Leading the Way: Multi-Stakeholder Work Groups

A collaborative model for making systemic change in regulated occupations

To work in a regulated occupation requires a particular certification or licensure. Skilled immigrants understand the importance of high standards of practice, but they need fair and realistic opportunities to have their qualifications assessed and recognized so they can work in their fields.  This includes:

  • clear, transparent and timely pathways to licensure without unnecessary barriers
  • orientation and bridging programs

With these challenges in mind, ISANS developed the Multi-Stakeholder Work Group model. This model recognizes that to make significant change and develop collaborative solutions, we need to work with other key stakeholders. We learned that these work groups needed to be profession-specific. We learned that it takes time for trust to develop and that regular communication is essential. We learned that by working together, with an action agenda, we could begin to make a difference.

Four work groups had been meeting for several years, but momentum increased substantially in October 2011. At that time, a special project began which supports an ISANS staff – working within the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education – to provide leadership to this initiative. The number of work groups has increased and includes: Engineering, Pharmacy, Medicine, Law, Nursing, Dentistry Professions, Construction Electrician and Medical Lab Technology – with others in development. Each group is co-chaired by ISANS and a well-recognized leader in that occupation.

Members of each work group include:

  • Regulatory bodies & professional associations
  • Educational institutions
  • Employers & Unions
  • Sector councils
  • Government
  • Internationally educated professionals
  • ISANS employment staff

As a result of this work, barriers are removed, licensure process changes made and new pathways created. Information is shared, issues identified and discussed, and opportunities for partnership explored and pursued. The work groups incubate new ideas and advise on special projects. Perhaps most important, the momentum for change is sustained.

A few examples of progress and accomplishments are:


  • Removal of the requirement for internship to include a hospital setting. This requirement had posed great difficulties for International Pharmacy Graduates (IPGs) because of the huge demand for hospital placements. It was an unnecessary barrier. Now IPGs can complete their internships in community settings which are much easier to access. Other changes to the licensure pathway have also been made.
  • Work Group members are active contributors to the ISANS Skills lab training program which prepares IPGs to take clinical skills assessments.  This is a collaborative support program.
  • The Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia (PANS) welcomes IPGs as members enabling them to get professional insurance and participate in PANS programs. PANS is an active member of the Work Group.


  • Internationally Educated Engineers (IEE) with ten years of work experience may have their skills assessed through a competency interview instead of written examinations. This is a progressive example of competency assessment.
  • ISANS Communications & Orientation program for IEEs is recognized by Engineers Nova Scotia as credit towards Canadian experience. This development was a direct result of discussions held at the IEE Work Group.
  • A joint project has recently been funded to develop an innovative worksite-based competency assessment. This collaborative project includes Engineers Nova Scotia, Engineers Canada, ISANS and local engineering employers. The Work Group was integral to the conception and development of the project and will serve as an advisory group. The project is funded by the Nova Scotia government.


  • A new pathway to licensure was created as a result of the Work Group. The IMG Clerkship Program is a joint program between the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness, and Dalhousie University. Successful completion of the program means IMG participants become Canadian graduates and are therefore eligible for residency positions. A “return of service” is required. Ten IMGs have taken part so far and are currently in clerkship, residency or in practice.
  • An IMG Observership Program has been established and is very helpful to IMGs. This is a partnership among the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Doctors Nova Scotia and ISANS, all active participants in the IMG Work Group. Physicians in Family Practice across the province are also key partners.  This program inspired a similar one in the Law profession.
  • A recent project is underway which will develop an online orientation for IMGs. This orientation will increase access significantly – including pre-arrival. This project was conceived and discussed at the Work Group and is led by Dalhousie Postgraduate Medical Education.

Other Work Groups have also made progress and more is expected as the new ones become better established. Observation suggests that there are significant results of the Multi-stakeholder Work Group model. However, there is a need to examine the model and assess its outcomes. Therefore, a rigorous evaluation, conducted by an external consultant, will be underway shortly to investigate the impact of this unique, profession-specific model for addressing the challenges of international qualifications recognition.