International Qualification Recognition - Multi-stakeholder Work Groups



Multi-stakeholder Work Groups: 

…a collaborative model for making systemic change in regulated occupations


  • The Multi-stakeholder Work Group model is unique to Nova Scotia; has been recognized nationally as a best practice to address international qualifications recognition (IQR)
  • It emerged out of the experience of the settlement sector, working with clients in regulated occupations and realizing that partnership was essential
  • The model recognizes that IQR is a complex problem; the challenges are not owned by regulatory bodies alone;  sustainable change needs all key stakeholders at the table
  • It is a collaborative approach to making systemic change and developing innovative programming
  • The profession-specific work groups aim to ensure fair, transparent and equitable pathways to licensure, and develop sustainable programs to help newcomers become qualified and integrated into the provincial workforce in their chosen fields
  • The initiative supports the goals of the provincial Fair Registration Practices Act (FRPA) as well as the Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment & Recognition of International Credentials
  • Indicators of impact include: internationally educated individuals in Nova Scotia who participate in programs here do significantly better on national examinations than those in other provinces AND internationally educated immigrants are more likely to be working in their occupation in Nova Scotia than in almost any other province.
  • An evaluation study was conducted in 2013 by Gardner Pinfold; report is available


International qualifications challenges are complex. The Multi-stakeholder Work Group project takes a collaborative approach to developing realistic and sustainable solutions.  The project was initiated by ISANS staff when they realized that for clients in regulated occupations, providing employment services was not enough to ensure workforce integration.  Fair and transparent pathways to licensure had to be in place, new pathways & competency assessment methods were needed, and unnecessary barriers had to be identified & removed.  Finally, programs & supports were needed to provide orientation, address skill or knowledge gaps, and promote effective workforce integration.  To tackle these complex challenges, all key stakeholders in a profession needed to be at the table.

Work groups were established in Engineering & Pharmacy in 2005, Medicine in 2006 and Law in 2009 but momentum increased substantially in October 2011. At this time a special project was initiated which supports an ISANS staff to work within the Nova Scotia Department of Labour & Advanced Education, to provide focused leadership and support to the work groups.  The contract position of Consultant, International Labour Mobility was created and for the first time there was leadership dedicated to this project.



There are currently twelve active Multi-stakeholder Work Groups covering nineteen regulated occupations.  These include: Architects, Construction Electricians, Dental Assistants, Dental Hygienists, Dental Technologists, Dentists, Denturists, Dietitians, Engineers, Engineering Technicians & Technologists, Lawyers, Licensed Practical Nurses, Medical Laboratory Technologists, Pharmacists, Pharmacy Technicians, Physicians, Registered Nurses, Social Workers and Teachers.

Each work group is co-chaired by a high profile member of the occupation together with the Consultant, International Labour Mobility. Each group meets quarterly or as needed.  While the primary focus is provincial, the groups may include Pan-Canadian representatives and/or representatives from other provinces in the Atlantic region.

Key stakeholders vary amongst professions but generally include:

  • Regulatory authorities
  • Professional associations
  • Educational institutions
  • NGO immigrant serving organization
  • Representatives of internationally educated professionals
  • Employers and employer organizations
  • Unions
  • Sector Councils
  • Government departments


Members report back to their organizations but the work group itself is not responsible to one entity.  Every member is there because they share some responsibility for addressing IQR and experience benefit from membership.  Membership is voluntary.  As the group matures and trust increases, a collective vision develops and the resulting synergy leads to partnership initiatives and creative collaboration. The basic functions of each work group are to:

  • Provide a forum for information sharing
  • Review and confirm pathways to licensure
  • Develop new pathways or routes to licensure
  • Identify & eliminate unnecessary barriers
  • Make systemic and process changes
  • Identify critical issues, engage in informed dialogue; problem-solve
  • Identify and pursue opportunities for partnership
  • Develop collaborative programs & supports
  • Act in an advisory capacity
  • Sustain the momentum for change



Each of the following is a result of one of the multi-stakeholder work groups and impacts the success of immigrants to the province.

Process Changes, New Pathways, Improving Access & Advocacy:

  • Engineers Nova Scotia credits the orientation/communication skills program delivered by ISANS for three months credit toward the required one year of Canadian experience.
  • Internationally educated engineers with over ten years of experience may be assessed through a structured competency interview rather than compensatory exams.
  • The incubation and implementation of the IMG Med III Clerkship, a unique program for immigrant physicians, has put 16 IMGs on a pathway to licensure & employment in the province.
  • The College of Pharmacists of Nova Scotia eliminated the requirement for part of internship to be in hospital environment; can be done entirely in the community thereby overcoming a significant barrier in the process.
  • The Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia created a special membership for immigrant pharmacists which includes access to professional practice insurance

Program Development & Enhancement:

  • A Worksite-based Competency Assessment Program for internationally educated engineers was developed and implemented as a collaboration amongst Engineers Nova Scotia, Engineers Canada, ISANS & local employers. 
  • An Observership Program was developed to introduce internationally trained lawyers to Canadian legal practice.  This program is run by the Barristers’ Society of Nova Scotia.
  • Online orientation programs specific to the profession have been developed in Pharmacy and Medicine; available to immigrants both pre and post arrival.
  • An Orientation to Canadian Dental Practice workshop was developed and piloted to enthusiastic response, under the leadership of the Nova Scotia Dental Association.  The workshop included a “Day in the Life” video funded by the province. 
  • A Hand’s on Practice Program (HOPP) to assist internationally educated dentists to prepare for the clinical skills assessment has been developed in collaboration with Dalhousie Faculty of Dentistry, experienced faculty facilitators and Immigrant Settlement& Integration Services.  It will be offered for the first time in the spring of 2015.
  • Medical laboratory technologists in Nova Scotia are able to access the IEMLT Bridging Program developed and launched in New Brunswick.
  • The Apprenticeship Agency’s online Electrical Code and Canadian Electrical System courses provided through the Nova Scotia Community College were opened up to internationally trained electricians even if not registered apprentices.

Participation of Canadian licensed professionals:

  • Thirty-eight Canadian licensed physicians have volunteered their time to teach IMGs at evening clinical skills review sessions conducted at ISANS
  • The Craig Ennett Award, presented annually since 2011, recognizes the efforts of a Canadian licensed pharmacist to welcoming international colleagues
  • Fifteen Canadian licensed pharmacists participate in and promote the Communications Skills Labs coordinated by ISANS with provincial funding
  • Continuing education credits are awarded to pharmacists who take part in preparatory or assessment programs for professional immigrants in these fields.
  • An information session conducted for internationally educated architects at the Nova Scotia Architects’ Association included local architectural firms and assessors.

Communications & Advising:

  • Internationally Educated Nurses Work Group is an advisory committee for the IEN Bridging & Re-entry Program delivered by the Registered Nurses Professional Development Centre.
  • Work groups are advisory committees for bridging programs in Dentistry, Medicine, Engineering, Pharmacy and Dietetics. The Sustainable Bridging Process for internationally educated dietitians has been nationally recognized as a best practice by the International Qualifications Network.
  • Dietetics and Medical Laboratory Technology are taking an Atlantic approach to the work group & bridging.  Law includes a representative from the National Committee on Accreditation.
  • Work groups are forums for updates and feedback on Pan-Canadian initiatives – eg. National Nursing Assessment Service, Gateway to Pharmacy, Canadian Technology Information Network and others.
  • National regulators have participated at tables which include: Social Work, Dental Professionals, Medical Lab Technology, Law and Architecture.
  • Website reviews & improvements made; ongoing efforts to integrate electronic information amongst stakeholders; articles published on profession-specific sites & journals.


Debra Johns

Consultant – Multi-Stakeholder Working Group

Nova Scotia Department of Labour & Advanced Education