Breaking down barriers for women engineers trained abroad

The process of immigration begins long before newcomers first set foot in a new country. MOSAIC, a Vancouver organization dedicated to supporting immigrants and refugees, has a new online pre-arrival service to help foreign-trained women engineers immigrate to Canada. Funded by Westcoast Women in Engineering Science and Technology, the program will launch this March for 2 weeks.

We have it all set up for pre-landed immigrants already pre-approved to come to Canada,” says program facilitator Helen You, 24.

A group of engineer woman at MOSAIC | Photo courtesy of MOSAIC

A group of engineer woman at MOSAIC | Photo courtesy of MOSAIC

Getting ready to succeed

Included in this project are job search strategies and help with workplace cultural communications. Building interview skills and a special focus group workshop for internationally trained women engineers are other elements of the program. It follows a successful pilot study that took place at MOSAIC and is based on a similar program already in practice in Nova Scotia.

“Online pre-arrival services is basically an Umbrella program for all different kinds of workshops. It is done like a course with quizzes and assignments, watching videos, a language component and reading materials ,” says You.

MOSAIC supports participants in building a network in Canada and they are often the first point of contact for immigrants. If this experience is a pleasant one, the likelihood of these women staying is increased.

You notes that the program has received 200–250 applications already.

Meeting a need for Canada

Why a program specifically for internationally trained women engineers?

“Well, we gathered facts and they predict a labour market demand in engineering, according to the ministry,” You says.

You and Cherevko both met with an advisory group made up of women from the Society of Canadian Women in Science and Technology (SCWIST) and the Association of Professional Engineer and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC) on Jan. 21, 2015. They have volunteered to give MOSAIC help with issues relating to internationally trained women engineers. These women had experienced challenges after coming to Canada to work in engineering and wished to make it easier for subsequent new immigrants.

The program is supported by WestCoast Women in Engineering, Science & Technology, an organization founded by Elizabeth Croft, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of British Columbia. Each year, it funds programs that help advance women in science and engineer and MOSAIC’s proposal was chosen during the fall 2014 funding competition.

“The WWEST Partners Grant Adjudication Committee was very impressed with the application – MOSAIC has a strong history of developing and delivering quality programming to the immigrant community, and they had identified a very real unmet need in our region,” says Jennifer Pelletier, manager of the NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering (B.C./Yukon). “MOSAIC’s project aims to prepare women before they arrive in Canada, allowing them to navigate our system and fully contribute to the engineering profession.”

Program directors hope that success will bring further funding from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).

“We are in a temporary mode right now and we are waiting for the decision from CIC to see if we get funding for two years for these services,” says program coordinator/facilitator
Dina Cherevko.