Wanting to start a family in Canada, Olufemi, a civil engineer from Nigeria, arrived in Toronto with his wife in 2016.
Before coming to North America, Olufemi earned a Bachelor of Technology in Civil Engineering (B.Tech) and a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering (M.Sc). Both degrees were instrumental in starting a successful, nine-year career as a structural engineer and later as a lecturer in a Nigerian university.
“As soon as I arrived in Canada, I tried to look for a job as a civil engineer. I sent some applications and got a phone call, but I never had an in-person interview. They told me I needed to get Canadian experience,” Olufemi recalls.
To be a professional engineer (P.Eng.) in Canada, an internationally-trained immigrant needs to become licensed by a Canadian engineering association. However, individuals can still work in engineering —even without a license— as long as they are supervised by a P.Eng. Even with this knowledge, Olufemi’s lack of Canadian experience became an obstacle.
Realizing it was going to be challenging to find a job at the same professional level as the one he previously held internationally, Olufemi went back to Nigeria a couple of months after arriving in Canada. In Nigeria, he had maintained a job as a lecturer in a university and was required to complete his contract.
After six months, he returned to Canada and applied to the Engineering Skills Enhancement Bridging Program at Humber College. He wanted to be trained in the latest technical and software skills that were in demand by Ontario employers, as well as to sharpen his communications skills.
“I found out about Windmill Microlending through Humber College. At that time, I was unemployed. I applied for the loan and received the help that I needed. With the loan, I paid for the program,” Olufemi says.
After only one month in the program, Olufemi got his first job as a Quality Control Inspector at a well-known construction company in Canada. He was able to work full-time because his classes took place evenings and weekends. For eight months, Olufemi did asphalt mix design and quality assurance, as well as control of asphalt materials.
“It wasn’t easy to get my first job. I lacked the knowledge on how to go about getting a job. I thought a lot about going back to Nigeria for good,” Olufemi comments.
After completing the program, Olufemi received a Certificate of Achievement from Humber College and a one-year membership with the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE). A few months later, he left his job for a new role as a Senior Field Inspector in a company that provides engineering and construction services in various industries.
In the meantime, and through Construction Specifications Canada (CSC), Olufemi completed an additional program and became a Certified Construction Contract Administrator (CCCA).
Now, Olufemi works as Construction Inspector on a water main project at a firm that provides management and consultancy services. Although this position is at the same professional level as the one he had in Nigeria, Olufemi’s plan is to return to academia.
“All my academic research in Nigeria was based on construction materials and how they could be improved. I wish I could still go on that path, hopefully in the future,” Olufemi explains.
Although Olufemi isn’t a P.Eng. in Canada just yet, he has been an engineer-in-training since 2017 and hopes to soon become a fully qualified engineer. Since he is gainfully employed now, he wants to take his time accumulating experience and studying for the mandatory Professional Practice Examination (PPE), which tests a professional’s knowledge of ethics and Canadian law as it relates to engineering.
“As a civil engineer from another country, you must upgrade your knowledge and obtain a Canadian certification. It’ll help improve your odds of getting a job interview and probably the job. If you have to take a loan for that, do it. It’ll pay off in the end.”
If there is one thing Olufemi misses the most about Nigeria, it’s his network. “You never know that you have a network until you move to another country and see how important it is to have networks in your professional field. I moved to Canada, and I saw the effect of the networks. It’s not just about getting the job; it’s about having the right information.”
Three years have passed since Olufemi arrived in Canada, and he’s still amazed at how diverse the Greater Toronto Area is. “There’s probably a person from every country in the world [here]. It amazes me how easily you come across a lot of people from so many countries. Many of whom I never thought I was going to see in my life.”