Impact Stories

United Way BC’s Public Policy Institute Empowers Newcomer Workplace Advocacy

Discover Success Stories from United Way BC’s PPI Alumni, Leading Advocates for Policy Change

United Way BC’s Public Policy Institute has long been recognized as a hub of excellence in public policy education. By combining theoretical knowledge with practical experience, the Institute equips non-profit leaders with the tools necessary to navigate complex policy landscapes and effect systemic change. Read a success story below!

Joy Abasta, a community health registered nurse with a Masters in Nursing and Education from the Philippines, arrived in British Columbia with dreams of continuing her career as a Registered Nurse (RN) in Canada.

However, she soon faced the daunting reality of navigating the complex and expensive credential recognition process. Like many internationally-trained professionals, Abasta found herself taking low-skilled jobs while trying to meet the requirements for nursing certification, feeling overwhelmed by the obstacles in her path.

“I let go of my dream of becoming an RN in Canada, because I felt like it was too much of an ordeal,” she said.

Watch Joy Abasta share her lived experience story, followed by David Lee presenting his policy advocacy proposal

Abasta’s story is not unique, underscoring the challenges faced by newcomers in accessing employment in their field of training and experience prior to coming to Canada.

Organizations like MOSAIC are at the forefront of championing this cause, offering support and advocacy for internationally-trained professionals seeking to integrate into the Canadian workforce.  Abasta went on to complete her Master of Public Health at Simon Fraser University and is now MOSAIC’s Senior Manager of Community Health. 

Championing the Cause 

David Lee, Director of Employment, Language, Social Enterprise at MOSAIC, recognized the need for strategic advocacy to address these barriers. Enrolling in United Way BC’s Public Policy Institute (PPI), Lee embarked on a journey to enhance his skills in influencing policy change, with a focus on improving credential recognition for professionals like Abasta. 

“A lot of our advocacy work was based on responses to media requests. When there are calls by the government for input, we would provide it. However, through this program, we could develop a more proactive and structured approach, allowing us to be more in the driver’s seat in terms of engaging with the government regarding public policy change,” he said.  

Lee stated that the PPI program helped him better understand government processes, how to make his organization’s advocacy work more strategic and effective, and how to align requests with the government’s publicly stated priorities.  

“Key takeaways include learning about government operations and gaining insights into the perspectives of individuals working within it. Not only at the public-facing level, but there are also many individuals within the government bureaucracy who can be important allies in public policy work. PPI really opened my eyes to the importance and value of developing relationships with people such as policy analysts within various ministries and departments,” Lee said. 

The PPI program, a six-month program offered by United Way BC, equips leaders in the non-profit sector with the tools and knowledge needed to navigate the complexities of public policy. Through innovative training and access to experienced professionals, participants like Lee gain insights into effective advocacy strategies and learn to engage with government stakeholders proactively. 

Advocacy in Action 

Reflecting on his experience, Lee emphasizes the importance of understanding government processes and building relationships with key decision-makers. By leveraging the insights gained from the PPI, Lee and his colleagues at MOSAIC were able to actively contribute to the development of the International Credentials Recognition Act, ensuring that the voices of newcomers were heard in shaping policy. 

David Lee and Joy Abasta (right) are pictured with BC Premier David Eby (left) at a town hall regarding BC’s new International Credentials Recognition Act in Oct. 2023.

“It did help to inform that legislation. The voices of internationally educated professionals that we brought to the table were absolutely heard by government and it was a driver for why they pushed this legislation through,” Lee said. 

The impact of this advocacy is tangible, as evidenced by the recent funding received to launch a pilot project providing paid work placements for Internationally Educated Nurses (IENs) at a Community Health Centre in New Westminster. This initiative not only provided valuable employment experience in a healthcare setting to IENs but will also serve as a catalyst for broader systemic change. 

The Long Game 

While progress may be incremental, Lee recognizes the significance of long-term advocacy efforts in effecting lasting change. Armed with the skills and insights gained from the PPI, he remains committed to advancing the cause of newcomer integration and advocating for policies that promote equitable access to employment. 

As Lee reflects on his journey, he emphasizes the impact of the United Way BC’s Public Policy Institute , describing it as “the program I never knew I needed.”

PPI continues to empower leaders like Lee to drive positive change, paving the way for a more inclusive and equitable society. 

To learn more about United Way BC’s Public Policy Institute, visit the program website here.