By Huddle News |
With around five years of experience as a nurse in two countries, Josie Sacpa had accepted that her move to Canada last year meant giving up her career, at least for some time, because it costs thousands of dollars to get her credentials recognized.
She began working as a resident attendant at Mount Saint Joseph nursing home in Miramichi. But then she got injured and decided to pursue a return to her former profession.
“I told myself that I have to pursue my nursing career because being a resident attendant, in honesty, it’s physically [difficult],” said Sacpa. “You need more strength. So I want to upgrade and apply the skills that I’ve learned before.”
But the language testing, translation of documents, transportation to the testing site, accommodation, and the credentials verification itself, among other things, cost more than $4,000, according to calculations by Miramichi Regional Multicultural Association. And if the Canadian Nurses Association decides Sacpa needs to return to school or take courses, that would cost more.
“We want to pursue the assessment. It’s just that, we’re not financially capable since we are newcomers,” she said. “We’re trying to save, but there are lots of things we need to pay for first.”
Many highly-skilled and highly-educated newcomers are in similar situations. They end up working in lower-skilled jobs, often not in the field they desire. That affects the economy. According to a 2015 Conference Board of Canada report, the Canadian economy is missing out on as much as $13-billion a year because of unrecognized education and skills of immigrants.
At the same time, various sectors are facing a labour shortage. New Brunswick estimates that between 2018 and 2027, there will be a total of 8,223 openings for nursing and personal support worker-related roles alone.
The federal government, in partnership with the Royal Bank of Canada and settlement agencies, is hoping the Atlantic Immigrant Career Loan Fund (AICLF) launched this month could help. It covers regulated professions like nurses, physicians, engineers and accountants, as well as unregulated ones like project management, trades and transportation, said Alex LeBlanc, executive director of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council (NBMC).
The program is available in all Atlantic provinces, led by the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS). In New Brunswick, it will be delivered by NBMC, the Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton Area, YMCA of Greater Saint John and the Multicultural Association of Fredericton.
Over the next four years, up to 200 eligible applicants in the province could get up to $15,000 each to cover the costs of training, testing, licensing and living costs while they pursue their credentialing. This allows them to take time to study or gain the Canadian experience they need through volunteer opportunities. They’d have to repay the loans with interest of “prime plus 1 per cent,” LeBlanc said.
“They only have to pay interest payment during their studies and then there’s a six-month grace period…It’s meant to be fairly low interest, but if people qualify for a student loan, then that’s where we’ll direct them,” LeBlanc said. “If their prospects of earning more and progressing in their career are strong, the likelihood is they’ll be approved for a loan to support them.”