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On November 17, 2007, the Ontario Regulators for Access Consortium (ORAC) and the Government of Ontarioa€™s Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration (MCI) hosted a learning day about bridging programs in regulated professions and trades. Zubin Austin (BScPhm, MBA, MISc, PhD) has been Associate Professor at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, and Principal Investigator in the International Pharmacy Graduate Program at the University of Toronto since 2000. Thanks to Phil Schalm (Ryerson University) and Elizabeth McIsaac (Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council) for their review and comments. This manual, and all the text herein, is copyrighted by the Ontario Regulators for Access Consortium (ORAC) and is not to be used, distributed or copied without the express permission of ORAC. The integration of internationally educated individuals into the Canadian workforce has been a major public policy issue for many years. In November 2007, the Ontario Regulators for Access Consortium (ORAC) and the Government of Ontarioa€™s Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration (MCI) hosted a learning day about bridging programs in regulated professions.
While profession- or occupation-specific language training may be an important component of a bridging program, such language training by itself is not generally considered to be a bridging program. By 2011, it isA projected that close to 100%A  of growth in the Canadian labour force will be a result of immigration, as the a€?baby booma€? generation begins to exit the workforce in large numbers.
By 2011, it is projected that close to 40% of all jobs (and close to 75% of all newly created positions) will require posta€“secondary education.
Economic outcomessuch asthese, while undesirable for immigrants themselves, also represent a significant cost for the Canadian economy as a whole. Without a healthy flow of foreign workers,Canadawill begin suffering serious occupational shortages. What barriers to employment in regulated and unregulated professions and trades exist for internationally educated individuals? What is currently being done to assist internationally educated individuals in accessing employment in regulated professions and trades?
Many organizations (governments, regulatory bodies, community agencies, employers and educational institutions) offer a variety of supports and services to address employment barriers. Assessment Programs have been developed in a variety of fields that give inter-nationally educated individuals an opportunity to evaluate their own skill set and readiness for employment based on occupation-specific criteria. Bridging Programs have been developed in a variety of professions and trades aimed at filling gaps in education, experience or context that internationally educated individuals may experience once they arrive in Canada.
Currently, many professions and trades are working to ensure continuity and consistency between all four types of programs to ensure a common message is conveyed and communicated to internationally educated individuals.
Within Ontario, there are numerous examples of bridging programs, both occupation-specific and sector-specific (such as health, financial services and informationtechnology).
Provide employment-specific learning opportunities (such as shadowing,internships, mentorships and so on). Formalbridgingprogramshavebeenrecognizedsince2000;however,informalbridgingeducation has been in existence for decades.
During the learning day, participants shared their experiences regarding key aspects of bridging education including recruitment strategies, eligibility determination practices, project evaluation and performance measurement systems, sustainability strategies and models for integrating bridging education within a profession or trade. Participants at the learning day highlighted the value and importance of strong partnerships in successful bridging programs. An important component of successful bridging programs involves partnerships among different organizations. Previous experience suggests that all levels of governments play an important role in bridging education.
Provincial governments will periodically announce calls for funding proposals for the development and implementation of bridging programs or occupation-specific language-training programs. The federal government will periodically announce calls for funding proposals to develop and implement programs that may be somewhat more interdisciplinary or collaborative in nature.
It is important to recognize the importance of identifying sustainable funding sources to ensure that bridging programs are capable of moving from simple project status to a more sustained, systemized status within an institution. It is also important to recognize the constitutionally-mandated division of powers among federal and provincial governments.
For most successful bridging programs, an advisory board structure has facilitated development and nurturing of partnerships. The Advisory Board will be constituted to provide support and guidance for the bridging program, and to advocate on behalf of the program with diverse stakeholders. Skills for Change (a non-profit organization providing learning and training opportunities to immigrants and refugees).
Participants at the learning day highlighted the challenges and rewards of starting new bridg-ing initiatives. While these steps are presented here in a sequential format, real-world experience suggests that activities within each step often occur in concurrent and iterative manners.
While continuous scanning is generally regarded as best-practice, it may not be feasible for a variety of reasons. Interviews with employers and other key opinion leaders that identify areas of growth for internationally educated individuals. A key component in understanding internationally educated individuals is ensuring adequate English (or French) language-fluency skills that meet occupation-specific requirements. Employer engagement: This ensures employers are supportive of the program and will sponsor internationally educated individuals in the workplace and will hire bridging program graduates.
It is important to engage the professional community to dispel any misconceptions about the role of internationally educated individuals in the community or any notions that preferential or special treatment is being given to those enrolled in bridging programs. Provincial governments: The Government of Ontario, through its Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration (MCI) has issued periodic calls for project-development funding proposals. Federal government: Owing to the constitutional division of responsibilities in Canada, the Federal Government does not generally fund provincial bridging programs but may fund certain eligible components.
Since many programs receive significant financial support for development, the sustainability of bridging programs is critical. Designing a bridging program is a collaborative process and involves input from many partners.
A key finding of most bridging programs has been the heterogeneity of internationally educated individuals’ learning needs when involved in a program.
Most successful programs have developed some form of objective prior learning assessment and recognition.
Objective occupation-specific language tests (usually built around the Canadian Language Benchmarks) which benchmark language skills against field-specific requirements. Some programs have identified the importance of occupation-specific language competency and have developed tools and resources aimed at measuring this as a proxy for more generalized PLAR.


Most bridging educators agree that it is important that academic standards in bridging programs not be diluted or reduced, since all practitioners (whether Canadian educated or not) are required to meet the same standards in practice.
While similar materials and methods are ideal, they must also be contextualized for the learner who is not familiar with the Canadian workplace and for whom English may be a second, third or sixth language.
In most cases, bridging programs appear to be centralized in large urban centres and affiliated with higher education institutions.
Asynchronous e-courses: These allow internationally educated individuals to access courses at their own pace, in their own time. Synchronous e-courses: These utilize technology,such as web-casting or pod-casting, in which real-time distance interaction with an instructor is possible. The value of mentorship as part of the design of bridging programs is now almost universally accepted.
Bridging programs must ensure that they have well-developed and nurtured links to employers in the field. In some fields, employers will actually pay for internationally educated individuals to complete a program, with the understanding that the individual will then work for the employer for a period of time. The learning day participants agreed that mentorship programs are integral to the success of bridging education. The process of professional enculturation and socialization is critical to success in many fields. For internationally educated individuals, the process of enculturation can be somewhat more complex because, in some situations, learning about practice in Canada may require a€?unlearninga€? customs and traditions from their countries of origin. Learning the cultural conventions of professional practice is usually more complex than learning the technical skills of a field. Mentorship is increasingly seen as a crucial tool for assisting internationally educated individuals in learning the cultural conventions of professional practice for facilitating professional socialization and for connecting with their peers in the field. Mentorship is well-established within the education and socialization processes of most professions and trades.
A desire to assist an internationally educated individual in their professional development. Mentoring relationships have been identified by many individuals as pivotal in professional development. Gebruik van deze website is onderworpen aan onze Gebruiksvoorwaarden en aankopen zijn onderworpen aan onze Verkoopvoorwaarden. The objective of this event was to allow those involved in bridging programs to share their experiences, promising practices,lessons learned and ideas for enhancing the integration of internationally educated individuals into the Ontario and Canadian labour markets. He has published over 55 peer-reviewed papers in the area of health professions and bridging education. While it is clear that the Canadian workforce and our future economic prosperity will increasingly depend on the contribution of internationally educated individuals, it is sometimes less clear what pathways these individuals should take to find employment commensurate with their experience and education.
In attendance were representatives from colleges, universities, community agencies and other bridging program providers. In the past, lack of consistency has lead to significant frustration and delays in accessing meaningful, relevant employment. Since 2003, the Government of Ontario has funded over 145 bridging projects in over 100 professions and trades. Key roles for partners that were identified included recruiting students, engaging mentors and employers and facilitating long-term sustain-ability of bridging programs.
Bridging education is a pan-professional process involving stakeholders from different sectors within a profession or trade.It is helpful to identify cham-pions within partner organiza-tions who can provide support and resources to assist in the development and implemen-tation of bridging programs. Insome fields,it may be possible to access advocacy or support groups within immigrant communitieswith specific links to a profession or trade; inother fields, more general organizations may exist.
Engagement with professional advocacy groups will facilitate dissemination of clear and correct information within the profession to minimize misunderstanding or distrust of bridging programs.
These supports include facilitating access to low-interest student loans for those en-rolled in bridging programs as well as advocating for bridging education at the high-est levels of government and media. In many cases, provincial governments provide seed funding to groups to develop bridging programs. Funding of this sort is meant to be short-term and developmental, with a mid-term goal of financial independence and sustainability. For example, the federal government recently supported development of an a€?Orientation to the Canadian Health Care Systema€? program for internationally educatedpharmacists,nurses,physiotherapists, occupational therapists, medical laboratory technicians and medical radiation technologists.
Previous experience suggests that provincial governmentsa€”whose mandates include education and traininga€”are better able to respond to questions and calls for seedfunding; the federalgovern-ment is better able to respond to questions related to immigration policy, pre-immigration information and pre-arrival screening. The Board will not direct the day-to-day operations of the bridging program but will serve in a supportive, advisory and facilitative (such as arranging placements, mentors and so on) context. Reasonable meeting-related expenses for travel and accommodation will be reimbursed through the bridging program, where possible, or through the partner organization if agreed upon in advance. While enthusiasm for the work is clearly important, a systematic approach to planning is essential. Flexibility based upon the environment and circumstances is essential to ensure that all objectives are achieved. If available, sector councils and local economic development offices may also provide important quantitative data for the environmental scan. There are significant differences in practice, education and culture across different parts of the world.
Developmental costs are frequently significant since new curriculum, materials, assessments and training costs for instructors, mentors and preceptors takes time and resources. Most fundersa€”including government, employers, professional associations and so ona€”recognize the need to support one-time development costs, but believe that on-going operational costs should be covered through a combination of student tuition (which may include access to low-interest professional loans, bursaries or other student-specific sources of funding) and other supports. For example, Ryerson University and its partners in the nursing profession are undertaking formal research related to the evaluation and recognition of prior learning for internationally educated nurses, utilizing a competency-based approach designed to be equally useful for regulators, employers and academic institutions. Results from such language assessments, coupled with self-assessments and competency matching, can serve as a reasonable (albeit imprecise) form of PLAR that is feasible and sustainable. This alignment is advantageous since it allows for use of common resources and ensures comparability in standards between bridging programs and academic preparation for Canadian practitioners.
Such an approach will enhance the validity and acceptability of the program to the professional community and the public.
The cost of development and maintenance of e-courses is significant, and there are questions as to whether e-courses are an effective medium for teaching and assessment of certain critical competencies related to communication and interpersonal skills. Blended learning methods that utilize some face-to-face classes and some e-courses are growing in popularity.
Where implemented, this model has been generally successful when the centre in which the satellite is hosted is itself relatively large and has access to appropriate resources and personnel.


This can be frustrating since, without previous Canadian experience,some employers hesitate to accept an internationally educated individual. A key finding from most bridging programs is the importance of the support provided by other internationally educated individuals in the program.
Not only do these employers potentially provide mentors, preceptors and instructors for the bridging program, they may also assist in recruitment of internationally educated individuals and provide training sites, provide support across the field for the bridging program and, importantly, hire graduates from the program.
Such arrangements can be very advantageous for both parties: There is some guarantee of a position for an internationally educated individual upon completion of requirements, and an employer will have the services of a well-trained employee. Individuals must learn the technical competencies of their profession or trade but must also learn to a€?becomea€? a practitioner. Cultural conventions of practice do not necessarily lend themselves to description in textbooks or manuals; instead, individuals learn these conventions through observation, reflection and discussion. Within bridging programs, mentorship systems have been gaining prominence as an integral part of educating internationally educated individuals; it is on par with academic coursework and in-service training in assisting individuals to meet Canadian expectations for practice. Traditionally seen as a€?informal teachinga€?, the importance of mentorship in assisting professionals to develop within their fielda€”and as individualsa€”is growing. In the context of bridging education, most mentorship programs can be defined as a purposeful matching of an experienced practitioner with an understanding of the Canadian context of practice with internationally educated individuals who are developing their skills.
Each mentor-mentee pair will have different objectives and goals for the relationship, based on an individuala€™s specific circumstances. This manual was developed to summarize experiences with bridging programs in Ontario and to assist bridging educators in continuing to develop and enhance the quality of their programs. He was awarded the Province of Ontarioa€™s Leadership in Faculty Teaching (LIFT) award in 2007 and was appointed to the University of Torontoa€™s Presidenta€™s Teaching Academy in 2008. This report provides an overview of these discussions along with an overview of practices that may be useful for those initiating or enhancing bridging programs.
In particular, funders of bridging programs indicated that strong partnershipswith regulatorsare critical tosuccess; those applying for funding for bridging programs are strongly recommended to document the depth and nature of relationships with regulatory bodies in their field. Experience from a variety of bridging programs suggests the partners indicated on the next two pages should be en-gaged and involved through-out the process to optimize successful outcomes.
In either case, it is important to ensure that the internationally educated individuals whom bridging programs serve are part of the partnersa€™ group. In this situation, it is helpful to identify employers with interests in bridging education who may serve as champions within the broader professional community. Such organizations are also useful in the recruitment of potential employers, mentors and preceptors, the provision of training sites and for advocacy with government and other external stakeholders on behalf of bridging programs.
Finding housing, child care, appropriate schooling options for children, learning how to use transit systems, acquiring a telephone, setting up a bank account and so on, are all difficult, time consuming tasks. It is important to recognize the specific areas in which a level of government is best able to contribute to successful outcomes in bridging education.
Provincial governments can also provideresources, information and linkages to other programs; this facilitatesthe sharing of curriculum, assessments and learning. It is critical during the development phase to ensure that on-going environmental scanning is undertaken to identify potential funding sources that would allow sustainability. Participants also shared their experiences using the different components of bridging education, including Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR), distance learning and mentorship. In such a circumstance, centralized policies and procedures may be helpful to ensure consistency between the programs. Care, of course, must be taken to ensure that the rights of both internationally educated individuals and employers are clear and respected in all cases. Algonquin College presented its experience with an on-line training course for mentors that connects with the general content of the bridging program so that mentors can provide insight and assist with the program itself. Socialization into any field is complex and relies heavily upon exposure to practitioners and practice settings. Within many fields, mentorship is becoming a more formal part of curriculum and training, and students are encouraged to engage with mentors as a complement to traditional education.
Feeling secure in these activities is important to success in bridging programs, but bridging programs should not focus on these activities.
Theimportance of engaging the professional community in a sustainable manner was emphasized by most participants as was the value of balancing and respecting diverse perspectives and points of view regarding the structure and function of bridging programs. A thorough environmental scan should assist in identifying organizations and individual champions who may be most effective on such a board.
While some generalizations about background education and the nature of professional practice in an internationally educated individuala€™s country of origin, for example, may be useful in framing discussions regarding bridging programs, it is essential not to stereotype individual learners and instead develop systems which will identify each individuala€™s learning needs. Such matching tools may be useful, but they do require individuals to demonstrate a high degree of language fluency and self-assessment skills. Integral to this process is program evaluation, a process by which data is gathered to ensure the bridging program is indeed meeting its objectives. CARE for Nurses offers an on-line support system that helps to match internationally educated nurses with mentors. Mentorship of internationally educated individuals has grown out of this context, with the recognition that the mentor-mentee relationship can provide significant benefits throughout an individuala€™s career.
Participants at the learning day highlighted the importance of dialogue and communication between all partners as crucial to ensuring that these relation-ships can flourish and form the foundation for successful bridging programs. It is important to recognize and promote the notion that bridging initiatives are of use and value to the partners in helping them develop a well-prepared workforce. When interpreting results from competency assessment tools, it is essential to understand the learnera€™s level of proficiency and understanding. Successful bridging programs have successful graduates who are employed and contributing to their field; such programs subsequently attract new students, employer interest and additional revenue sources.
Several groups indicated that recruitment of mentors was facilitated by the inclusion of mentoring as an accepted part of their professional associationa€™s or regulatory bodya€™s professional development plan. The Professional Access and Integration to Employment Program for environmental professionals incorporates diversity training for its mentors, employers and participants. The learning day participants noted the variety of different strategies that have been used to enable mentorship and that, while each profession and trade must identify its priorities and needs, understanding the incentives that motivate mentors and mentees to engage with one another is crucial.
Developing mentoring programs that meet the needs of both mentors and mentees is important for sustainability and success.



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