The WES Gateway program has been chosen by the Pathways to Prosperity as a “promising practice” in the settlement and integration of immigrants in Canada.
The Pathways to Prosperity Partnership (P2P) is an alliance dedicated to fostering welcoming communities that promote the economic, social, and civic integration of migrants and minorities in Canada. P2P includes all key federal and provincial migration ministries; municipalities; national, regional, and local organizations involved in newcomer settlement; as well as researchers from over fifty universities.
P2P was contracted by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to design, implement, and evaluate a process for identifying and sharing promising practices in settlement and integration. Promising practices refer to practices that have an objective basis for claiming effectiveness in achieving their stated goals and have the potential for replication. The project focuses not only on identifying practices that work but also on analyzing and sharing key features that can be replicated as well as challenges in their initial implementation that should be considered. The project aims to equip the settlement sector with adequate tools to respond to a rapidly changing immigration environment and build its capacity to innovate and continuously improve its services.
The first call for nominations was launched in January 2019 and targeted the following service areas: promoting welcoming communities; adapting settlement services and supports for rural and remote communities; language instruction in the workplace; information and orientation; supports for youth and addressing intergenerational issues; and housing supports.
What Makes the WES Gateway Program a Promising Practice?
One of the main elements that makes the Gateway Program a promising practice is that it responds to real challenges faced by displaced individuals: increasing numbers of immigrants flee their countries with little or no documentation of academic or professional qualifications. This places newcomers at a great disadvantage when accessing education, licensing, or employment. The overall goal of the project is to provide a reliable and rigorous assessment of credentials in the absence of full documentation so that displaced individuals can pursue their aspirations in Canada.
Secondly, the program was tested on a smaller scale first. It was initially launched as an 18-month pilot in July 2016 and served refugees from Syria who were identified by community agencies and licensing bodies and didn’t have full proof of their credentials. In addition to providing an opportunity to test a new, unique methodology for assessing credentials when authentication of official documents is not possible, the project also presents a new service delivery model, working with immigrant-serving organizations, licensing and regulatory bodies, and higher education institutions to identify individuals facing challenges, and who could benefit from this product.
Thirdly, the program was backed by evidence and research. The analysis and evaluation of the pilot built up a wealth of knowledge and the confidence that this was a program WES could replicate in other communities. Insights gained during the pilot enabled WES to scale the project and launch the Gateway Program with new, standardized approaches, and now serves displaced individuals educated in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, and Venezuela.
Collaboration and technology have contributed to the program’s success as well.
The involvement of trusted referral partners across the country who work directly with individuals facing barriers in receiving credential evaluation is critical to the program’s effectiveness as well as the engagement of educational institutions and employers. Technology plays a crucial role as the application is fully integrated with WES’ online system. Staff at the referral organizations log into the WES Gateway Portal where they can conduct an initial screening questionnaire with the applicant and determine eligibility very quickly. Thus, the partner can easily guide the applicant through the process. The recipients of reports can access reports on their end and see information on the methodology and what documents were submitted.
“Not only did the agencies say to us [that] this program had given dignity back to their client, […] but we’ve had a number of organizations approach us and say they want to partner with us because they also feel that they can contribute to the empowerment of displaced individuals,” says Shamira Madhany, managing director and deputy executive director for WES Canada.
“This is really a program that takes a village. This is a whole community response. [Everyone] in the recognition process has a role and has played a role, and that is something we are so proud of at WES and something we are so grateful for […] that so many have joined us in collaborating in this project to make it a reality,” says Beth Clarke, director of strategic partnership at WES Canada.
The WES Gateway Program is currently operating only in Canada, however, a companion effort for immigrants to the United States will be offered in the coming months.
Here’s a video about the WES Gateway Program application.