most likely to consider tech jobs.”
  • Tech companies are still snatching up West Coast office space even amidst reports of layoffs, Colliers International associate director of Research told Western Investor. There is even a shortage of lab space in Victoria. Alberta is benefitting from “spillover effects” the report adds with office vacancies trending downward.

The Future of Work & Learning Brief is compiled by Stephany Laverty, Janet Lane, and Justin Rodych. If you like what you see, subscribe to our mailing list and share with a friend. If you have any interesting stories for future editions, please send them to .