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Building Canadian work experience before you arrive in Canada can give you a competitive advantage. It can also help you to achieve your career goals faster. And employers place a high value on Canadian work experience. But how can you gain experience before you land in Canada?

Linda Ryan is the National Program Manager with BCCA-Integrating Newcomers, a government funded, Canada-wide, pre-arrival career coaching service for high skilled construction professionals immigrating to Canada (*BCCA-IN).

A career and certified performance coach, she and the BCCA-IN team specialize in helping newcomers plan for, and achieve, employment success, no matter what city or province they are moving to.

When it comes to building Canadian work experience in construction, Ryan provides specific advice. Prepare for Canada spoke to Ryan and here’s what she had to say about the importance of Canadian work experience and how to gain it before you land in Canada.

Prepare for Canada: Why is Canadian work experience important to employers?

Linda Ryan: In Canada, construction employers appreciate a foundation of technical education plus hands-on experience in the local sector. As well, they like to see that you:

  • are a member of a relevant professional body (provincial or federal), and
  • hold or are ‘challenging’ the appropriate Canadian credential for the role.

This is critical, especially if the role is considered a regulated profession in Canada e.g. Engineer, Architect, a trade, etc. It’s all of these elements that are called “Canadian experience”.

Integrating Newcomers Program

Prepare for Canada: Why do employers look for job candidates with Canadian work experience?

Linda Ryan: While employers can’t blatantly specify Canadian experience as criteria when advertising roles, you can understand why they look for it. Canadian work experience allows employers to find the best candidate for the job. For example, someone who: 

  • has the technical skills and specialist training required for the role
  • knows the processes and protocols of the local sector, and
  • can quickly add value to their projects because they know what’s required.

Prepare for Canada: What’s the best way for newcomers who want to enter the construction industry to gain experience before they arrive?

Linda Ryan: For newcomers, one way to gain Canadian work experience is to upskill. This allows you to gain highly coveted experience and work towards credential recognition in your profession. But how do you do it when you haven’t even landed in Canada yet? Here are four helpful ways:

1. Join a professional association:

Start with the basics. Identify a Canadian professional association (member-based organization) in the sector, profession and ideally city/province where you’ll land in Canada. Any online search engine will help you do this! When you find one:

  • read all the resources on the website
  • sign up for the newsletters
  • follow the organization on LinkedIn and share its content.

If you can afford to pay for membership-do it! Over time, your membership will help you to build your connections, knowledge, and reputation. The associations will also give you ideas on further education, certification or professional development programs. Don’t forget to list your membership on your LinkedIn profile and resume, as soon as possible.

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2. Complete online professional development:

Search for free or low-cost online webinars in your field of expertise provided by a Canadian professional association, regulatory body or credential authority. When you complete the courses or events, list them on your LinkedIn profile and resume. Once you have a Canadian professional credential you can replace the courses on your profile. You can start to look for courses here:

  • Local construction associations (geographically based). You’ll find a list of Canadian Construction Association affiliated regional members here

Don’t forget to use this list to research, prepare for and begin the credential recognition process for your trade or profession before you arrive in Canada. Having the right Canadian credentials will give you a competitive advantage when building your career.

3. Identify national e-learning certified courses:

BuildForce Canada is a national organization that focuses on developing a high-skilled construction workforce. One way they do this is through online elearning courses that they offer.

  • Register and pay for the courses through local distributors in each province

The Construction Institute of Canada (TCIC) offers professional development for the construction industry. Browse the e-learning course list.

TCIC also offers Gold Seal certified courses, programs and workshops for industry professionals who want to climb the management ranks. This national accreditation for construction management professionals can also lead to the professional designation P.GSC. You have to meet the criteria (Canadian industry experience and education) to receive the designation. Learn more about Gold Seal.

4. Look for roles relevant to your career:

When you arrive in Canada, the best way to enhance your Canadian work experience is to look for roles relevant to your career. Actively searching for more junior roles can be an effective way of “earning and learning” the industry and profession.

Learn More about BCCA-IN

*The BCCA-Integrating Newcomers program is a free, pre-arrival, Canada-wide service, focused on helping high-skilled newcomers explore and build successful construction careers. Services include one-on-one career guidance, tailored resume, cover letter, LinkedIn advice, and an in-depth skills and education assessment to help newcomers focus on the best career, credentials and connections activities. The Integrating Newcomers team not only has multi-industry experience but are also immigrants who have built successful careers in Canada.