Participant Outcomes, Perceptions, and Experiences in the Internationally Educated Engineers Qualification Program, University of Manitoba: An Exploratory Study

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Friesen, Marcia R.
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Immigration, economic, and regulatory trends in Canada have challenged all professions to examine the processes by which immigrant professionals (international graduates) achieve professional licensure and meaningful employment in Canada. The Internationally Educated Engineers Qualification Program (IEEQ) at the University of Manitoba was developed as an alternate pathway to integrate international engineering graduates into the engineering profession in Manitoba. However, universities have the neither mandate nor the historical practice to facilitate licensure for immigrant professionals and, thus, the knowledge base for program development and delivery is predominantly experiential. This study was developed to address the void in the knowledge base and support the program’s ongoing development by conducting a critical, exploratory, participant-oriented evaluation of the IEEQ Program for both formative and summative purposes. The research questions focussed on how the IEEQ participants perceived and described their experiences in the IEEQ Program, and how the participants’ outcomes in the IEEQ Program compared to international engineering graduates pursuing other licensing pathways. The study was built on an interpretivist theoretical approach that supported a primarily qualitative methodology with selected quantitative elements. Data collection was grounded in focus group interviews, written questionnaires, student reports, and program records for data collection, with inductive data analysis for qualitative data and descriptive statistics for quantitative data. The findings yielded rich understandings of participants’ experiences in the IEEQ Program, their outcomes relative to international engineering graduates (IEGs) pursuing other licensing pathways, and their perceptions of their own adaptation to the Canadian engineering profession. Specifically, the study suggests that foreign credentials recognition processes have tended to focus on the recognition and translation of human and/or institutional capital. Yet, access to and acquisition of social and cultural capital need to receive equal attention. Further, the study suggested that, while it is reasonable that language fluency is a pre-requisite for successful professional integration, there is also a fundamental link between language and cognition in that international engineering graduates are challenged to understand and assimilate information for which they may not possess useful language or the underlying mental constructs. The findings have implications for our collective understanding of the scope of the professional engineering body of knowledge.
Internationally educated engineers, foreign credentials recognition, qualifications recognition, professional regulation, engineering body of knowledge, engineering epistemology, qualitative research in engineering