Human Resources Committee on Oct. 20th, 2011
Evidence of meeting #6 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was program.
A recording is available from Parliament.
On the agenda
- Doretta Thompson Principal, Education and Communications, Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants
- Jylan Khalil Director, Chartered Accountants Qualification, Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants
- Mathew Wilson Vice-President, National Policy, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters
- Carole Presseault Vice-President, Government and Regulatory Affairs, Certified General Accountants Association of Canada
- Claudia von Zweck Executive Director, Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists
- Katya Masnyk Duvalko Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators
- Carole Bouchard Executive Director, National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities
The Chair Ed Komarnicki
I'll call the meeting to order.
We have a number of new participants with us today. I'd like to say that we'll be doing two panels of three witnesses each today. The first panel will be with us for one hour. Representatives from the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada, and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters will be making presentations.
Each of you will make a presentation, and then we will have some questioning rounds from parties in the committee. I ask that as you make your presentations you speak slowly. The interpreters need to interpret, and at times that gets a little difficult. So keep that in mind as you're presenting. I'll indicate when you're coming near the end of your time.
With that, Ms. Thompson, could you start?
Doretta Thompson Principal, Education and Communications, Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'm Doretta Thompson. I'm a principal in education strategy and communication with the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. Over the last two years, I've been the CICA's liaison with HRSDC on our international credential recognition initiatives. With me is Jylan Khalil, the CICA's director of qualification. Jylan is an expert in the assessment of international qualification processes and the negotiation of mutual recognition agreements. We appreciate the opportunity to share with you our ongoing initiatives, made possible through HRSDC's foreign credential recognition program, to improve the labour market outcomes of foreign-trained individuals.
The CA profession is regulated at the provincial level. Our provincial institutes have the constitutional responsibility for qualification and admission to the profession, including the admission of internationally trained professionals. The CICA's role is to work closely with the provincial institutes, through inter-institute committees, to set national standards, which all CAs must meet. Consequently, CAs have full mobility across Canada. And all our international credential recognition initiatives are being developed within this framework and require full provincial support.
Like most professions, ours faces an imminent demographic challenge. The demand for CAs is expected to grow, just as a significant portion of our membership begins to retire. Internationally trained accountants will be an important source of new CAs, and many will need to upgrade their education or experience.
Our goal, consistent with that of the pan-Canadian framework, is to ensure that internationally trained accountants have access to timely, fair, and transparent assessment processes that give full credit for the knowledge and experience they bring to Canada; to guarantee timely assessment of their credentials; and to offer accessible, affordable, focused bridging programs that will enable them to meet Canadian standards more quickly than is possible today.
As pointed out by HRSDC in its recent testimony, the process for recognizing credentials is complex, costly, and lengthy.
We received our first grant from HRSDC's FCR program in September 2009. With it, we created a pan-Canadian web portal to provide internationally trained accountants with clear information on the requirements for becoming a CA in Canada. When we began this initiative, each provincial institute had its own application and assessment process, and the information available varied significantly from province to province, creating confusion among potential applicants both in Canada and abroad.
This grant enabled us to conduct focus groups to better understand the information needs of internationally trained accountants who had become Canadian CAs; to create an interprovincial team to produce a harmonized online application process; and to create a web portal that's easy for applicants to use, provides answers to the most commonly asked questions, and provides information for employers of internationally trained accountants.
While the launch of our “Become a CA in Canada” website will happen next month, the soft launch early this summer is already resulting in a smoother application process for internationally trained accountants, and reduced calls, letters, and e-mails to the CICA and to the provincial institutes. The site has already had almost 9,000 different visitors. About half are from other countries, the top three being India, Pakistan, and the U.S. And completed applications are beginning to come in. We're pleased to provide committee members with screen shots of two introductory pages of the website. To see the full site, you can visit www.becomeacaincanada.ca, or www.devenircaaucanada.ca.
Jylan Khalil Director, Chartered Accountants Qualification, Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants
The website captures current processes and streamlines the application process, but it will also provide the launch point for four exciting new initiatives. Over the next three years, federal funding will enable us to create a sophisticated assessment tool and three bridging programs to help internationally trained accountants qualify as Canadian CAs. Many of them will be able to begin the process before they even arrive in Canada.
The first initiative is a CA qualification assessment tool. This is a computer-based tool that assesses the credentials, designation, relevant professional development, and work experience of an internationally trained accountant against the CA profession's qualification requirements. The unique feature of this tool is that it will award academic credit for experiential learning. Applicants will receive a detailed report identifying the specific requirements they lack, and information on how these gaps can be bridged. It will outline the minimum necessary and sufficient bridging programs required for CA qualification. This important tool is scheduled for completion in 2014.
The second initiative is the CA reciprocity education program that will replace the current examination with online courses. This program targets members of the 14 international accounting bodies with whom we have mutual recognition agreements, MRAs. Currently these accountants are eligible to become CAs by passing examinations in Canadian tax, law, and in CA ethics. Each year, approximately 150 people take this exam. Preliminary research indicates that there are many more people eligible.
We believe that online courses, which can be taken at any time and from anywhere in the world, will be a more attractive option. Other international bodies with whom we have MRAs are also replacing their equivalent exams with such courses, and we expect this program to be mutually agreed upon as part of the 2012 MRA renewal process. The examination would be maintained for those seeking a licence to practice public accounting. Development of this program is now under way, with a pilot project planned for November 2012 and program launch in March 2013.
The third initiative is the CA executive professional program that will prepare internationally trained accountants with seven or more years of experience to write our uniform evaluation. This eight-month, executive-style, part-time program will cover the professional qualities and skills of our competency map. Currently these experienced professionals must complete a domestic education program, a process that can take up to two or more years. Preliminary research with employers indicates significant interest in this program for internationally trained staff. We expect to pilot this project in September 2013 and launch it in September 2014.
Our final initiative is an evaluation of experience targeted at very senior internationally trained accountants with twelve or more years of experience, five of which must be in a senior role. They will be asked to demonstrate how they have developed the competencies expected of a qualified CA through a rigorous evaluation of their professional experience. Successful completion of this evaluation will qualify candidates as Canadian CAs without writing our final evaluation. We currently have no pathway to the profession for these senior business leaders. Development of the evaluation of experience is also well under way, with a pilot planned for March 2012.
The Chair Ed Komarnicki
Principal, Education and Communications, Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants
We've been asked to comment on our experiences in applying for funding under federal government programs, and working with HRSDC and FCRP. Having spearheaded our application efforts, I can say that the proposal process is straightforward, the criteria are clearly articulated, and the staff with whom we've worked are knowledgeable and helpful. Reporting requirements are easily understood.
In terms of the impact of funding, I would say that it enabled us to focus on initiatives we had identified as important, but did not have the staff resources to undertake on a priority basis. Further, these projects enable us to work in partnership with our provincial institutes in a very positive way. Complementary programs, like language training and mentoring, are being developed at the provincial level, and will be shared more effectively on a national basis.
Finally, I'd like to say that in the two years we've participated in these programs, we have also appreciated the opportunities to work with other professional and regulatory bodies. The opportunity to share our experience through initiatives such as the federal government's international qualifications network website, of which we're early adopters, is also helpful and informative.
We'd be very happy to answer any questions or discuss any of our initiatives further.
The Chair Ed Komarnicki
Thank you. There will be an opportunity for questions.
Next, Mr. Wilson, are you presenting?
Mathew Wilson Vice-President, National Policy, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters
Yes, thank you, Mr. Chair.
My name is Mathew Wilson, and I'm with the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.
The CME is Canada's largest trade and industry association. We represent about 10,000 member companies from across Canada, and we're the chair of the Canadian Manufacturing Coalition, which represents 47 of Canada's largest sectoral associations. This year is actually our 140th anniversary.
Foreign workers have always been important for CME, as well as for Canada's labour force. However, while immigrants were once relied on for physical labour, today they are relied on to fill the variety of critical labour positions across almost all sectors of the economy. Using the immigration system in an efficient manner as a key source of highly productive and highly skilled labourers is critical to the success of Canada's economy moving forward. Quite simply, without access to foreign workers, Canadian companies will not be able to design, produce, and create the innovative products necessary to remain globally competitive.
The challenges in the current immigration and skill certification system, however, are causing many industries in Canada today to fail. In many provinces and sectors, there are significant shortfalls in attracting or training skilled workers. This is often a result of companies not being able to find the right people with the right certifications in their province, and the current immigration skill certification system, which is not efficient enough at helping companies fill the gaps. Canada must do a better job of developing our domestic talent, improving immigration for focused skill shortages, and properly dealing with foreign credentials.
The Chair Ed Komarnicki
Excuse me, but could you slow up a little bit? This would be helpful to the interpreters here.
Vice-President, National Policy, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters
In short, Canada must focus its efforts on simplifying and removing the unnecessary paper and other burdens in the current processes. This is not about reducing competencies or sacrificing skill sets or safety requirements; it is about improving the way that evaluations and assessments are made. If someone with foreign training has the necessary skills, we should implement an evaluation process that would allow this to be determined so that companies in Canada can have access to these people. We need to remove the artificial barriers and focus on the real issues--ensuring that the person has the skills necessary to do the job properly and safely.
The steps taken by governments of all levels to support the needs of industry in this regard have been impressive to date. That includes the creation of the pan-Canadian framework for the assessment and recognition of foreign qualifications, and the Canadian immigrant integration program. But much more must be done by both industry and government. The members of the CME have several recommendations in this regard relating to skills certification and the immigration process.
First, we must expand existing industry-government partnerships on job and skill matching. CME, HRSDC, the foreign credential recognition office, and the Society of Internationally Trained Engineers of British Columbia have created a pilot program called E-MAP--the engineering matching and placement program--which is a technical job-matching program to facilitate the employment of internationally trained engineers into B.C.'s growing manufacturing sector. This partnership between industry and government should be expanded into a nationally funded and supported program.
Second, governments, the industry, regulating bodies, and colleges and universities must work together to create a national database of skills credentials and educational institutions that have already been assessed internationally so that we know, and can determine, Canadian equivalency. Many organizations, including many of the human resources sector councils federally, have been doing this work individually, but it needs to be centralized and made publicly available.
Third, a process for the recognition of prior learning must be created for Canadian companies and governments to have better assessment of an individual's formal and informal learning, such as computer courses, management workshops, and communications skills. This should include work-based certifications, which use recognition of prior learning systems created by sector-driven standards, rather than academic standards as the basis for assessment and the development of evidence.
Fourth, we must expand the work of the pan-Canadian framework to cover skills that are in demand by industry across Canada. The occupations that are covered today and that will be covered in the coming years are an excellent start. However, most of the professions covered today do not cover the skill sets required by industry--for example, construction millwrights, industrial mechanics, ironworkers, structural metal fabricators and fitters, welders and related machine operators, steamfitters, pipefitters, insulators, sheet metal workers, and carpenters.
Fifth, current quota allowances must be increased for provincial immigration nominee programs to allow provinces to quickly adapt to their local industry needs.
Sixth, we must continue to identify ways to improve the labour market responsiveness of the federal skilled worker program and allocate points towards factors that are valued by employers and have been shown to influence success of immigrants in the labour market.
Seventh, we must expand the work of the Canadian immigrant integration program in foreign consulates beyond Manila, Guangzhou in China, and New Delhi in India.
Finally, we must work to improve the immigrant visa program to shorten the timeframes and costs associated with hiring foreign workers. Currently it can take up to four to six months to arrange a work visa, and that's after a company has found a suitable candidate for a vacant position. That is simply far too long. And this time is in addition to the significant cost involved in completing the process through Service Canada, which now requests complete corporate HR plans and detailed results of local recruitment efforts.
Thank you again for the opportunity to present here today. I look forward to the discussion.
The Chair Ed Komarnicki
Thank you. I'm sure there will be questions relating to that subject matter.
Carole Presseault Vice-President, Government and Regulatory Affairs, Certified General Accountants Association of Canada
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, I want to thank you for the invitation on behalf of Certified General Accountants of Canada, or CGA Canada.
We are a professional association representing 75,000 CGAs in Canada and abroad, including China and the Caribbean.
I am pleased to see that our colleagues from the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants are joining us today. This way, together, we can provide you with an overview of initiatives in qualification recognition for accountants. That profession is still highly in demand, as my colleagues pointed out.
CGA Canada has been welcoming foreign-trained accountants for many years through a number of different paths. Today I want to speak about four distinct strategies that ensure timely, accessible assessment and recognition of foreign credentials.
The four things I want to talk about are mutual recognition agreements. My colleagues have spoken a bit about that, so I won't go into many details. The principle is the same. I want to talk to you about the new pilot program to offer CGA examinations and locations overseas, an online self-assessment tool enabling foreign-trained accountants to compare and assess their credentials with CGA requirements, and a harmonization project that will enable provincial CGA licensing bodies to access the same assessment data, leading to faster, more consistent assessments. These last two strategies were funded through the federal government program.
For many years foreign-trained accountants have been attracted to the CGA program because of its flexible delivery options. Although all candidates must meet the same internationally recognized high qualification standards, they can study on a part-time basis while working full-time and establishing themselves in their new communities. For this reason, foreign-trained accountants have played a big part in the tremendous growth of CGA designation over the years.
Today, about one-third of our membership in Ontario is foreign-trained, and in British Columbia 45% of our students say they have taken a significant portion of their studies outside Canada.
The first and likely the most direct path for having your professional qualification recognized is through mutual recognition agreements, achieved with comparable accounting bodies. And in some cases the only additional qualification requirement is to pass an examination in Canadian tax and business law.
To date, CGA Canada has negotiated mutual recognition agreements with four leading international accounting bodies. They are in Ireland, Australia, France, and the U.K., the last of which operates on a global basis and is one of the largest accounting bodies in the world.
One of the challenges foreign-trained accountants face is that they must wait until they arrive in Canada to begin the process of qualifying for a Canadian accounting designation. Until now we've been unable to offer qualification examinations overseas due to concerns about ensuring that there is integrity of highly confidential materials and that all candidates write exams under the same stringent conditions. However, a program of the Foreign Credentials Referral Office is helping us overcome those obstacles.
We are currently offering an opportunity for Philippines certified public accountants to earn the CGA designation from their home country. The first examination will be offered in Manila in March 2012. If the program is proven to be successful, we hope to extend it to New Delhi, India, very shortly after.
China, the Philippines, and India are the three largest source countries for immigrants. By adding these overseas examination centres in New Delhi and Manila to our existing operations in China, we will have avenues in all three countries for foreign-trained accountants to begin the process of earning a Canadian accounting designation before they arrive in Canada.
I'll now turn to our foreign credentials recognition national harmonization project.
Funding received form HRSDC last year will assist in addressing two main challenges: credential assessment and gap analysis.
The project will be done in two phases. Phase one is construction of an online self-assessment tool that can be used by foreign-trained accountants to assess their credentials. For the foreign-trained accountant, the online self-assessment tool provides a single interface that will provide consistent initial assessment results. It will assess both their university studies and their professional credentials and will provide them with a clear sense of where they would begin within the CGA program. Since they can access the tool from their own countries, they can get that initial assessment before they immigrate--before they even apply, in fact.
Now I must point out that this online self-assessment tool does not provide an official assessment of the accountant's credentials and will not provide specific results for all of the world's accounting programs. A provincial CGA association must still conduct an official assessment in order to admit a person into the CGA program. However, the online tool will enable many foreign-trained accountants to get a good sense of their standing much earlier in the immigration process, when they are making their initial plans and decisions.
Phase two involves detailed comparisons of various foreign qualification requirements against the high CGA qualification requirements. The results are being entered into a knowledge base that will serve as the back end of the online self-assessment tool.
As has already been addressed by other witnesses before this committee, challenges arise from the fact that foreign credential assessment is a matter of provincial jurisdiction. For the foreign-trained professional, this can lead to confusion and perhaps even the possibility of inconsistent assessments from one jurisdiction to another, not to speak of the cost of these assessments. For the provincial licensing bodies, such as our provincial CGA associations, it can result in duplicated effort and resource challenges as each jurisdiction struggles to conduct the same types of assessments. The national harmonization project addresses both issues.
For the provincial CGA associations, the knowledge base reduces the labour involved in evaluating credentials and provides the means for timely, consistent, and fair assessments of foreign prior learning. The project involves systematically identifying, assessing, and codifying the foreign accounting designations deemed of high importance. By that we mean that they are based on the volumes of applicants.
An additional benefit of this project is that it will help us identify potential partners for future mutual recognition agreements. MRAs provide the most direct path for foreign-trained accountants to qualify in Canada.
The project is proceeding as planned, and the online self-assessment tool is scheduled to launch at the end of this month.
We are very excited about this new web-based tool. As additional data is added to the knowledge base, the self-assessment tool becomes even more useful over time. What we mean is it will be current and it will keep on growing.
There are still outstanding issues in the process, including interprovincial mobility issues. Since most accountants work outside the regulated occupation of public accounting, their biggest challenges are often related to securing suitable employment rather than obtaining a Canadian accounting designation.
In conclusion, the importance of recognizing foreign credentials is well understood and appreciated by all parties, but it does not have a simple solution. It requires federal-provincial cooperation and it requires the collaboration of diverse stakeholders, including the professions, regulatory bodies, education providers, immigrant services agencies, and employers. The foreign credential recognition program has helped to bring these stakeholders together to share knowledge, to build partnerships, and to address systemic barriers. The momentum that has built up over the past few years is achieving results.
Thank you for your attention. It would be my pleasure to participate in the discussion and answer your questions.
The Chair Ed Komarnicki
Thank you for your presentation. We certainly appreciated it.
I've heard about a gap analysis and a bridging tool. It would be good if you had both at the same time and in the same area. In any event, we're going to open it up to questions.
Mr. Patry, go ahead.
Claude Patry Jonquière—Alma, QC
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I also want to thank those who came here to make these presentations.
Mr. Wilson, since I became a member of this committee, you are the first to talk about trade employees and the labour shortages you anticipate. I was a factory worker, so I am especially affected by trades such as steel erector, stationary engineer, boiler operator, mechanic and metal pourer. What do you see happening in those trades?
In addition, you said that you represent 10,000 companies in Canada. Are we talking about large companies? You probably don't only represent trade employees. What other professions do you represent? Could you please explain the situation to me?
Vice-President, National Policy, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters
Our members are in most cases the employers of the trades. They represent all sizes of manufacturers and exporters throughout the country, from mom-and-pop shops to multinationals, in almost every sector: automotive, agriculture, aerospace, and natural resources.
Claude Patry Jonquière—Alma, QC
In your presentation, you suggested that quotas be increased, and you talked about the problems related to the length of work permits.
Where I live, a company brought 100 welders from abroad—I'm not sure which country exactly—to help out. What are the quotas? What kind of interprovincial agreements are in place?
In the past, a trade employee from Quebec could not work in Saskatchewan. Could you explain that to me?