Closing the Skills Gap

Aman S. Dhesi, Professional Access Into Employment (PAIE) Program

With 2014’s hiring season well underway along with the announcement of the Professional Geoscience Mobility Agreement, it is an exciting time for not only geoscience professionals but also the government funded support programs and mechanisms set in place to assist them. Led by Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), the PAIE program has a history of success placing internationally trained geoscience professionals in employment opportunities where they can access the knowledge and skills required to become licensed in Ontario. With APGO’s announcement last year of the new Professional Geoscience Mobility Agreement, it will make the often challenging process of gaining industry-specific work for a newcomer more accessible. Having gone into effect on January 1st, 2014, this agreement prompts a closer look at the support and services that immigrant professionals can expect from the PAIE program and how it can facilitate the ongoing professional success for geotechnical professionals.


Before focusing on the PAIE program, here is a quick overview of APGO’s new agreement. In a nutshell, the Professional Geoscience Mobility Agreement will allow professional geoscientists registered in Ontario more flexibility to accept short-term work in BC and the other way around. Effective 2014, APGO has a trial bi-lateral agreement with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC) that permits registered Professional Geoscientists (P.Geo.’s) to practice in the other’s province for up to 45 days in a calendar year, without having to register with the host province or pay fees. This agreement is only between Ontario and BC and P.Geo.’s must be registered in either of these provinces.


Funded by the Government of Ontario, the TRCA PAIE program is uniquely positioned to meet the needs of internationally trained geoscientists. The program strives to act as the bridge for both newcomers and employers. With a dedicated team consisting of employment service coordinators and job developers, the program works diligently with an annual cohort of internationally trained geoscientists in helping them achieve their employment and licensure goals. The success of past program participants speaks to the effectiveness of the program in helping skilled newcomers to build a career in the field of geoscience. What makes PAIE especially effective is that it is providing essential services at a time when Ontario is facing significant labour shortages in the field.


PAIE responds to this shortage by not only coaching internationally trained professionals on strategic job-searching but also provides customized, in-depth technical training through focused workshops. Examples of some of the technical workshops include “Introduction to ArcGIS”, “Hydrologic & Hydraulic Modeling” and “Hydrogeology in Ontario”. Facilitated by a group of dedicated, qualified and licensed industry professionals, these workshops provide participants with an opportunity to gain hands-on experience using current, up-to-date software that make them competent and marketable within the Canadian labour market. It also provides an opportunity for participants to learn directly from a professional working in the field.


The program coordinators are on-hand to guide participants through the licensure process and provide knowledgeable support in various aspects of job-searching. Whether it is resume development, interview practice, coaching on personal presentation and personal branding through social media presence, PAIE ensures that participants are equipped with the tools to succeed in a competitive job market. In addition, PAIE features curriculum focusing on soft-skills training including orientation to Canadian corporate culture and familiarity with licensure requirements for internationally trained geoscientists.


With so much emphasis placed on ensuring that geoscience professionals in the program are job ready, one can easily assume that PAIE is strictly a job-seeker focused program. However, it is equally focused on bridging the labour market for employers. Our team works directly with employers to help them easily access resources and to integrate skilled professionals within the workplace to fill positions that are often difficult to recruit for. Program staff will work diligently with employers to identify hiring needs and provide job-ready candidates who have already been pre-screened to determine a match for a specific job opportunity. Once a participant is hired, program staff will work closely with the employer throughout the work placement to implement best practices for job retention. The overall outcome is to ensure that the successful candidate is meeting the expectations of the employer in their new work setting for long term success, which results in a positive work experience for everyone involved.


In addition, PAIE staff are well versed and knowledgeable on diversity and inclusivity strategies to ensure that an organization’s recruitment efforts reflect the changing demographics of the province. With many parts of the Greater Toronto Area quickly becoming settlement hubs for immigrants, there is a heightened need for employers to tap into a diversified pool of talent, with a large segment comprised of skilled newcomers. This is done by engaging with employers and regularly conducting meetings with them to strategize on best practices for the hiring, onboarding and retention of skilled newcomers that is reflective of the diversity of the current labour force and fosters a more inclusive work environment. PAIE also hosts diversity and inter-cultural communications training for employers at no cost, which is an excellent opportunity for employers to learn about innovative and successful practices, policies and tips for tapping into a growing pool of internationally skilled professionals with cross-cultural savvy to provide fresh perspectives in the workplace.


Both program participants and employers benefit from the wealth of knowledge and technical expertise that is leveraged from TRCA staff who are directly involved in delivering many components of the PAIE program. Widely known as one of the leading authorities on sustainability and biodiversity, TRCA has enjoyed long-lasting partnerships with municipalities and businesses across the public and private sector. The PAIE program leverages these contacts to work towards the employment prospects of program participants and constantly seeks out new partners to create successful relationships. On many occasions, participants are placed in employment or paid internship opportunities through the long-lasting relationships that the TRCA enjoys with several organizations across the province.


While the process for integrating into the Canadian labour market is still met with challenges and barriers for immigrants, it is encouraging to see some of the initiatives that are being implemented by APGO to help break down these barriers. Along with the ongoing commitment and support of the PAIE program these initiatives will continue to result in a gradual closing of the skills gap in Ontario.


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Copyright 2014, Association of Professional Geoscientists of Ontario (APGO)