Skilled project managers are in high demand across many sectors in Canada. While this is not a regulated occupation, those newcomers who have obtained certification from an industry association will have a much easier time finding good opportunities and greater compensation. A high degree of proficiency in English, however, will generally be required, at least in larger organizations, as project managements requires clear and persuasive communication.
As described in Wikipedia, “project management” is “the practice of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria at the specified time. The primary challenge… is to achieve all of the project goals within the given constraints… The secondary—and more ambitious—challenge is to optimize the allocation of necessary inputs and apply them to meet pre-defined objectives.”
Projects requiring dedicated project managers can be as complex as multi-year the construction of infrastructure, such as airports and tunnels which require years to complete, or as relatively simple as the move of an office location.
Engineering is a discipline often aligned with project management and indeed, for newcomers to Canada who have trained and worked as engineers overseas, but find it too difficult to qualify for professional accreditation as engineers in this country, project management may be a good alternative to consider.
Other closely related occupations include supply chain management, operations management, and logistics.
Types of Employers
Every medium- to large-size company is likely to have business development, client-oriented, or other special projects that require management and coordination and, therefore, the need for project managers.
In the private sector, there is particular demand for managing larger scale projects in fields such as:
- Information Technology (IT);
- Environmental programs;
- Event planning;
- Telecommunications; and
Other project management opportunities can be found in the government, education, and not-for-profit sectors.
Consulting firms, too, are constantly overseeing special projects and change management for their clients and have a continuous need for project managers, especially those with industry-specific knowledge.
There is no regulation of project management in Canada. Anyone can call himself or herself a “project manager” or “project coordinator”. In smaller companies and for smaller projects in bigger companies, management of a project may be assigned to any interested employee who has the right aptitude and qualities.
However, for large projects, certification is more likely to be a business requirement, if not a legal requirement.
Some of the skills and qualities that make for a good project manager are described in a blog post of the software company, WorkFlowMax, So you want to be a project manager? Here’s everything you need to know! These include:
- Being well-organised;
- Having vision & Focus;
- Having leadership ability;
- Familiarity with project management software; and
- Having good business acumen.
There are two organizations whose certifications of project managers are widely recognized in Canada:
- Project Management Institute (PMI), an international organization, whose Toronto chapter is one of the largest, worldwide, with over 5,500 members; and
- Project Management Association of Canada (PMAC), which describes itself as “Canada’s official project management certification and standards-setting body (although its use of the word “official” may be misleading to newcomers, as having some legal meaning.).”
Project Management Institute certification
PMI offers various levels of certification, but the most common one is probably “Project Management Professional (PMP)”. This requires:
- A four-year, bachelor’s degree, plus 4,500 hours leading and directing projects; or
- A high school degree, plus 7,500 hours leading and directing projects; and
- 35 hours of project management education.
The PMP certification exam has 200 multiple-choice questions and applicants have four hours to complete it. To maintain a PMP certification, one must earn 60 professional development units (PDUs) every three years.
One organization in the GTA, UnstoppableMe, offers a free, 11 to 13 week program for internationally-trained professionals, specifically to prepare for the PMP exam. The program walks participants through the material, answers questions and give them tips and tricks to prepare for the exam.
Project Management Association of Canada certification
PMAC offers four levels of certification, under the auspices of the International Project Management Association (IPMA):
- Certified Projects Director (Level A), aimed at “very experienced and competent project, programme and portfolio managers”;
- Certified Senior Project Manager (Level B), also aimed at “very experienced and competent project, programme and portfolio managers”;
- Certified Project Manager (Level C), aimed at those with 3-5 years of working experience;
- Certified Project Management Associate (Level-D), aimed at starting professionals.
At the lowest level, Certified Project Management Associate, only a self-assessment form and an exam are required by PMAC. The exam includes 100 multiple choice questions, lasting 100 minutes. There are also 13 essay questions, which are marked on content, not spelling and grammar, but for which responses must be understandable to the assessors. The exam is offered in proctored, written format, as well as a self-scheduled online option, which must involve a guarantor.
As the level of certification increases, additional PMAC requirements are added, beyond a self-assessment and an exam. For the Certified Project Manager level, for example, a project report must also be submitted.
Training and employment programs in the GTA for internationally trained project managers
Within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), there are numerous organizations that offer programs for newcomers who are internationally trained project managers. These programs fall under the categories of:
- OSLT, to improve listening, speaking, and workplace communication skills;
- Courses and study groups for industry certification;
- Bridging programs.
- Employment search assistance; and
The GTA organizations offering such programs for include:
- ACCES Employment;
- Centennial College;
- Collège Boréal (in French);
- Durham College;
- George Brown College;
- Humber College;
- Ryerson University;
- Sheridan College;
- University of Toronto;
- UnstoppableMe; and
- York University
For a more in-depth discussion, see our post: Training programs in various occupations.
To search for upcoming programs, visit our Programs page and filter for “Project management” under “sector”.
For newcomers with international training and experience, we also recommend reading our post on “Mentorship for newcomers”.
For newcomers without international training and experience in project management, all of the colleges and universities within the GTA offer certificate and degree programs in project management, some of which are general, while others are specialized in the fields such as construction, IT, health care, and environment.
Federal Internship for Newcomers Program
Newcomers who have been in Canada for 10 years or less may wish to keep an eye out for the Federal Internship for Newcomers (FIN) Program, This program offers eligible newcomers a chance to gain valuable temporary work experience and training opportunities with Canadian federal, provincial and municipal organizations, including in project management. Candidates are hired as temporary employees with the aim of helping them to understand job application and hiring processes in Canada; learn about Canadian workplace culture; network with professionals; attend training sessions; and be matched with a public service mentor. Positions are offered annually and in 2019 were posted in early May. The minimum English language proficiency level required is CLB 7. For the 2019-2020 program, candidates had to live or be able to work in one of the following locations:
- Ottawa/Gatineau (or within a 125 kilometre radius)
- Halifax (or within a 100 kilometre radius)
- John’s, NL (or within a 150 kilometre radius)
- Toronto (or within a 125 kilometre radius)
- Victoria (or within a 75 kilometre radius)
To apply for this program as a project manager, candidates must have a post-secondary degree for all or most positions offered. Interested newcomers should register as soon as possible with a partner immigrant-serving organization (ISO) and get a full screening by the beginning of April.
Need for English language proficiency
For newcomers to enroll in a project management bridging or work study program in the GTA, a minimum CLB level of 7 or 8 is generally required. For OSLT programs in project management, which include work-related English instruction, a minimum of CLB 6 is required.
Because project management requires effective communications, both verbal and written, to be successful in an English-speaking job, a minimum of CLB 8 or higher will most often be required by employers. However, in the IT field, which is experiencing such high demand, a little less English language proficiency may be offset by a newcomer’s expertise with the technology. Smaller companies may also be a bit less demanding, in terms of language proficiency.
Using project management skills for a different occupation
The following is a success story of one newcomer, who came to Canada as a trained project manager, but switched careers, relying upon some of his previously acquired skills: Switching sectors solved project manager’s employment challenge (Immigrant Services Society of BC.)
Two non-profit organizations which offer loans to newcomers for training and certification on favourable terms are Windmill Microlending and Access Community Capital Fund. Windmill Microlending specifically targets internationally-trained professionals and tradespeople seeking to practice in Canada, with an interest-free loan program for refugees. Its loans cover certification expenses, as well as Canadian training and its related costs. The loans for training offered by Access Community Capital Fund are intended for all Canadian citizens, permanent residents and convention refugees in the GTA and Hamilton area, who are facing financial barriers. For further details, see our post, A guide to loans for newcomers to cover licensing and training.
According to the OntarioColleges.ca website:
- “Because of the advanced level of knowledge and training needed to fill project manager positions, salaries are usually very high. The average starting salary range for graduates is between $38,000 and $56,000 per year. Certified PMPs can have salaries that fall between $85,000 and $120,000, depending on position, organization and experience.”
The Project Management Institute’s (PMI)® Salary Survey (2017) listed the median annual salary for project managers in Canada at $97K.
Talent Beyond Boundaries – an alternate route to employment in Canada for skilled refugees still abroad
A non-profit organization, Talent Beyond Boundaries is helping skilled refugees come to Canada, in the “economic immigration” category, rather than under the much smaller, “refugee” classification. For those refugees still abroad, who have training and experience in project management, this might be a route to explore.