New Canadian citizen from Ukraine receives prestigious provincial honour
25, Apr, 2023
EDMONTON, April 25, 2023 – New Canadian citizen Mila Wagner, who moved from Ukraine to Alberta in 2016 in direct response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, has received one of her provincial professional association’s highest honours. The Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET) recognized her as the winner of its inaugural CEO Award - the first handed out in the association’s 60-year history.
The rare award, which is bestowed upon an ASET member at the sole discretion of the CEO, was presented to Wagner during an awards event at the association’s annual general meeting (AGM) this past Friday, April 21 in Calgary. It celebrates her mammoth contribution to ASET, which involved generously volunteering her time to help increase public awareness about two important ASET initiatives designed to support newcomers with engineering technology backgrounds.
Wagner, who earlier this month took the oath of Canadian citizenship, participated in dozens of media interviews last summer about the two ASET initiatives: a fee waiver for engineering technologists with refugee status and its competency-based assessment program, the latter having been launched in 2016 to give foreign-trained and other engineering technology professionals a faster route to establishing careers in Alberta. She spoke from the perspective of a newcomer who may have benefited from the two initiatives subject to timing and her knowledge of them.
“Mila was given this prestigious award for her exceptional and transformative contribution to ASET as a volunteer interview subject,” said ASET CEO Barry Cavanaugh. “Her enthusiasm for and dedication to the effort knew no bounds and she was always 100 per cent committed to it.”
“It is amazing when an extremely reputable organization like ASET recognizes your hard work and gives you a chance to prove your value to the world,” said Wagner. “It was my honour to help give a leg up to people newly arrived in Canada who are wanting to work in the profession for which they were educated. Alberta is a wonderful place with a lot of opportunities for engineering technologists.”
After Wagner, a single mother at the time, left her home and job in Kyiv, Ukraine to move to Alberta with her then three-year-old son, Nikita, she found that her multiple engineering technology-related degrees from Ukraine did not ensure her an entrée into her profession in Canada. Because no one would hire her based on her Ukrainian qualifications, she was required to make a living through menial work until she was able to return to school and repeat her engineering technology education. Had she known about ASET’s competency-based assessment program, she could have been fast-tracked into earning an ASET designation and working in her field in a fraction of the time.
Now a technologist-in-training (TT) in civil engineering technology and employed by an engineering consulting firm, Wagner is married and raising her son in Lethbridge. She has since provided a safe haven for relatives and friends escaping war zones in Ukraine. Her niece, Polina Marienko, who is originally from Donetsk in the Donbas region, arrived some months ago and is studying at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Wagner’s friend, Iryna Voloshyna, and 16-year-old son, Andrii Voloshyn, landed in Lethbridge last month from Kyiv thanks to assistance from the Canadian government.
However, Wagner continues to worry about her parents who remain in Kremenchuk, which was the location of a deadly Russian missile attack on a shopping mall last June. Within minutes of having completed a media interview for ASET, she learned of the tragedy and experienced the anguish of awaiting confirmation that her parents were okay.
“It is very difficult for me to deal with knowing they are in constant danger and that every day could be their last one,” said Wagner. “It is unsafe for them to leave their area because the war is all around them. I want to bring them to Canada as soon as possible and am keeping my hopes up that I will be able to do so.”
ASET is the professional self-regulatory organization for engineering technologists and technicians in Alberta. ASET currently represents over 17,000 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