Engineering a better way (Guest commentary)

Ontario now licenses more foreign than Canadian-trained engineers
By Kim Allen
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 06/11/2007

If you were to take the entire population of Baie Comeau, Que., you would have the number of practitioners licensed by Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) — 23,000 — who received their education outside of Canada.

For 85 years, the Professional Engineers Act has set the bar for practice in a profession in which public safety — in its broadest sense — is paramount. Public safety and the public good are the key focus of years of education, training and supervised experience that go into making the 70,000 professionals who practise within 41 engineering disciplines in Ontario.

As the body charged under the act with licensing practitioners and regulating practice in Ontario, PEO’s role is to assure the public that licensed practitioners are competent to practise their profession.

About one-third of those licensed by PEO were educated elsewhere, a reflection of continuous efforts to facilitate the licensing of internationally trained professionals while maintaining high standards to protect the public.

Over the years, PEO has learned a successful licensing process for skilled immigrants ensures they know what to expect before they arrive in Canada. Sadly, in the information provided to prospective immigrants, there is sometimes a failure to distinguish between the selection criteria for immigration purposes and the requirements for licensing. Individuals who are qualified for the profession in their country of origin, or qualified in their assessment for immigration purposes, may not immediately qualify for licensing in Canada.

That’s why PEO encourages prospective immigrants to begin the licensing process and have their qualifications assessed before making their final decision to immigrate. PEO’s website ( includes information on licensing requirements, application procedures and downloadable application forms. This helps qualified applicants begin practising in Ontario with a minimum of delay.

In May, PEO launched the Engineering Intern Training Financial Credit Program. Under the program, PEO will waive the $230 licence-application fee for eligible international engineering graduates with a bachelor of engineering or a bachelor of applied science degree who apply online for their professional engineer’s licence within six months of arriving in Canada.

To help international engineering graduates obtain experience for licensure, PEO grants provisional licences to applicants who have met all the requirements for licensing as professional engineers except the required 12 months’ work experience under a Canadian professional engineer. This assures potential employers the international professionals are qualified academically and have demonstrated knowledge of the profession’s high professional practice and ethics standards.

Such assurance is important to a newcomer’s employment prospects because a licence is not required for engineering employment in Ontario, so long as a licensed professional engineer supervises and is responsible for the work.

Since 2000, applicants from more than 1,000 institutions around the world have been licensed by PEO. In 2005, for the first time ever, PEO issued more licences to international engineering graduates than to graduates of accredited Canadian engineering programs. It did this again in 2006. PEO also scored at the top of a 2005 Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities scorecard on Ontario regulators’ progress in enhancing accessibility to their professions for foreign-trained professionals.

But even if every international engineering graduate who immigrates to Ontario were to be licensed, with a reported 10,000 to 20,000 self-declared engineers immigrating annually and an annual 5,000 Ontario engineering graduates, it’s difficult to believe there could be enough engineering jobs in the province for them all. So it must be recognized licensure alone is not enough to guarantee newcomers’ success in the Ontario workforce.

PEO is doing what it can to engineer a better way for newcomers, but governments and employers must also do their parts.

In addition to ensuring all licence holders are qualified, PEO stops those who practise engineering without the necessary qualifications, or who lead others to believe they are qualified to practise. PEO’s activities to enforce the licensing, certificate of authorization and title provisions of the act help ensure all engineering in the province is carried out according to the same high technical standards and that all practitioners are held to the same standards of professional conduct and personal responsibility.

To verify the licence status of a prospective employee, please check the online directory at

. To report someone who may be misrepresenting himself as an engineer, or to confirm acceptable titles for positions that must — or should not be — filled by professional engineers, please call the PEO. The enforcement hotline is (800) 339-3716 ext. 1444.

Kim Allen is chief executive officer and registrar with Professional Engineers Ontario in Toronto. For more information visit

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