The Canadian Forum of Labour Market Ministers (FLMM) recently released the Pan Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications. The framework poses questions and challenges for professional regulatory authorities.
In Canada, qualification recognition for regulated occupations is primarily a provincial and territorial responsibility that often is delegated, in legislation, to professional regulatory authorities.
The Pan-Canadian Framework describes the ideal steps and processes that Canada aspires to build in order to address the current gaps to successful immigrant labour market integration.
It defines foreign qualification recognition (FQR) as the process of verifying that the knowledge, skills, work experience and education obtained in another country is comparable to the standards established for Canadian professionals and tradespersons.
Regulatory authorities, in each jurisdiction, have the primary responsibility for establishing occupational standards that ensure public, consumer and environmental protection.
There is no legislated approach to standards in Canada. What then is the Canadian context for standards?
There are three noteworthy systems that co-exist.
- The National Occupational Analysis (NOA) system for standards is a proven system of national co-operation
- The National Occupational Standards (NOS) system for standards is a sector specific system.
- There is a Canada version of the UK National Vocation Qualification (NVQ) system for standards which aligns with emerging international qualifications frameworks.
The National Occupational Analysis approach to standards is used by the Interprovincial Red Seal Apprenticeship Program. These are interprovincial standards of qualification that encourage harmonization of provincial and territorial apprenticeship training and certification programs.
The NOA consists of a listing of the blocks, tasks and sub-tasks performed by workers in a designated trade or occupation in jurisdictions across Canada. Legislation permits provinces and territories to designate trades and develop apprenticeship programs for their own requirements.
The objectives of a National Occupational Analysis standard are:
- To identify and group the tasks performed by skilled workers in particular occupations;
- To identify those tasks that are performed by skilled workers in participating provinces and territories;
- To develop instruments for use in the preparation of Interprovincial standards, Red Seal Examinations and curricula for training leading to the certification of skilled workers;
- To facilitate the mobility in Canada of apprentices and skilled workers; and
- To supply employers and employees, and their associations, industries, training institutions and governments with analyses of the tasks performed in particular occupations.
The Red Seal Program encourages standardization of provincial and territorial apprenticeship training and certification programs in order that qualified tradespersons can practice the trade in any province or territory in Canada where the trade is designated without having to write further examinations.
The NOA for Red Seal designated trades is prepared by industry experts under the guidance of the federal government and with the assistance of the provincial/territorial jurisdictions where the trade or occupation is designated.
The NOA is also used as the base document in the development of an Interprovincial Red Seal Examination database question. Provinces and territories also used the NOA for curriculum development.
The National Occupational Standards approach to standards is used in the Canadian Sector Council Program. Canadian Sector Councils are national partnership organizations that bring together business, labour and educational stakeholders in order to deal with human resource issues in a collective, collaborative and sustained manner for the sector.
Each sector council has the responsibility of building its own National Occupational Standard according to particular or unique needs. This was perfect for each sector but presented challenges with a Pan- Canadian approach.
The Alliance of Sector Councils (TASC) addressed this issue by creating a document that unified the accepted principles and practices. You can obtain Setting the Standard: Accepted Principles and Recommended Practices for National Occupational Standards, Certifications Programs and Accreditation Programs from the TASC web site.
TASC defines occupational standards as documents that identify and group tasks associated with a particular occupation and describe the knowledge and skills that a worker must demonstrate to be considered competent in that occupation.
TASC has suggested the following framework as a beginning point to define standards:
- National Occupational standards (NOS) are voluntary;
- NOS are developed with a national objective and require pan-Canadian validation and endorsement to enable the recognition of qualifications across Canada;
- Quality NOS developed with both a sectoral and pan-labour market objective enable the recognition of workers’ knowledge and skills across the entire Canadian labour market and facilitate labour mobility across all Canadian sectors. Identifying and recognizing transferable knowledge and skills that can be applied within a variety of sectors and/or positions within a sector is especially important to individuals who are changing careers or have little work-related experience;
- Labour mobility within Canada allows workers to be employed in different provinces and territories, resulting in more choices and opportunities for workers and a broader selection of candidates for employers; and
- NOS not only facilitate labour mobility within Canada, but also provide information that is essential to recognize foreign credentials effectively and to enable foreign-trained workers to enter the Canadian workforce.
The National Vocational Qualifications approach to standards exists within a competency based approach that is used in at least one sector within Canada. These are work-based awards that are achieved through assessment and training.
The NVQ system consists of the following elements:
- The standards, developed by employers, set out the skills, knowledge and understanding required to perform competently in the workplace;
- Standards are written as measurable performance outcomes to which an individual is expected to work in a given occupation;
- A standard consists of mandatory units, elements, standards of performance, evidence requirements and underpinning knowledge and understanding;
- Standards are modular and when clustered with others form a vocational qualification;
- There are five levels within the system for each vocational qualification: foundation skills, operative or semi-skilled, technician and supervisor, technician and middle management and chartered, professional and senior management; and
- These levels are now being adjusted for alignment with the European qualifications framework alignment with the European Qualifications framework that is being adopted by over 50 countries in Europe and is being considered by many more –especially in the developing countries.
Each standard development system offers different advantage and challenges for regulators.
As regulators move forward with the Pan Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications, they may first want to consider the following questions
- How do we as a regulator define standards?
- Do our standards accurately define the skills and knowledge needed to perform competently in the workplace
- Are the standards pan–Canadian? How were they developed? Have they been updated in the past 5 years?
- How would the regulator standards stand up in a court of law, if challenged?
- How are our standards aligned within our global community?
- What is the qualification framework of the countries from which internationally trained individuals are applying for recognition?
- Do we have good standards? How would we know if we had a good standard?
© 2010 All Rights Reserved, Douglas Ross.