Building bridges for foreign-trained professionals

A broad range of internationally trained newcomers to Ontario will have greater opportunities to work in their fields as a result of new bridge training programs at York University.  

The province of Ontario will invest more than $5.2 million in three York University programs designed to help highly skilled newcomers to Ontario become licensed and find jobs in their field more quickly. Michael Chan (left), provincial minister of citizenship & immigration, announced the funding during an event held at York’s School of Nursing yesterday. The funds will support the University’s new bridge training programs for information technologists and business professionals, and an existing nursing program for internationally trained nurses.

This support for York’s bridge training programs is part of a comprehensive provincial strategy to help newcomers who trained overseas get the local training they need to find a job in their field and contribute to Ontario’s economy. The programs provide transitional supports such as individualized assessment of the academic credentials and skills of internationally educated professionals, technical training, opportunities to work on real organizational issues through experiential education and internships, occupation-specific language training and mentorships.

“Ontario’s newcomers are both educated and skilled. This investment in bridge training will help employers access their qualifications and talent sooner,” said Chan. "These bridge training programs work. Thanks to York’s bachelor of science in nursing program, 136 internationally educated nurses have graduated and are on their way to becoming licensed professionals. Our government is building on the success of the nursing program by making a further investment of $5.2 million for new bridge training programs at York University. This includes support for internationally trained business professionals, financial experts, IT professionals and nurses."

York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri called the funding announcement a vote of confidence for both internationally trained newcomers and for York. “Once again, the McGuinty government has shown it understands that an investment in postsecondary education is an investment in Ontario’s future,” he said.

Of the $5.2 million announced yesterday, York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies will receive $2.68 million to initiate a multifaceted bridging program that will target internationally educated professionals in the areas of business, finance and administration, and $1.79 million for a bridging program in information technology. The remainder of the funding will go to support new initiatives in York’s existing program for Internationally educated nurses, housed in York’s Faculty of Health.

"York is continuing to cement its reputation as a leader in the development and delivery of educational programs that enhance the qualifications of professionals from around the globe," said Martin Singer, dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. "These new programs will help to fill Ontario’s labour market needs in areas such as business, administration, finance and IT, while providing internationally educated professionals with the support and training that they need to match their skills and experience to in-demand jobs in York Region and the Greater Toronto Area."

The new bridging program in business, finance and administration, will help internationally educated professionals obtain certification and employment by providing training courses in Ontario business culture, ethics, law, taxation and math. Occupation-specific language training, Canadian work experience and mentorship are also offered.

In the information technology field, the new bridging program at York will address the gaps for internationally educated IT professionals so they can find work in their field or a related field quickly. The course will focus on technical upgrading where necessary, occupation-specific language training, developing cross-cultural competencies and mentorship.

"Foundation courses, experiential education courses and the development of specialized skills will provide internationally trained professionals with a greater opportunity to gain employment and succeed in their professional fields," said Rhonda Lenton, York’s associate vice-president academic. "These new programs offer peer, employer and alumni mentoring that will assist internationally trained professionals in building their networks, getting the language and career support they need, and in developing a stronger appreciation of the culture and context of business in Ontario."

The new programs build on York’s highly successful existing bridging program for internationally trained nurses. The program was launched as a pilot in 2005 with a class of 32 students. Since then, the program has continued to help highly skilled internationally trained nursing professionals meet the requirements for their professional certification. The new funding will enhance training in test taking, cognitive and anxiety reducing strategies, confidence building and more, to increase success rates for students on the Canadian Registered Nurse Examination. The model may translate to other Canadian nursing programs and international health care programs that require exam success for licensing.  

Speaking to the media and dignitaries present, Aronela Benea (left), a student in York’s internationally educated nursing program, spoke about the opportunities she has had since coming to Canada in 2006. After immigrating from Romania, she enrolled in York’s nursing program. She will graduate this fall and is now working as a researcher at the University Health Network in Toronto. 

"I owe my success to the York nursing professors who have dedicated their time and their energy to build and move forward the internationally educated nursing program so that we can meet the Canadian nursing standards," she said. "There are many internationally educated nurses out there who have great knowledge and experience but they haven’t yet got the chance they need. Getting into the York University program is like winning the lottery."

“This is good news for newcomers, our community and the economy,” said York West MPP Mario Sergio in a statement to the media. "This investment means more internationally trained newcomers will get jobs that match their education, skills and experience.”