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New B.C. law aimed at finding labour shortage relief from abroad

New law coming into effect next month promises to relief labour shortages in health care and other fields
A new law coming into effect July 1 promises to increase the supply of childhood educators trained abroad. Government Wednesday announces the regulations of the International Credentials Recognition Act. (Black Press Media file photo)

As B.C. faces labour shortages in health care and other in-demand fields, a new law effective next month promises relief. 

The International Credentials Recognition Act comes into effect on July 1 and government Wednesday (June 12) announced that it has finalized the law's regulations. The act requires 18 professional bodies in B.C. to remove barriers in 29 professions. They include paramedics, clinical social workers, engineers, architects, teachers, early childhood educators and lawyers. 

Ravi Parmar, parliamentary secretary for international credentials and MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca in Greater Victoria, said the regulations are removing roadblocks that for too long have hampered skilled professionals from abroad from establishing themselves in B.C. He added that the changes mean simpler, fairer rules, so professionals from all parts of the world and walks of life can start working in their fields faster and provide the services communities need.

"It's a no-brainer," Parmar said. "We are just tired of hearing these stories. I came across in Kelowna a lawyer from Brazil, who practiced for 15 years and now has to do a bunch of courses all over again." 

The changes aim to speed up the integration of professionals trained abroad into the provincial workforce in the face of current and future labour shortages. The provincial government projects one million job openings within the next decade with between 60 per cent to 70 per cent of openings coming from retirements as the share of British Columbians 65 years and older continues to grow.

The ministry of post-secondary education and future skills, citing the 2021 census, says just under 428,000 people working in British Columbia had studied abroad, compared to 1.37 million who studied domestically. It is not clear how many of those foreign-trained workers worked in the 29 professions subject to the new legislation.

"That is one the biggest challenges," Parmar said.

Prior to this legislation, some regulatory bodies were not collecting data on foreign-trained workers and none were required to submit any if they had, he said.

"They are now required by law to provide data in terms of domestic and international applications that are being processed and submitted."

Available evidence also suggests that many foreign-trained workers are in lower-paying jobs that do not match their skill level. 

The act passed the legislature in late 2023, but required detailed regulatory work before implementation. Key elements include the removal of work experience and language requirements. Parmar called the pre-existing requirement for Canadian work experience "discriminatory" and a "Catch-22" that has served as a "big stop sign" to many immigrants. 

The regulations also call on regulatory bodies to improve the transparency of the assessment process; cut wait times; and charge domestic and international applicants similar fees for various processes. 

A central element is the establishment of a new superintendent, whose office is responsible for promoting fair credential recognition, monitoring data reporting; and enforcing compliance. Parmar said government will fill the position in the next two weeks. 

The act builds on other measures to attract more in-demand professions, including physicians. According to government, 1,031 international medical graduates have registered with the College of Physicians and Surgeons, including 700 in 2023 and 331 as of March 2024. 

This new legislation and the regulations behind it does not exist in a vacuum. B.C. is one of several G-7 jurisdictions competing for skilled labour.

"We need to do a lot more as a province, we need to do a lot more as a country," Parmar said.

He echoed Premier David Eby when he said B.C. is not getting its fair share of financial support to help integrate newcomers. 

"We need the federal government to step up," Parmar said. 


Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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