Skilled worker program to emphasize language ability, youth

New requirements for immigrants coming to Canada under the federal skilled worker program will emphasize the ability to speak English or French and give greater weight to young applicants, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced Wednesday.

Once potential immigrants have their language skills assessed, their education credentials will be assessed by an organization designated by Kenney. That list of organizations hasn't been announced yet.

A news release from Citizenship and Immigration Canada says the assessment of foreign educational credentials "will provide prospective newcomers with a more realistic understanding of how their credentials compare to education standards in Canada. It will also give them the opportunity to upgrade their education prior to coming to Canada if they choose."

Kenney said the problem of foreign-trained doctors who run corner stores or engineers who drive cabs is partly due to professional licensing bodies that act as gatekeepers. But, he said, Canada has also admitted some foreign-trained professionals who don't meet Canadian standards.

"What is the point of inviting someone here, often from a developing country, who thinks that they’re going to be able to work as an engineer, when [after] they do the assessment with the engineering college, it turns out that they are by the Canadian standard considered an engineering technician with the equivalent of a community college degree rather than a master’s degree?" Kenney said.

"This is about truth in advertising.… If your level of education is not at or close to the Canadian standard, why would we invite you to come in to Canada, almost certainly to face underemployment, if not unemployment?"

Kenney also announced a cap on new applications next year, although he says the department hasn't yet decided at what level to cut them off.

The new changes include:

Making language the most important factor in the selection process.

Increased emphasis on younger immigrants.

Introduction of the educational credential assessment (ECA), education points awarded to reflect a foreign credential's true value in Canada.

Changes to the arranged employment process, allowing employers to hire applicants quickly, if there is a demonstrated need in the Canadian labour market.

Additional adaptability points for spousal language ability and Canadian work experience.

The changes won't affect those who apply prior to May 4, 2013, the date the changes take effect, or to those who apply under the PhD stream.

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