WHY your experience matters


Preparing to work in Canada is an important part of settling in your new country. There are many factors and some important steps to consider in finding employment. The more prepared you are before you arrive in Canada, the easier it will be for you to find a job. And once you arrive in Canada, the process of finding employment will continue.

This website and its extensive Directory of services is designed to assist you in this process:

  • Getting Started: The first step to finding employment is to undertake assessments of your work and life experiences, foreign credential and language ability.
  • Moving Forward: The second step to finding employment is to continue to work on your assessments and to meet with an advisor who can help you make the best choices. In some cases this may be to begin your job search. In other cases, it may be to connect with an employer, an education institution or a regulatory body.


You have had many experiences in your life and work, both before you came to Canada and upon arrival in Canada. From these experiences you have gained knowledge, skills and abilities that are really valuable. It is what you have learned from those experiences that really matters!

In Canada, the process of examining your learning and knowledge is called Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR). Your life and work experiences can include jobs, training, business ownership, military service, studying on your own and working in the home. PLAR is a valuable process that can help you identify and validate your learning from your experiences.

What are some examples of life and work experiences?

The following are some examples of learning experiences:

  • Managing a family-run grocery store – learned skills related to bookkeeping, stock ordering and maintenance, staff supervision and management, and sales; and,
  • Working as a structural engineer – learned skills in the application of engineering practices to building apartments, knowledge of building codes, and ability to work with a wide variety of professionals.

Who can help me with PLAR?

You can have your prior learning assessed and recognized by educational institutions, employment organizations and/or regulatory bodies. Each group may use PLAR for different reasons.

1. Educational Institutions

Educational institutions can help you gain academic credit for the skills, abilities and knowledge you have gained through work and life experiences. This website’s Directory  includes institutions in each province and territory that have a PLAR process in place.

In Canada, education is not the responsibility of the federal government. Instead, each of the 10 provinces and 3 territories is accountable for its own educational affairs. Therefore each province and territory sets their own policies and procedures in educational areas, including PLAR. There are differences in how each province or territory approaches PLAR, so it is important to conduct your own research.

2. Employment Organizations

Other organizations across the country can also assist you with your PLAR. These organizations are frequently immigrant, literacy or employment agencies, which also have expertise in assisting newcomers find work. This website’s Directory includes organizations in each province and territory that can assist you with your PLAR process.

As noted above, as education is a provincial responsibility, so are training and employment. Therefore there are significant differences in the way training and employment services are delivered across the country. The following are some key points to take into consideration regarding provincial differences:

  • In British Columbia (BC), the province co-funds the Skills Connect program, along with the federal government. Skills Connect is delivered throughout the province and uses many PLAR principles in assisting skilled immigrants find employment in BC.
  • In Alberta (AB) and Ontario (ON), there are a large number of bridging programs that use PLAR principles in their delivery. Bridging programs are intended to help immigrants ease into their chosen occupation by linking workers’ existing skills to those required in certain professions and skilled trades, while identifying any gaps in learning. These programs are offered at employment organizations, colleges and universities.
  • In Nova Scotia (NS) and Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) there are two key organizations that use PLAR as a central focus to all of their work: Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) in NS and AXIS Career Services at the Association for New Canadians (ANC) in NL.

More information on these specific services can be found in the provincial sections of the Directory.

3. Regulatory Bodies

Some regulatory bodies use PLAR to evaluate your knowledge and skills as part of the recognition processes. Refer to the Directory for your appropriate regulatory body.

What do I need for the PLAR process?

One of the best ways to prepare for the PLAR process is to gather everything you can about your learning experiences.

  • Do you have your permanent records from your college, university or trade school?
  • Do you have letters of reference and job descriptions from employers?
  • Do you have pictures of yourself performing tasks at work or other documented evidence that show your job skills or community work? For example, if you managed a family-run grocery store, you may have written advertisements for a local newspaper or composed job ads to find new employees. If you were a structural engineer, you may have produced drawings for a new apartment building you worked on as a contractor.

Pre-Arrival Note:

Be sure to bring all of your documents with you when you come to Canada. It is much easier to gather this information before you arrive in Canada than to seek this information from overseas.

How can I organize all of this information?

In Canada, all of this information and evidence of your learning experiences are referred to as a “portfolio.” Any relevant information and evidence that supports or validates what you have learning should go into your portfolio.

Another use of your portfolio is for when you begin your job search. In Canada, there are many organizations to assist you with this process. The Directory  includes listings of these organizations in each province and territory.

These organizations can work with you to refine your portfolio, to help you organize information to draft your resume and connect with employers. In Canada, employers want to see and hear proof of what you can do. The information in your portfolio – letters of reference, pictures of you performing tasks in your grocery store or at your apartment building site – will help employers know what you can do. (Also see the Employment section below)

A portfolio is also one of the most frequent requirements for PLAR in Canadian institutions. The Directory includes listings of these institutions in each province and territory.  The Canadian Association for Prior Learning Assessment (CAPLA) has an excellent guide to portfolio development (“Plotting my Direction with a Learning Portfolio”) at http://capla.ca/plotting-my-direction-with-a learning-portfolio/

Finally, you may also want to consider developing an e-Portfolio. Increasingly, college and university students and other individuals in Canada are developing e-Portfolios to show what they have done and can do. The e-Portfolio would include all of the information in a regular portfolio but would be able to be viewed on the internet. This would allow for the inclusion of links to other sites and videos. For example, the grocery store manager may have videos of his/her store showing how he/she is training staff to use a new bar-coding system to keep track of stock; and the engineer may have links to a journal or newspaper article that highlights his/her engineering work on a specific project.

How to find a job using your work and life experiences?

There are many employment agencies that can help you with your job search. Immigrant serving organizations across Canada have years of experience working with newcomers to find employment. The Directory includes agencies that have experience both working with PLAR and helping immigrants find employment.

In addition to these organizations, there are immigrant serving and other agencies across Canada that can help you find employment. Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC’s) website (www.cic.gc.ca) has listings of all such organizations in each province and territory. In addition, each provincial or territorial ministry of employment will have links to agencies that can assist you.

Pre-Arrival Note:

CIC funds two excellent services providing pre-arrival support for individuals planning to immigrate to Canada:

Both programs offer services in different countries. The CIIP program is able to link their clients when they arrive in Canada with service organizations through their Focal Point Partners. The Directory includes listings for both of these organizations in the Canada-Wide section.


Foreign Credential Recognition (FCR) is a formal process of evaluating educational credentials (such as degrees, diplomas and certificates) acquired outside of Canada. In Canada there are assessment organizations that conduct this evaluation. In some cases, professional regulatory bodies, colleges, universities or employers conduct this service.

There is a cost to having international credentials assessed and it is important to research your occupation or profession before devoting time and money to a formal assessment. Your research should include the regulatory body that represents your profession or trade. Your regulatory body may conduct its own credential assessment. As well, your regulatory body will provide you with information on language requirements (for more information on this, go to the next section on Language). Checking first can save you both time and money.

Some professional bodies have begun to do their own credential evaluation (e.g. medical doctors). It is important for you to check with the regulatory body representing your profession for more information.

Some employers may find a formal assessment valuable, but it is important to remember that having your credentials assessed does not guarantee employment, and employers are interested in many things including,

  • The experience you have gained in your occupation or profession, while performing job-related skills;
  • Your awareness of the differences/similarities in your occupation or profession in the Canadian context; and,
  • Your ability to work with others, solve problems and be creative.

An excellent source for more information on qualifications assessment and recognition is CICIC (Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials) at www.cicic.ca. For information on credential assessment services see the Canada-Wide section of the Directory for “Credential Evaluation Service” listings, or see the Alliance of Credential Evaluation Services of Canada (ACESC) at www.canalliance.org.

Pre-Arrival Note:

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) now includes Educational Credential Assessments as part of the immigration process. Check with CIC’s website for more information on ECA and the organizations in Canada that are approved to provide them. Organizations that provide ECAs are also listed in the Canada-Wide Section of the Directory.

Some Canadian credential evaluation service providers can assess your diplomas and degrees before you arrive in Canada. Check their websites for more information. Also be sure to bring academic records with you when coming to Canada. Bring original documents whenever possible. Some newcomers have needed to return to their home countries, at considerable expense, to retrieve these documents because they forgot to bring them.


Canada has two official languages: English and French. Each of the provinces and territories has declared its own official languages, and it is important to be aware of those differences:

  • Quebec – French is the official language
  • New Brunswick – French & English are both official languages
  • All of the remaining provinces and territories – English is the official language

Language proficiency in English and/or French is essential not only for immigration to and citizenship in Canada, but also for finding a job in Canada. There may be different levels of language ability required and different types of tests used to evaluate language capacity. It is important to know as much as possible about the language requirements for employment or licensure.

  1. Immigration to Canada

English and/or French language skills are now a part of the immigration process. For up-to-date information on this area, refer to Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s website at www.cic.gc.ca. CIC requires test results from the following language tests: IELTS, CELPIP or TEF.

  1. Regulatory Bodies in Canada

Regulatory bodies use various language assessments based on their individual requirements. In all cases it is best to check with your regulatory body to find out about their requirements. The Directory  includes listings of the national regulatory bodies in the Canada-Wide section, with links to provincial organizations. Checking with the regulatory body first can save you time and money.

If you need to consider language upgrading, there are language programs offered by educational institutions (publicly-funded colleges and universities; and, privately-funded training and language schools) across the country. There are fees associated with these programs. Two organizations that have listings of schools providing language programs are Languages Canada (www.languagescanada.ca) and Canadian Bureau of International Education (www.cbie-bcei.ca).

  1. Employment in Canada

The ability to communicate effectively in either French or English is a key factor in the success of newcomers to Canada. This has been shown in a number of studies looking at the connection between language ability and successful integration into Canadian society,1 such as:

  • A 2005 Statistics Canada study found that employment rates of immigrants increased with their ability to speak English and that language proficiency had the biggest impact on their ability to find employment in a high-skilled job or in their intended field.
  • A 2008 Statistics Canada study found that literacy skills play a role in the wage gap between Canadian-born workers and newcomers to Canada.
  • In a 2009 Compas Research survey on strategies for integrating internationally educated professionals into the Canadian work force, 87% of employers cited inadequate language skills as the top barrier preventing the foreign-educated from finding suitable employment.

To raise your language level, there are two main sources of language courses of study:

  • LINC or CLIC is the government-funded language program available for free in all provinces and territories of Canada. It is a language program with a curriculum based on settlement in Canada; and,
  • Language Programs offered by educational institutions (publicly-funded colleges and universities; and, privately-funded training and language schools) across the country. There are fees associated with these programs. The curriculum is not settlement-based; and in many cases may be focused on learning new skills in a Canadian context or preparing for more advanced college and university studies. Two organizations that have listings of schools providing language programs are Languages Canada (www.languagescanada.ca) and Canadian Bureau of International Education (www.cbie-bcei.ca).


Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) &

Cours de lange pour les immigrants au Canada (CLIC)

LINC and CLIC are free (government-funded) language classes for newcomers to Canada. CLIC French language classes are offered in Quebec and New Brunswick. LINC English language classes are not offered in Quebec, but are offered in all other provinces and territories.LINC and CLIC help newcomers learn the English or French necessary to integrate into Canada. LINC and CLIC are free (government-funded) for newcomers and clients can stay in the program as long as they are attending classes. LINC classes are an excellent means of improving your English level, and each language provider will update your CLB level as you progress through the program.CIC has an excellent guide to finding organizations that provide LINC and CLIC at www.cic.gc.ca.


  1. Citizenship in Canada

The best source of information about language requirements for Canadian citizenship is Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC’s) website: www.cic.gc.ca.

The following is a summary of that information:

  • To become a citizen, you must show that you have “adequate knowledge” of either English or French.
  • “Adequate knowledge” is defined by CIC as having the equivalent of Level 4 for speaking and listening in English or French using the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) or Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NCLC). For more information on CLB or NCLC, please see below.
  • Documents proving achievement of at least Level 4 are needed for your citizenship application.
  • Proof can be obtained from,
    – evidence of completion of secondary or post-secondary education in English or French in Canada or abroad,
    – evidence from a government-funded language training program (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada [LINC] or Cours de langue pour les immigrants au Canada [CLIC]). For more information on LINC or CLIC, please see the information on these programs at the end of this Language Section.
    – evidence from a CIC-approved third-party test.

The information provided here on language requirements is only a summary of the information available at CIC’s website: www.cic.gc.ca.



Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) &

Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NCLC)

The Government of Canada uses the Canadian Language Benchmark system, which measures language ability in four different levels: reading, writing, listening and speaking. CLB assessment is available at assessment centres throughout Canada. This assessment is free as part of entry into Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC’s) Language Instruction for Newcomers (LINC) program. The LINC program offers classes from CLB literacy level through to level 9 (levels offered in each area of the country will vary based on need).



1 CIC Website: www.cic.gc.ca