York , Canada

Getting Credit for Credentials

The Regional Municipality of York

April 17, 2013

A foreign credential process guide recognizes merit and ensures consistency in public service hiring practices for both Canadian and internationally trained candidates

Unlike many employers, The Regional Municipality of York did not stop and wait when they ran into trouble evaluating skilled immigrant credentials, they created their own tool.

The Regional Municipality of York (York Region) governs a community made up of nine local municipalities north of Toronto. As a major local employer in an area where 43% of the population is foreign-born, York Region has more than an ordinary mandate to ensure its hiring policies and practices are inclusive of all applicants.

“Many new immigrants are choosing to live in York Region. As the regional government, we need to take the lead and develop a workforce that reflects the community we serve,” says York Region Human Resources Acting Director Beverley Cassidy-Moffatt. “To support this goal, we developed the foreign credential process guide to ensure consistency in our hiring practices among both Canadian and internationally-trained candidates.”

Recognizing barriers to employment

A major barrier to employment for new immigrants is recognition of foreign credentials and experience. When York Region made the decision to diversify the workplace, it needed a reliable and innovative tool to help its recruiters and hiring managers overcome this obstacle. Not able to find an evaluation tool elsewhere to help them assess applicants, York Region developed one of its own: Foreign Credentials Evaluation Process Guide. What’s more, the York Region guide has been widely recognized as a tool “designed to promote a consistent and effective hiring process based on merit.” (reported the Toronto Star)

The innovative foreign credential process guide was developed to fill a gap when research among other Toronto region municipalities failed to identify an available resource. It consists of a flowchart for when and how to assess foreign credentials, scenarios, templates for assessment requests and other resources. Easy to use, the guide is designed to promote an effective hiring process that leads to hiring decisions based on merit and does not exclude diverse candidates.

Multiple strategies at work

The process is working. York Region is already seeing a growing number of skilled immigrants within its workforce. However, the foreign credential process guide is only one of several strategies targeted by York Region to recruit new immigrants for some of its hard-to-fill positions. York Region is also a leading employer partner with Professional Access and Integration Enhancement (PAIE), a bridging program that provides internships and was instrumental in the recent hiring of internationally-trained engineers by York Region.

Recruiting skilled immigrants from the diverse York Region community has become part of the new normal for local employers. Quoted in the Toronto Star, Alex Walker, a co-CEO and president of Markham-based SMTC, said: “To be globally competitive, you have to be competitive in different cultures. We don’t proactively go out and say, ‘Guys, we need to recruit from these communities.’ It is a given.”


York Region’s efforts to diversify its workforce are producing results. Twenty-seven percent of the Region’s workforce now consists of immigrants and, at last count, York Region’s employees speak more than 60 languages.

“At the Region, I’ve been able to transfer some of my skills and technical background from the Philippines,” says Leany Moreno, an industrial treatment engineer who first joined York Region through the PAIE program. “There is great opportunity here for me and I am always looking forward to coming to work because of the supportive environment.”

York Region was recognized for its innovative work with skilled immigrants in April 2013, receiving the TRIEC Immigrant Success (IS) Toronto Star Award for Excellence in Workplace Integration. The IS Awards recognize employer leadership and innovation in recruiting and retaining skilled immigrants in the Toronto Region.

Hiring skilled immigrants isn’t the only way York Region measures success. In a 2011 survey, employees rated support for diversity as one of York Region’s top five internal strengths. Michele Samuels, Manager of Regulatory Compliance: “I, myself, am a minority and have lived in three different countries. Working in an environment that is diverse makes it a happy place for me to come to; makes me very comfortable. It also gives me an opportunity to mentor other staff.”

As with most efforts to increase diversity and inclusion, York Region has experienced additional benefits from its efforts. Michele Samuels: “We do a lot of communication to our community. By having diversity within the Region, we’re able to craft communications messages in a way that we know will be impactful for our diverse communities.”

Making it Work for You:

  • Evaluation tools are most effective when designed with the needs of a specific group, project or activity in mind. Developing tools and resources in consultation with your colleagues and stakeholders will increase their potential to deliver meaningful results.
  • Look for “unintended outcomes” for additional benefits. For example, opening your workforce to diversity can also positively impact your existing workers.
  • Opening your human resource and hiring practices to skilled immigrants is an important and impactful. But be sure to also build orientation, onboarding and mentoring efforts, which ensure smooth transition of skilled immigrants into your workforce, and offer opportunities to your existing workers to develop new skills and responsibilities.
  • Building a supportive environment for diversity and inclusion ultimately results in the creation of a better working environment for all your workers.