Ziad Ajweh is a Building Safety Code Officer at the City of Edmonton. He moved to Canada as an international student nearly a decade ago, and obtained a Master of Science in construction engineering and management here. Ziad recently received the title of Professional Engineer (P.Eng.).
This blog post traces Ziad’s immigration story and the challenges he overcame as a newcomer to enter a regulated profession in a new country.
Despite COVID-19, Ziad remains optimistic. An engineer specializing in construction projects in his home country overseas, Ziad studied civil engineering—and ranked second in his class of nearly 300 students. He also taught academic courses related to steel structural design.
Since becoming a Canadian citizen, he has helped other newcomers adjust to life in Canada. Ziad is accustomed to succeeding. Perhaps that’s why he remains positive and driven. The nearly daunting challenge of earning a professional engineer licence in a new country did not faze him.
In 2011, Ziad received a letter of acceptance to a Master of Science program and a job offer to be a research assistant, both from the University of Alberta. After graduating, he applied for permanent resident status and a few years later became a Canadian citizen.
Ziad has been a part of many different communities since his school years and has volunteered with organizations that help newcomers to Canada. He has even become a hockey fan and enjoys watching the Edmonton Oilers (NHL).
Ziad’s list of accomplishments is impressive: He is accredited as a building safety codes officer in Alberta; he has been published in several journals, having written and co-written research and conference papers; he received an Honourable Mention in the Stephen G. Revay Award competition; he earned a certificate of appreciation from the Canadian Red Cross, and he volunteered during the catastrophic Fort McMurray wildfire!
International Credential Assessment and Licensing
Many newcomers and postgraduate students have their international credentials assessed when they arrive in Canada or during their first few years here. However, Ziad’s case was different.
“When I decided to get a professional engineer licence, I didn’t expect it to become my biggest challenge in seven years here,” he says.
Canada’s regulatory bodies, such as the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan (APEGS), require a credential evaluation—proof that education obtained outside of the country is equivalent to Canadian standards.
According to Kate MacLachlan, Director of Academic Review: “APEGS trusts and relies on WES to ensure the validity and authenticity of the documents that our academic assessment is based on. The WES Gateway Program is an excellent example of WES’s dedication to finding innovative, yet rigorous ways to provide reliable assessments when the usual methods of documentation are unavailable.”
“Multiple factors hampered me from receiving a Canadian equivalency,” Ziad says. “The different education system and lack of official documents. In my home country, I studied a five-year bachelor’s program of more than 60 courses. I started seeking advice from engineering associations in Saskatchewan and Alberta, and they suggested that I reach out to WES.”
Canadian licensing bodies and credential assessment providers have established rigorous documentation policies to prevent fraud and select qualified candidates. Educational documents must be received directly from accredited academic institutions or other recognized organizations.
“I didn’t have all the necessary authenticated documents, and my university was unresponsive. That basically meant I couldn’t have my documents evaluated . . . Then I learned about the Gateway Program.”
The WES Gateway Program assesses the educational credentials of immigrants and refugees who have been displaced as a result of adverse circumstances in their country of education and have limited proof of their academic achievements. The program evaluates credentials from seven countries: Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, and Venezuela.
“Through the program, WES was able to conduct an alternative credential assessment and evaluate all courses. I had my credential report completed in 2017 and received an equivalent to the Canadian civil engineering degree. In 2019, I needed to have it sent to the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan directly by WES to proceed with the academic review for my application. Without the WES Gateway report, I wouldn’t have been able to get my professional engineer title,” adds Ziad.
To acquire Canadian work experience, Ziad worked part time as a technical advisor under the supervision of a senior professional engineer on projects such as structural and geotechnical investigations. In April 2020, he received the P.Eng. title.
Advice for Newcomers
Ziad hopes that his story will help other newcomers in similar situations. He shared advice on ways to better integrate into a new life in Canada:
- Always keep acquiring knowledge and professional accreditations. Apply for scholarships and grants to continue your education.
- Do not postpone receiving a credential evaluation. Perhaps your dream job is waiting for you, but before you can apply for it you will need to have your accreditation or credential assessment completed.
- Seek to obtain Canadian work experience and get familiar with the requirements of your industry and the demand for it in the labour market.
- Keep looking for opportunities and keep moving forward. Always stay optimistic.