Engineering in Canada

  • Overview
  • Canada is a Confederation of ten provinces and three territories. Each of the provinces has its own vision and regulatory structure for the practice of engineering and integrating the skilled immigrant.

    To build a globally competitive economy, the Federal Government of Canada has committed itself to investing in skilled knowledge workers, cutting-edge research, science, and innovation. It has also committed itself to attracting highly skilled and educated immigrants based on a point system ( Consequently, the vision of the Government of Canada in bringing immigrants with engineering backgrounds to Canada has been one of bringing in the leading edge of migrant workers (associated with globalization). The idea is to create a world class and globally competitive workforce to make Canada more productive.

    The Government of Ontario as well as many other provinces is also driven by the vision of strengthening Ontario's economic advantage and but the provinces pride themselves in having the highest engineering standards and capabilities. They position themselves as already having the best engineering workforce which it must strengthen by bringing in immigrants having equivalent standards to maintain its competitive advantage. As a result highly educated and experienced migrant workers from other parts of the world are subjected to many hurdles that have to be crossed in order to be able to practice engineering in Canada. These hurdles have been so difficult for the immigrants who hold high level skills and experience in engineering and who have come to Canada since 1986 that only less than 15% of them are currently holding engineering Jobs.

  • How is Professional Engineering Defined in Canada?
  • The practice of professional engineering in Canada as defined in the Professional Engineers Act and comprises:

    • Any act of designing, composing, evaluating, advising, reporting, directing or supervising;
    • Wherein safeguarding of life, health, property or the public welfare is concerned; and
    • That requires the application of engineering principles, but does not include practicing as a natural scientist.

    If what you do meets all these three tests, you can qualify to practice professional engineering.

  • How is Professional Engineering Governed in Canada?
  • Engineering is a regulated profession in Canada. This means that by law, no one can practice the profession of engineering without a license. You cannot call yourself an "engineer" unless you obtain the Professional Engineer (P.Eng) license. However, 80% of engineering jobs in Canada do not require you to hold a license.

    Licensing is carried out by 12 provincial and territorial associations or regulatory bodies who set standards and regulate the profession. These associations serve and protect the public on behalf of their provincial or territorial governments. An engineering license is valid only within that jurisdiction. However, a mobility agreement among the provinces and territories regarding transfer of licenses is being put in place.

    If you wish to become licensed as an engineer in Canada apply directly to the Provincial Association mandated with Regulating Engineers. Engineers Canada has no authority to regulate the engineering profession and the provincial associations do not recognize its Engineering International- Education Assessment Program

  • Provincial Associations Mandated With Regulating Engineers
  • Can I Become a Licensed Engineer in Canada?
  • Based on a Survey of over 3300 immigrants with engineering backgrounds drawn from 120 countries, CAPE has established that less than 15% of immigrants with engineering backgrounds (IEBs) actually become licensed and even fewer are able to practice as Professional Engineers in Canada. The reasons for which the immigrants with engineering backgrounds have been locked out of their profession in Canada in are discussed here.

    However, while you require an engineering license to become a "professional engineer" or "engineer" you do not need a license to work in the many different professions within the field of engineering/applied science technology.

  • The Knowledge Economy and Engineering
  • Today knowledge cannot be contained within defined borders. Recognizing this, the Government of Canada has endorsed several international trade agreements (e.g. NAFTA and GATS) designed to ease the seamless access to markets and the migration of knowledge workers. By signing the General Agreement on Trades and Services, Canada must ensure that all accreditation and licensing requirements for such self-regulating professions as engineering follow some principles. These include being "open, transparent, non-discriminatory, objective and no more burdensome than necessary". CAPE has adopted the Position that immigrants with engineering backgrounds (in the case of Ontario) face a licensing system that has yet to honor these obligations.

  • Language Competency
  • Engineers Canada (Formerly The Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (CCPE)) - the association representing the 12 provincial licensing bodies in Canada - has stated in its publication Canadian Issues (Spring 2007) 81-84 that:

    "One of the 17 FC2I recommendations was to establish a language benchmark for all engineers to meet before becoming licensed. The Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists, and Geophysicists of Alberta (APEGGA), the engineering licensing body in Alberta, in partnership with the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, is working to establish an engineering language benchmark so that the language requirement for licensing is clearly defined. Each province and territory jurisdiction currently has its own language standard, there is no set test and no existing language tests are specific to engineering. Once established, the language requirement for licensing will be clearly defined and all licensing bodies will be encouraged to adopt it. This will allow ESL courses to be tailored to International Engineering Graduates s' needs. Funding has been provided by the Government of Alberta and Citizenship and Immigration Canada."

  • Foreign Credential Recognition and Reserved Title
  • By legislating the reservation of the title of "Professional Engineer" the Government of Canada strips all immigrants with engineering backgrounds of their the right to the practice of engineering or credentials previously possessed by him/her upon arrival in Canada. It then institutes foreign credential recognition, a term that you will often have come across in Canada and that is said to underlie all the problems of access and accreditation to engineering jobs and qualifications that highly qualified immigrants face upon arrival in Canada. In order to better understand these issues, it is important that you understand the constitutional issues that underlie this Canadian obsession with foreign credential recognition.

    Under the Canadian constitution, provincial governments have exclusive responsibility for all levels of education and somehow the provinces through the regulation of engineering having managed to extend this to include work experience required for licensing. The quality of postsecondary (college/university) programs across Canada is ensured through a combination of legislative and administrative mechanisms rather than by a single system of institutional or program accreditation. Therefore, the notion of foreign credential recognition is used to assess the "equivalence" of "knowledge" on an individual-by-individual review obtained from a variety of sources in different jurisdictions. As mentioned in the overview above, for the most part, Ontario institutions define highly educated and experienced knowledge workers from other parts of the world as "deficient" due to its vision of already having the world's best domestic professionals in the world. Therefore, the highly educated professional from other parts of the world has to have his/her foreign credential assessed to see if it is equivalent to the Canadian standard.

    In the provinces of Canada, this has translated into an institutionally rigid foreign credential system so that you have to obtain "accreditation" for any route to access your profession in Ontario, be it higher education, licensing or employment. Appallingly, despite great strides in information technology, these services have been unable to keep up with rising diversity amongst immigrants with engineering and other professional backgrounds arriving in Canada. There is no centralized system that is either able to assess equivalency of credentials across engineering (or any other profession) or is used in agreement by different institutional bodies. Credential recognition systems based on time honored peer-review processes on an individual, case-by-case and need-by-need basis, through evaluation networks have become increasingly questionable creatures of confusion and disconnects in the provinces of Canada.

    Consequently, the in Ontario, the regulator- professional Engineers Ontario- has set up the Licensing Process Task Force (LPTF) to review its licensing process. As well the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration in Ontario has recently (March 2007) proclaimed Bill 124 to provide fair registration practices in Ontario's regulated professions. The purpose of the bill is to help ensure that regulated professions and individuals applying for registration by regulated professions are governed by registration practices that are transparent, objective, impartial and fair. Finally the Government of Ontario has enacted the Labour Mobility Act, 2009 to allow for inter-provincial movement of its professional engineers.

  • Canadian Experience
  • Under Sections 33 of the Engineering Act, an immigrant applying for a professional license must acquire 12 months experience in a Canadian jurisdiction under a licensed engineer to ensure that the applicant is familiar with Canadian codes and standards of practice. The term "Canadian experience" is continually utilized, to describe this requirement when in truth no one can identify, describe or define its constituent elements. CAPE has adopted the position that this knowledge can be acquired through simulated teaching or self-learning as is the case in the rest of the world.

  • Employment and Licensing
  • Requirements for Canadian work experience link licensing and, in turn foreign-credential and experience recognition, to the employment of immigrants with engineering backgrounds. The engineering employers in Canada are very resistant to hiring foreign trained engineers and often use the requirement of 'Canadian Experience' as an excuse not to hire newcomers to Canada. Non-recognition of foreign credentials and experience by employers is thus a critical barrier to the access to the profession of engineering by highly qualified immigrants with engineering backgrounds arriving in Canada from other countries.

    However, while you require an engineering license to become a "professional engineer" or "engineer" you do not need a license to work in the many different professions within the field of engineering/applied science technology.

  • Recruiting and Hiring Practices
  • In the 1990s, evidence began to emerge showing that informal sources of recruitment tended to produce candidates who had a lower turnover rate and who were a better "fit" than recruitment through more formal channels. These were less expensive than formal processes and dovetailed nicely with the emphasis that began to be placed on networking in the new job-search practices. Continued cost-cutting pressure in recruiting interacted with newer computer technologies, primarily scanning software and web development. The resulting shift towards internet-based recruiting resulted in the restructuring of Human resources industry to distance the potential job-seeker from the employer placing the onus for understanding employer needs squarely on the shoulders of the recruiter. The effect of this on immigrants with engineering backgrounds was that their entry to the profession now depended almost entirely on recruiters.

    The recruiters driven by profits earned from the placement fees have played upon the fears of employers emphasizing the immigrant's lack of familiarity with the "Canadian" workplace culture and language proficiency. As a consequence, recruiters have closed off the profession to immigrants with engineering backgrounds by focusing almost completely on the existing and domestic pool of engineers in search of "exact fits" for quick placement profits and turnovers. This in combination with the development of email, OCR scanners, and web-based application systems to automate initial cuts on candidates, have allowed recruiters to readily scan out entire groups of jobseekers, particularly immigrants with engineering backgrounds through the use of such terms as "Canadian experience" and "P.Eng". Some unscrupulous recruiters are now even charging unsuspecting immigrants who arrive in Canada a large fee under the name of career transition programs that never result in a job.

  • Newcomer Support and Bridging
  • Newcomer employment integration support in Canada comprises

    Education and Training Programs which include:

    In Ontario, the Access to Professions and Trades (APT) unit was established in the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities, in 1995. This initially focused on providing information about licensing, funded creation of a credential assessment service (World Education Services), developed fact sheets, and funded development of pilot projects such as the STIC program (Sector-specific Terminology, Information and Counseling) and bridging programs for immigrants with professional and trades backgrounds.

    • LINC, ELSA and Francisation
    • English and French as a Second Language
    • Occupation-specific ESL

    Bridging and Transition Programs which include one or more of the following:

    • Occupation-specific language training;
    • Training in Canadian workplace culture, practices and communication;
    • Technical upgrading according to Canadian requirements; and,
    • Work placements to gain Canadian work experience.

    In Ontario, for example, Bridging and Skills training programs are supported by the Ministry of Immigration and Citizenship through its Access to Professions and Trades (APT) unit and include:

    • An assessment of immigrant education and skills
    • A clinical or workplace experience
    • Skills training or targeted academic training programs
    • Preparation for a license or certification examination
    • Language training for your profession or trade
    • Individual learning plans to identify any added training you may need

    A survey of 144 immigrants with engineering backgrounds, carried out by CAPE aimed at investigating the outcomes of these and other similar employment supports showed that less than 12% of those who attended these programs were able to access gainful engineering employment.

  • When is certification needed in Engineering in Canada?
  • You will often hear language regarding "permission to practice engineering" in Canada. It is only engineers that require an Engineering license to practice in Canada (as discussed above). Engineering Technicians and Technologists are not regulated but are certified instead. This means that they may be asked to produce a Technologist/Technician Certificate. Certification to practice as an engineering technician or technologist is voluntary and is offered in each province by provincial associations. Some employers may ask for this.

  • Other Resources
  • Other members of the Engineering Fraternity in Canada
    We suggest that in order to fully understand the complex engineering fraternity in Canada immigrants with engineering backgrounds should familiarize themselves with the following engineering bodies:

    Engineering Societies
    Engineering societies play a key role in helping engineers learn about new theories, advanced techniques, and modern equipment by bringing knowledge in many ways such as publications, conferences, seminars and courses. These are not involved in the licensing or regulation of engineers in Canada. Some of the Canadian Societies that Immigrants with engineering backgrounds may want to learn more about are listed below with a link to their web site.

    Association of Consulting Engineers of Canada (ACEC)
    Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE)
    Canadian Dam Association
    Canadian Federation of Engineering Students (CFES)
    The Canadian Medical and Biological Engineering Society
    Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering
    Canadian Society for Civil Engineering
    The Canadian society for engineering in agricultural, food and biological systems
    Canadian Society for Engineering Management
    Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering
    The Chemical Institute of Canada
    Consulting Engineers of New Brunswick
    Consulting Engineers of Manitoba
    Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC)
    Generation-E (Engineering Career Awareness site)
    Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering
    RedR Canada (Registered Engineers for Disaster Relief)


    There are a number of organizations that voice the concerns of engineers and engineering graduates on topical issues in Canada and Ontario.


    CAPE members and Board of Directors agreed in its strategic Plan for 2010/2011 to maintain the following organizational vision and mission statements.

    Vision Statement
    CAPE will leverage global engineering skills of its members to enhance the global/international mobility of engineers and make Canada a world leader in engineering innovation.

    Mission Statement
    To achieve its vision, CAPE will:

    • Support members in achieving commensurate employment and creating self-employment opportunities.
    • Support members in developing cutting-edge skills and pioneering engineering innovation in Canada.
    • Take a client-centered approach where CAPE develops unique solutions that place immigrants with engineering backgrounds at the centre while meeting different client needs. CAPE clients under this structure will include immigrants with engineering backgrounds (its members - currently standing at some 3300 highly educated and skilled engineers from over 120 countries outside of Canada), other immigrant professionals, employers, service providers and government agencies.

    Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE)

    This Society is a member-interest, advocacy organization that promotes the interests of professionally licensed engineers in Ontario which often conflict with the CAPE interests. The mission of OSPE is to advance the interests of Professional Engineers in Ontario by:

    • Advocating on behalf of licensed engineers
    • Providing its members with a sense of belonging and mutual support;
    • Supplying valued and innovative services; and
    • Offering quality professional training.

    There is a Women in Engineering Advisory Committee (WEAC) within OSPE that works towards a more balanced and inclusive professional contribution by women. As recently as 2001, only about 23% of all engineering students in Ontario were women. Today, only 7% of all licensed engineers in Ontario are women. The Women in Engineering Advisory Committee (WEAC) was formed to determine ways of improving these statistics by encouraging the full participation of women in engineering throughout the province of Ontario.

    Canadian Coalition Of Women In Engineering, Science And Technology

    CCWEST is a national coalition of groups that promotes women in science, technology, engineering and math, celebrates their contributions and applies new vision to these fields.