Made-in-Alberta program helps newcomers with tech backgrounds fast-track into careers locally
10, May, 2022
EDMONTON, May 10, 2022 – When Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, Liudmyla Wagner made the decision to leave her home and career in Kyiv, Ukraine. After spending two years preparing for the move, she arrived in Canada in 2016 with her three-year-old son, Nikita. Though she had multiple engineering technology-related degrees, they did not translate in the Canadian employment market. She ended up working menial jobs until she was able to earn a diploma in civil engineering technology from Lethbridge College.
“It was a great challenge for me to start all over again with my little boy holding my hand. I had no relatives in Canada. However, I didn’t feel safe remaining in Ukraine,” said Wagner, a Lethbridge resident.
Had she – on arrival in Alberta – been introduced to the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET), she would have had access to a faster route to establishing an engineering technology career and finding work in her field in her new country: the competency-based assessment program.
The first of its kind in Canada and pioneered by ASET, the program was launched in 2016 to enable engineering technology professionals from other countries to gain purchase in their career fields without having to return to school full-time. ASET eliminated the Canadian work experience requirement for foreign-trained professionals, making it one of the few regulatory bodies in Alberta to do this.
Foreign-trained professionals who have passed an ASET-approved English language proficiency test and are seeking certification and an ASET certified engineering technologist (CET) or certified technician designation (CTech) now undergo a competency assessment. This includes submitting academic credentials, work experience documents – such as CV, competency summary, job descriptions, and references – confirming their work experience locally and abroad. They then complete a professional practice exam that tests them on Alberta-specific legislation and professional ethics, and the ASET certification exam (if applying for the CET designation) that tests them on their technical competency.
In some cases, foreign-trained professionals are not able to access academic documents. For example, if they are refugees from a war zone, their academic institution may have been destroyed. ASET’s prior learning assessment (PLAR) model allows foreign-trained professionals who are unable to produce academic transcripts to complete a work portfolio to demonstrate equivalency to the academic requirements. Skills and knowledge obtained outside of an academic program are evaluated for the purpose of recognizing professional competence, and certification exams test for the educational standard.
While Wagner praises the excellent civil engineering technology education that she received at Lethbridge College where the instructors are top-notch and go above and beyond to help their students, she wishes she’d known about the ASET program.
“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. “Thankfully, I learned about ASET while attending Lethbridge College and found my current job through the postings on the ASET website. I think the competency-based assessment program will be a game changer for newcomers from Ukraine and other countries.”
“Subject to her having all of the necessary application documentation, she could have been fast-tracked into earning an ASET designation and ultimately working in a job in her field in half to a quarter of the time required to complete an additional engineering technology diploma in Canada,” said ASET CEO Barry Cavanaugh. “For any engineering technology professional new to Canada and Alberta who meets the English language requirement, earning an ASET designation opens the door to infinite and exciting professional opportunities.”
When asked if she had advice to offer Ukrainian refugees coming to Alberta, Wagner recommended learning English and approaching their provincial professional association – whether it be ASET or another regulatory body – for assistance.
Currently employed in a job she loves and waiting to take the oath of citizenship to become a Canadian citizen, Wagner is able to support the next generation: by sponsoring her niece, Polina, who recently escaped war-torn Ukraine, and is living in Europe and planning to move to Alberta. She has already explored potential educational options for her, including enrolment at her alma mater, Lethbridge College.
ASET is the professional self-regulatory organization for engineering technologists and technicians in Alberta. ASET currently represents over 16,000 members, including full-time technology students, recent graduates and fully certified members in 21 disciplines and more than 120 occupations across a multitude of industries.
Michele Penz, Calico Communications for ASET