Are Canada’s HR credentials internationally recognized?

No easy answer when it comes to transportability of designations

If an HR professional attains an HR designation in Canada, such as the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) certification, is it recognized overseas?

Like so many questions, the answer is “It depends.” It depends on the kind of designation and on what is meant by the word “recognized.”

And the meaning of the question also matters. It could mean “If I move to another country, will I automatically qualify for the same or an equivalent designation in that country?” Or it could mean “Will employers in other countries place some value on the fact I obtained a given HR designation in Canada?”

The transportability of professional designations is a complicated topic; indeed, there are not only international transportability but inter-provincial transportability issues as well.

Not all designations are created equal. One big difference is whether a designation is granted pursuant to authorities delegated by statute or not. Statutory designations — granted by regulatory authorities — are always jurisdiction-specific. That is because the designations are granted through authorities delegated by law and in Canada the regulation of professions is constitutionally a provincial matter.

It is also the case that professional regulation statutes are never just about the designations, they are about creating professions. Regulatory authority status includes the statutory recognition of the designation but really goes well beyond granting a designation.

Although only the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) in Ontario and l’Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés (CRHA) in Quebec are regulatory HR authorities in Canada, it should be noted the structure of the HR profession in Canada is patterned after that of statutorily recognized professions. This makes way for the possibility other provincial HR associations could become regulatory authorities at some time in the future.

Statutory designations are provincial and what makes them transportable are mutual recognition agreements between provincial regulators. Within Canada, in regards to designations that are granted pursuant to delegated authority, the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) sets the basic parameters of mutual recognition.

According to this agreement, mutual recognition means “any worker certified for an occupation by a regulatory authority of a (province) shall, upon application, be certified for that occupation by each other (province) which regulates that occupation without any requirement for any material additional training, experience, examinations or assessments as part of that certification procedure.”

While HRPA and CRHA are subject to the AIT, all provincial HR associations in Canada have agreed to mutually recognize the CHRP designation granted by another provincial HR association.

But international recognition is another matter. One challenge is regulatory authorities simply cannot make a deal such as, “We’ll recognize your designation if you recognize ours.”

By law, regulatory authorities have a duty to protect the public interest and this duty must come first. By law, professional regulatory bodies must ensure international applicants meet the same standards as Canadian applicants.

Professional regulatory bodies have come under intense scrutiny in this respect. In 2006, the Ontario government created the Office of the Fairness Commissioner to ensure professional regulatory bodies were not placing unnecessary barriers to international mobility. Nova Scotia followed suit in 2008 and Manitoba in 2010.

By and large, however, it was found professional regulatory bodies were not placing unnecessary barriers to international mobility — which is not to say there are no challenges in regards to international mobility for workers in many professions.

An interesting development here is the Québec-France Agreement on the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications. Signed in 2008, the agreement is designed to facilitate and accelerate the acquisition of a permit by people in France and Quebec to practise a profession, function or regulated trade in the other territory, through the adoption of a common procedure for recognizing professional competence.

Since 2008, about 100 professional authorities have applied this procedure to conclude an arrangement of mutual recognition of qualifications (MRA).

However, human resources was not among these professional authorities. But note the implications — given the mutual recognition of the CHRP designation among provincial HR associations, any agreement between any provincial HR association and an international professional authority would apply to all HR professional associations in a one-step-removed manner.

So, why haven’t professional HR associations in Canada negotiated mutual recognition agreements with other international designation-granting bodies?

The main reason has to do with the maturity of the profession. One of the preconditions for mutual recognition is the degree of similarity in the profession across borders. In some professions, there is a greater similarity in the scope of practice of a profession across national boundaries. When the scopes of practice are similar, it is easier to establish the equivalency of education and experience.

In some professions, it has even been possible to use the same certification exam in Canada and the United States. We may get there at some point in the future but the human resources profession isn’t quite there yet.

Although the official, mutual recognition of HR designations across international boundaries is still for the future, it’s another matter when it comes to whether employers in other countries will place some value on the fact an HR professional obtained a given HR designation in Canada.

Given that HR designations are not required for a person to practise HR in any jurisdiction, the value of any HR designation is in the eye of the beholder. Canadian designations, such as the CHRP, have very good reputations in other jurisdictions. But, we have to be realistic — we should only expect employers in other countries to know as much about Canadian HR designations as Canadian employers know about the HR designations of other countries.

In terms of its rigorousness, the CHRP designation compares favourably with any of its international counterparts (the CAHRI in Australia, the SPHR in the U.S. and the MCIPD in the United Kingdom) so it may be useful, when dealing with employers or clients in these countries, to relate the CHRP to one of these designations. It may also be helpful to explain what goes into achieving the CHRP designation.

Claude Balthazard is vice-president of regulatory affairs at the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) in Toronto.

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