WES Spearheads Efforts to Help Refugees Have Their Educational Credentials Recognized

Initiative Addresses the Concern That a Lack of Educational Credential Recognition Is a Major Barrier to Employment and Income Stability Among Refugees

TORONTO, ON–(May 18, 2016) – After years of enduring civil war, more than 25,000 Syrian refugees recently arrived in Canada and are dreaming about a successful life in their new home. Like thousands of refugees before them, they will struggle to reach their full potential if their educational credentials are not recognized. Without appropriate credential recognition, these individuals can find themselves underemployed, underpaid, and unable to achieve their aspirations or meet their potential in society.

“Accessing education and jobs is a key factor for refugees’ future success, but many escaped their home countries with only a few essential items, and their official academic documents may be impossible to obtain,” said Tim Owen, Deputy Executive Director and Director of WES Canada. “We feel that there’s a way to help as a leading provider of credential assessments in the Canada and the United States,” he added.

World Education Services (WES) is developing a new “alternative credential assessment” for refugees. The service will help refugees obtain some form of recognition for their academic credentials even if they cannot access official academic documents from the institutions they attended. When the pilot phase is done and a review of the outcome is complete, WES will consider next steps for expanding the service to refugees and people in similar situations from other countries.

“More than 100,000 refugees and their families arrive in Canada and the United States every year and many struggle to re-establish their lives and careers,” said Owen. “They will make it out of a war zone or terrible political situation to safety in North America, but they still face many obstacles to restoring their lives. Gaining recognition for their qualifications should not be one of them,” he added.

When the unemployment rate for refugees is twice as high as the average for those born in Canada, credential recognition can help to narrow the gap. It can give refugees access to further education, professional licensing, and employment — and it will offer them the opportunity to overcome the barriers they face to economic success.

“On top of the personal struggle faced by refugee families, our society as a whole suffers when talented individuals are underemployed,” said Paul Feltman, Deputy Executive Director of the WES Global Talent Bridge Program. “When well-educated people are unable to work in a job commensurate with their qualifications, this ‘brain waste’ saps strength from our economy and reduces our tax base. We all lose out in the process,” he added.

WES will work with partner agencies to pilot test the alternative credential assessment, beginning in Canada with the Syrian refugee community. Based on the outcomes of the pilot, WES will roll out an ongoing service to help refugees gain recognition for their qualifications with potential employers and educational institutions.

Alternative Credential Assessment Based on Comprehensive International Research and Expertise
WES is also publishing a new research report, Recognizing the Educational Qualifications of Refugeeswhich identifies alternative practices to assess refugees’ educational achievements. The information will help organizations understand and work with refugees to rebuild their lives in Canada. The report includes research on reconstructing a refugee’s educational background when full documentation is lacking and suggests methods to corroborate their claims. It also contains recommendations on recognizing applicants’ qualifications based on an alternative assessment process.

Email refugees@wes.org for more information about the pilot program and to obtain a copy of the report. For press inquiries, please contact Morris Ardoin at mardoin@wes.org or at 212.219.7310.

About WES
World Education Services (WES) is a non-profit organization founded in 1974 dedicated to helping individuals achieve their higher education and professional goals. WES evaluates and advocates for the recognition of international education qualifications in the U.S. and Canada. WES delivers credential assessments recognized by 2,500 academic, business, and governmental institutions to more than 200,000 people annually.