Thursday, June 23, 2022

Program waives fees for engineering technologists with refugee status in Alberta

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Engineering technology professionals from war-torn countries moving to Lethbridge or other parts of the province can benefit from a new program, which helps them to work in their field without having to return to school.

The Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET) has waived all application fees for refugees seeking to become members and attain designation in Alberta. The fees can total up to $1,000 per member over time, according to the association. 

“People in those circumstances often don’t have the resources that they need to invest in trying to get qualified in their professions so we just wanted to try and do something to help,” said Barry Cavanaugh, CEO of ASET. “I think it’s important to do things that make it possible for newcomers to fit in and work with and to use the knowledge they have.”

The association also has a program that provides a fast route to already trained professionals. In 2016 it launched a competency-based assessment program, which it said was the first of its kind in Canada. It enables people who were educated in non ASET accredited institutions, whether that is from a different country or here in Canada, to show their expertise and have a faster route to establishing careers. ASET eliminated the Canadian work experience requirement, making it one of the few regulatory bodies in Alberta to do this.

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We needed to make it as objective as possible to create an absolutely level playing field,” Cavanaugh said. “We [are] able to assess your qualifications on the same criteria without any subjectivity at all and in a way that really delivers a good assessment of your competence.”

He added he does not know of many professions that have similar assessment programs, but he believes it is becoming clear that it is needed. He said it was an expensive process to make the program available, but it was worth it for the association.

Mila Wagner moved to Alberta in 2016, but did not know about the competency assessment program. She found she was unable to get a job in her field with her multiple engineering technology-related degrees from Ukraine and had to earn a civil engineering technology diploma at Lethbridge College.

“If I could have been accredited through ASET from my previous schooling in Ukraine, I could have been positioned in a job in my field sooner,” said Wagner, now an ASET member. “I think the competency-based assessment program combined with application fee waiver will be a game changer for refugees from Ukraine and other countries.”

Cavanaugh said it is important to get the word out so people know the ASET program is an option for engineering technologist professionals looking to move to Alberta.

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