Mentorship Program and Resources
AAFMP has observed a steady increase in the number of internationally trained individuals (ITIs) inquiring about forestry professional designation within Alberta. Applicants are faced with the challenge of participating in a credential assessment to determine if their international schooling has met the competency requirements for entry in a professional regulatory body in Alberta. Often there are competency gaps identified where they are required to gain additional education or hands on field training to bridge the gaps before they can obtain their full designation as a regulated member. And while our experiences with inquiries from ITIs may appear unique to forest management professionals, we know that agrologists, engineers and a range of other Professionally Regulated Originations (PROs) are facing similar challenges that could be addressed through a common approach.
We are proposing a collaborative approach to developing a mentorship program model, resources and tools to better equip mentors and ITIs to gain employment in rural Alberta. This collaboration would not only occur with the named proponent and contractors, but also through a stakeholder advisory committee and community engagement processes. We are proposing activities that would include engaging with communities, employers and professional regulatory bodies and service organizations to identify future possibilities, create connectivity between stakeholders and generate diversity.
This project will include: the establishment of a strategic stakeholder advisory committee; a literature review of existing research, mentorship programs for PROs and other service organizations and best practices; creation of a collection of existing resources; an assessment of employers, service groups and PROs to identify successful practices and system gaps; the development of new resources to fill gaps; the development of a website to make all resources available to the public and the promotion of these resources.
We believe that we have assembled a team that not only has a strong background in research, stakeholder relations, leadership and community engagement, but that has the passion and creativity to do an exceptional job of this project. Our staff and collaborators have a passion for mentorship programs and developing resources that are well suited to target audiences. We also embrace the expansion of diversity within small rural communities and understand and live the dynamics of rural Alberta.
Who Will it Benefit?
International migration was the largest contributor to the province’s growth (0.26%). Alberta is projected to add roughly 2.1 million residents over the next 29 years. Most of the expected growth will be due to migration, with 48% from international migration. This immigration is expected to primarily be in the Edmonton to Calgary corridor as historically nine out of ten immigrants initially reside in this area. Approximately 15% of new members come in through the professional designation credential assessment process from ITI professionals and individuals that have completed degrees through programs that are not accredited in Canada or Alberta. This number is increasing due to interprovincial and international migration. Many of these individuals either decide the process is too onerous or they spend a considerable amount of time and money going through the assessment process and trying to fill competency gaps. This is often because of the requirement for Alberta specific industry practices and legislative knowledge.
We know forestry is not a unique situation. Other PROs have similar challenges in their application process and mentorship programs and this program provides an opportunity for the AAFMP to develop meaningful resources that not only meet the needs of our members now and in the future, but to also meet the needs of all the PROs in the province.
A robust mentorship program with a rural focus would assist new immigrants in developing careers in rural Alberta where there could potentially be far more opportunity because of the anticipated minimal projected growth in those areas.
The primary benefactors of this program would be ITIs and rural Alberta employers. ITIs that are educated and had professional jobs prior to immigration can often face the frustration of not being able to secure the same level of work in Canada. The five biggest challenges faced by immigrants landing in Canada are: language barriers, finding employment, cultural shock, isolation and climate. Hand in hand with these barriers is how immigrants are treated in their new communities. Local employers may not understand the value or challenges in hiring ITIs. A mentorship program can be a strong bridge in a mentee’s support system.
The secondary benefactors would be the communities-as they would benefit from increased diversity, perspectives and professional expertise.
The general public would also benefit from increased skills levels of professionals delivering services.