While moving to Canada can open the door to exciting career opportunities, unfortunately many professional certifications earned abroad aren’t recognized here. Some newcomers find they need additional training or education to continue their careers in their new home. Bridge programs help with this. They assist newcomers who already have a combination of post-secondary international education, work experience, and a high level of English proficiency get the support and training they need to get a licence or certificate in Canada, and ultimately find work.
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Bridging programs (sometimes also called bridge programs or bridge training programs) are typically offered by employers, colleges, and universities, and normally require a fee to enroll.
Prepare for the Canadian job market
Bridge training programs will help transfer your valuable skills and experience to a new job in Canada. They’re particularly useful for those seeking work in regulated fields, such as nursing, accounting, plumbing, and architecture, but can also help newcomers seeking employment in non-regulated fields. Bridging programs can help with the following to prepare you for the Canadian job market:
- Assess your education and skills
- Provide additional skills or academic training to meet Canadian regulatory requirements
- Preparation for licence or certification exams
- Additional language training, if necessary for your profession or trade
Switch careers in Canada
If you’d like to find work in a different, but related field to your current one, bridge programs can help bolster your education and credentials. For example, if you’re currently an internationally-licensed doctor, a bridging program can help you make the switch to a non-licenced role in the Canadian healthcare field, such as one in health research or healthcare management.
Find a job in Canada
Bridging programs provide more than just education and training; they can actively assist in your job search in Canada. Most bridge programs provide the following to help you land a new role:
- Networking and mentorship opportunities
- Job search supports, such as resume preparation, job market orientation, and mock interviews
- Clinical or job placements to gain experience in Canada
- Individualized career counselling
Build a network in Canada
In Canada, the majority of roles are filled through people’s networks, before they are even posted to job boards. This is often referred to as the Hidden Job Market. Bridge programs recognize this and often provide networking opportunities as part of their curriculum. In addition, many bridge programs provide training on workplace-specific culture and communication to help you make great first impressions! Depending on which program you choose, there may be more or less emphasis on “soft skills” such as interpersonal communication, effective speaking, and client-centred communication.
Find a mentor in Canada
A good mentor is invaluable at any stage of your career, and can provide insight into industry-specific practices and tips you won’t necessarily get in a classroom. Bridge programs can help newcomers connect with qualified mentors with proven track records in their fields. If your bridge training offers a mentorship program, it’s an excellent idea to take advantage of it.
Prepare for industry certifications or license exams
The point of bridging programs is to avoid duplicating the education and training you already have. Rather, the focus is on preparing you for Canadian-specific certification and exam requirements. A bridge program will fill any gaps in knowledge or skills so that you can quickly earn certification and continue your career in Canada. Additionally, many bridge programs offer exam skills workshops that teach test-taking and study techniques to boost your chances of success.
Gain Canadian work experience
Bridge programs can help you find paid work or clinical placements that provide valuable experience and references for landing a permanent job in Canada. In some cases, this experience may be a requirement for getting a license in your field. In others, it adds Canadian experience to your resume– something many employers look for.
Bridge programs can be found through provincial government websites, or through most major colleges and universities, such as Ryerson University, Humber College, Seneca College, York University, the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Calgary. Universities tend to provide bridging programs tailored to professions (i.e. accounting, architecture, law, business), while colleges offer bridge training for trades (i.e. plumbing, engineering, construction).
If you can’t commit to a full-time program, don’t worry! Many are available as online courses or part-time on evenings and/or weekends. Make sure to find one that suits your schedule without overwhelming you.
Make sure to research the reputation of the institution offering a bridging program and ask what their success rate is. For example, what percentage of graduates pass their licensing exam on the first try? Or what percentage of graduates find work in their field within twelve months of completion?
If your field doesn’t require a license or exam to work in Canada, consider curriculums that offer more transferable “soft skills,” such as how to communicate effectively in Canadian workplaces or how to improve your leadership or managerial skills.
As a newcomer to Canada, bridging programs can be an essential tool to help continue your career without significant interruption– or even break into a new field of work! No matter your professional goals, they can help you transition your skills, make connections, and understand workplace culture in Canada.