Innovations That Inspire

Bridging the International Accounting Gap

Recognition Year(s): 2017
School: School of Business, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
Location: Canada

Innovation Statement

The Canadian Account Fundamentals (CAF) certificate program is a unique training partnership between the SAIT School of Business and the Centre for Newcomers, a local nonprofit that helps foreign-trained accountants launch Canadian accounting careers.

Call to Action

Foreign-trained accountants coming to Canada struggle to find work in their field because their international credentials and work experience are not recognized by local Canadian employers. They bring their families to Canada in the search for a better life but find it can be a frustrating and demoralizing experience to get on their feet professionally and economically.

To address this need, we partnered with the Calgary-based Centre for Newcomers, a local nonprofit organization that provides settlement services to newcomers. Together, we collaborated to develop a customized certificate program that allows newcomer accountants to gain reciprocal accounting acumen on Canadian accounting practices and laws. We determined that participants would require a practicum placement after obtaining the Canadian accounting training, so as to obtain the valuable local experience required to find gainful employment in the accounting field.

This partnership is the only one of its kind in Calgary.


The Canadian Accounting Fundamentals (CAF) certificate of achievement is SAIT’s component of the Centre for Newcomer’s larger program, Canadian Business Essentials for Accountants (a 34-week full-time program that includes interview and career skills training to help students transition to a Canadian workplace). This unique partnership program began in 2011, runs twice per year, and is currently running for the eighth cohort.

CAF consists of three three-credit courses: two intermediate-level accounting courses and one course on taxation that run as full-time studies for a 12-week period. Lectures are delivered every morning, while afternoons are set up as tutorials monitored by the SAIT instructor. Participants have benefited from the opportunity to learn and complete assignments in a collaborative, supportive setting. This innovative model ensures that these students can be successful by giving them time to apply their knowledge and verify concepts with the instructor.

The courses are delivered on site at the Centre for Newcomer’s offices. To ensure that participants benefit from a program that maintains SAIT’s high academic standards, we contracted a qualified instructor and ensured that the necessary computer software was installed on the Centre’s computers.


Since the program began in 2011, nearly 100 foreign-trained accountants have enrolled in this training, and 100 percent of those who took the certificate also completed their practicum. SAIT is the only post-secondary institution partnering with the Centre for Newcomers on this initiative.

Foreign-trained accountants arriving in Calgary now have a clear pathway to finding a meaningful career in their professional field. Many of the individuals enrolled in these courses have been in Canada less than two years. This program shortens their time to competency and to finding related entry- or intermediate-level work, after completing a practicum placement arranged by the Centre for Newcomers. Some of the earlier graduates have progressed to more senior financial analyst roles, with one becoming a chief financial officer for a nonprofit organization.

The students are welcomed as part of the SAIT and business community. These courses, along with an assessment of their international credentials, meet some of the prerequisites needed to enter the Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA) Professional Education Program, en route to a CPA designation.