07 Jul Pilot referrals to the Global Experience Ontario (GEO) Program
Since June 2014, COA Pakistan and the COA Management Team have worked in close collaboration with the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade in order to provide internationally-trained professionals with pathways to licensing before and upon their arrival in Ontario. This article discusses the outcomes of the pilot referral phase.
Sadia ZarifCOA Coordinator
Since the beginning of its operations in Pakistan in January 2001, the Canadian Orientation Abroad (COA) has provided pre-departure orientation to 17,411 participants, including refugees and immigrants. COA sessions are conducted in a number of locations including Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Islamabad. According to the statistics for fiscal year 2014-15, close to 60% of the clients trained through COA Pakistan were Economic Class immigrants – Provincial Nominees or Federal Skilled Workers – and 50% had post-graduate degrees.
COA participants in the Economic and Family Classes come to IOM with specific questions related to their settlement and economic integration, including the recognition of foreign credentials and licensing processes. The COA curriculum encompasses general information and resources, as well as referrals to specialized and province-based services.
As an information hub, the Global Experience Ontario (GEO) program guides internationally-trained immigrants through the process of certification and licensing in Ontario’s non-health regulated professions and skilled trades. GEO offers a wide array of services, including weekly webinars that delve into the licensing and registration processes for careers in engineering, accounting, social work, teaching and early childhood education. The one-hour webinars are free of charge.
In order to promote and facilitate the registration process for potential GEO participants, COA is provided with the webinar schedule in advance. With the support of the Canadian High Commission to Pakistan, COA screens its participants and contacts the ones with the relevant credentials, sharing informational flyers and registration forms.
From September 2014 to April 2015, GEO conducted 27 webinars. COA Pakistan referred 80 potential participants and at least 18 self-identified as having been referred by COA. So far, the attendance rate for the engineering and accounting webinars is higher than the one for the other professions served through the program. More participants are expected to register as the referral system expands to other COA immigrant training sites, including Beirut, Bogota, Colombo, Kiyv, Lagos, Manila and Mexico City.
Below is the testimonial of Mr. Ali Malik, who participated in the GEO webinar for engineers:
My name is Ali Malik and I am a chemical engineer from Lahore, Pakistan. I have over 10 years of experience in my field and I am preparing to move to Canada. I obtained my Permanent Resident status in October 2014 and immediately started to research professional accreditation processes online. The Embassy of Canada in Islamabad referred me to the Canadian Orientation Abroad team in Pakistan, which later referred me to the GEO webinars for engineers. I first participated in a COA session; then later registered and eventually participated in the webinar conducted on November 12, 2014.
Following my own personal research, I was under the impression that I understood fairly well the professional licensing process I would have to follow upon arrival in Ontario. I have to admit there was a lot information I did not know before attending the GEO webinar. The information provided during that session was clear, complete and well organized. It extended beyond licensing to explore topics such as career alternatives; guiding participants to very useful resources to understand the role of regulatory bodies. Attending the GEO webinar helped me in many ways. I am now actively preparing the steps towards licensure, both pre- and post- arrival. With the multiplication of online information, it is convenient to be able to turn to one reliable source of information when it comes to complex questions such as accreditation and licensure. I would definitely recommend that every professional immigrant considering working in their field in Ontario avail of the webinars offered by the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration.