Uniivaa Jobs in Canada Guide: The International Engineer who got accepted into Canada by understanding the “Iron Ring” Culture.
A little while ago we met an internationally trained engineer who really wanted to find a job in Canada. He knew that in order to practice as a licensed engineer he had to eventually get accredited by the professional association in Canada. Unfortunately, what he had heard about the process was disconcerting.
He originally thought that getting accredited in Canada as an internationally trained engineer was simply about your skills, experience, background and education. Get your papers in order, put in your application, perhaps take a few courses and wait for acceptance.
However, some of his colleagues had warned him that the licensing association had refused them accreditation because their skills and experience did not meet the standards required to practice in Canada.
Of course, he began to wonder how this could be the case, especially since his colleagues had been working as professional engineers for years and had successfully completed many projects that should have qualified them to work as engineers in Canada.
Based on this information his question to Uniivaa was simple. What could possibly be missing?
The answer is most likely Cultural Awareness.
What is Cultural Awareness you ask, and where does one find this category on the licensing application form? Well, you won’t find it anywhere on the application, but many believe that it might be the one thing that prevents internationally trained applicants from being accepted into the engineering profession in Canada.
In 2007, Erik R Girard and Harald Bauder performed an interesting research study investigating the professional engineering regulatory system in Ontario. They wanted to understand the process as it related to the licensing criteria for Canadian and non-Canadian trained applicants.
At the conclusion of the study they realized something extremely insightful. When it came to the accreditation process, “In addition to assessing the value of non-Canadian credentials, regulatory bodies attempt to reproduce the social and cultural integrity of the professional membership by requiring applicants to internalize cultural norms specific to the profession as it is practiced in Canada. Licensing procedures can thus facilitate the cultural exclusion of immigrant practitioners (Girard and Bauder 2007).
Simply put, the engineering club in Canada has a culture, and if you don’t “fit in” then the regulators will not accept you.
One only needs to observe the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer and the Iron Ring to understand the strength and protected nature of this culture. For almost 100 years, engineers in Canada have taken part in a private bonding ceremony that is not to be discussed with the public or even with engineers from other countries. The culmination of this ceremony is the ritualistic wearing by Canadian engineers of the Iron Ring for the rest of their lives. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ritual_of_the_Calling_of_an_Engineer
This means that part of your accreditation objective is to penetrate the club, but as an outsider how do you do this? That is a really tough question to answer and there is no magic solution to overcoming the cultural awareness requirement.
However, demonstrating that you have internalized cultural norms is very achievable and as we told our advice seeker who was desperately seeking an engineering career in Canada, one key to this challenge is confidence.
Now, when we say confidence we do not mean arrogance. What we mean is that you know why you belong and consistently assert this throughout your application. One interesting thing about Canadian culture is a propensity to be deferential. If you act like you know what you are talking about, then you probably know what you are talking about. Not to generalize, but this likely applies to the internationally trained engineering licensing process as well.
This means that your goal is to quickly figure out the value system of engineers in Canada and assert these values as being engrained within your DNA throughout the application. Of course, you could always contact engineers within your community who are working in Canada to try and figure this out. However, this would require that the engineers you speak to actually have awareness of why and how they got into the engineering club.
We think there is an easier way to tackle this challenge. Every year, each provincial engineering association publishes reports and surveys about their members. These reports provide information on topics ranging from compensation to job satisfaction. However, these reports are useful to your objective of becoming accredited as an engineer in Canada since they also often require members to evaluate themselves relative the overall values of the Canadian engineering profession. As such, they provide insight into the actual cultural values of the club.
For example, the province of British Columbia provides its members with a public online self-assessment tool that can be used to determine if your salary is above or below average. Low points are given for responsibilities that meet only basic values, while high points are given for those whose responsibilities demonstrate higher values. You will find this self-assessment tool at: https://apeg.bc.ca/Careers/Compensation-Survey/Employment-Responsibility-Evaluation-Tool
Obviously the main purpose of this tool is not to instruct on culture. However one can easily use the high point attributes found in this tool to demonstrate cultural familiarity in your application. For example, step four of the assessment tool is called Recommendations, Decisions and Commitments. Essentially this is the section on character values of an engineer.
A low value of 45 points is given for the attribute of “Decisions made are normally within established guidelines”, while the highest value of 150 points is given for “Keeps management associates informed of all matters of significant importance.” In other words, visibility, communication and accountability even when things are going bad are high cultural values of the club.
Now consider this with respect to some of the stereotypes and pre-conceived notions that Canadians might have about other cultures. How will you break pre-conceived notions and demonstrate Canadian values as part of your application DNA? How do you prove that you fit in when the culture that you are coming from may not?
As we said, there is no magic solution to persuading the professional licensing associations that you fit in to their existing culture. However, you need to begin by understanding what that culture actually is, and the self-assessment tools and annual surveys are an invaluable place to start confidently showing that you belong.
The happy ending to our story is that everything worked out for our advice seeker. He was able to get into the club and with this insight we hope that you can as well!
If you are interested in working in Canada, please feel free to use our free Jobs in Canada Eligibility Tool to assess your chances of getting a job in Canada. Visit: www.uniivaa.com