Original Published 10:24 Jun 06, 2022

By KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

An Alberta association is removing barriers for refugees skilled in the field of engineering technology.

The Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta recently launched a new initiative for refugees wishing attain engineering technology accreditation in Canada, which reduces their financial burden by up to $1,000.

The initiative exists in conjunction with ASET’s competency-based assessment program. Introduced in 2016, the program helps refugees and other newcomers to Canada with engineering technology experience, fast-track their careers by assessing current skills and determining a Canadian certification equivalent.

“It came to our attention that foreign trained applicants were having more difficulty with our process in a lot of respects, and we wanted to know what was going on,” ASET CEO, Barry Cavanaugh, told the News. “When we looked into it, we realized we were creating obstacles we didn’t intend to create.”

Cavanaugh explained many newcomers – though educated in the field of engineering technology – don’t have the certifications necessary to work within it in Canada. Especially refugees, many of whom were unable to collect required documentation before fleeing their home country.

To acquire the necessary Canadian certifications, newcomers often must return to school; something Cavanaugh says can be financially or culturally challenging. The assessment program eliminates required full-time schooling, instead challenging participants with competencies and a certification exam.

“It occurred to us, newcomers are coming with very little in terms of resources, but if they’re qualified, we want to help with that,” he said. “We want to be sure technologists or engineers coming from other jurisdictions, are getting equal treatment.”

Cavanaugh hopes ASET’s newest initiative provides an additional level of support for newcomers.

“Nobody’s getting any special breaks,” he said. “These people are all just as qualified as any of our members. Our organization hopes to make certain internationally trained professionals are respected and appreciated when they come to this country.”

ASET member Mila Wagner knows firsthand the challenges newcomers face. When Wagner immigrated to Lethbridge from Ukraine in 2016, she was initially unable to secure a job in the field of engineering technology, despite holding several relevant degrees.

“My education and credentials were not fully accepted in Canada and at the time, I didn’t know about the competency-based assessment program,” said Wagner. “In order to get a career and to meet Canadian standards, I had to enrol in post-secondary education and, if required, a professional diploma (program).

“It was quite difficult. And it was so frustrating I had to repeat school here again… So, it was a junior generous decision from ASET to waive those application fees. That is a huge support and is going to be a game changer for people who have come to Canada and who are looking to start a new life here.”

While many individuals who access ASET’s support opportunities intend to remain in Canada, there is a possibility others will leave following their accreditation. Cavanaugh isn’t worried though, as he believes the supports are an opportunity to showcase all Canada has to offer.

“Lets show them it’s worth staying here,” Cavanaugh said. “That this is a place they want to be; that it’s a place which treats them with respect and welcomes them. I want to be part of such a country. I think they do too.”

This item reprinted with permission from Medicine Hat News, Medicine Hat, Alberta