PEO drops Canadian experience requirement

Professional association insists it will maintain 'multifaceted, rigorous process' to ensure safety

PEO drops Canadian experience requirement

Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) has become the first professional association in the province to remove a Canadian work experience requirement from its application criteria, a significant step towards helping qualified immigrants work in the engineering field.

Jennifer Quaglietta is the CEO and registrar for PEO and says the removal of the Canadian work experience requirement will not impact safety standards. “Protecting the public interest is of utmost importance to PEO. A professional engineer license is a commitment itself to safeguarding the public welfare. PEO will continue to implement a multifaceted, rigorous process for obtaining a professional engineering license.”

Until now, PEO applicants needed to have four years of work experience, with one of those years being within Canada. PEO applicants are still required to have four years of work experience, but none of it needs to be Canadian. Dropping the requirement is a historic change that has the potential to benefit thousands of qualified professionals.

But according to Quaglietta, PEO will still maintain a rigorous process for obtaining a professional engineering license, which also includes academic requirements, a competency-based assessment, a national professional practice exam, and a good character assessment. While language requirements and the availability of exams in various languages are currently being reviewed, the focus remains on ensuring applicants meet the necessary competencies for professional engineering practice.

Ontario introduced legislation in 2021, banning regulated professions from demanding Canadian work experience in over 30 occupations. PEO is the first association to implement this change. “On May the 15th we were able to go live with both our new application process, and no longer have that as a requirement,” states Quaglietta proudly.

In 2020, 55 percent of PEO applicants were internationally-trained and did not have Canadian experience. In 2021, that number was 63 percent, and last year it was 50 percent.

Roydon Fraser, president of PEO, emphasizes the impact of this decision, saying those previously denied applicants can now work as professional engineers. “By no longer requiring proof of Canadian experience when applying for an engineering license, PEO will effectively ensure that qualified, international applicants can be licensed more quickly, so they can actively contribute to the economy as engineers."

Ontario is the first province in Canada to eliminate Canadian work experience requirements. The decision comes as the province faces a significant challenge of approximately 300,000 unfilled jobs across the province, including thousands in the field of engineering.

These vacancies have resulted in billions of dollars in lost productivity. It may also be part of the reason why companies don’t always conduct due diligence when hiring engineers, allowing fraudsters to take advantage. Additionally, studies have revealed that only 25% of internationally-trained immigrants in Ontario currently work in regulated professions aligned with their training.

Beginning in December 2023, all requirements for Canadian experience will be automatically voided, unless exemptions are granted by the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training, and Skills Development for reasons of public health and safety.