Philippine-born engineering technologist realizes American dream in Canada
04, Feb, 2020
EDMONTON, Feb. 4, 2020 – CNN recently reported that Canadians have a better shot at achieving the American dream than Americans do. And in the case of Mark Lopez, that includes new Canadians.
Like many immigrants before him, Mark Lopez came to Canada from Batangas City, Philippines in 2009 with the hope of building a better future for himself. What he didn’t expect was that, a decade later, he would have surpassed his dreams, having launched a new career in engineering technology, authored a children’s book, and shown his fine artwork at local galleries.
The decision that landed him north of the 49th parallel was born of necessity. As the eldest of six children, he had to find a way to provide for his family back home following the death of his father.
“My mom and I teamed up so that my five younger siblings could finish school,” said Lopez.
When he first arrived in Alberta, he didn’t know anyone other than a friend from high school who lived in Fort McMurray. Because the small, northern city had an only four per cent unemployment rate at the time, he decided to go there.
“It was very difficult finding work when I arrived in Alberta. Without a local organization backing one up, the likelihood of landing a job in line with your credentials is very low,” said Lopez. “It’s made even harder by the fact that the competition for employment includes locally educated professionals who would have learned first-hand the professional practice governing laws.”
While based in Edmonton, Lopez was able to attain a bachelor of science in industrial engineering in 2015 from Manuel S. Enverga University Foundation through the Philippines government expanded tertiary education equivalency and accreditation program. He was also referred to the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET), Alberta’s regulator of engineering technology professionals, which represents 18,000 members. It was the organization that ultimately gave him the support he needed.
Through ASET’s competency-based assessment program - launched in 2016 and the only one of its kind in Canada - he was able to earn his certified engineering technologist (CET) designation. This gave him a direct and accelerated path into engineering-related work an overseas engineering degree alone wouldn’t. He says his ASET certification helped him a lot as it qualified him for consideration for better work positions.
Having established a solid professional footing and eventually working as a facility integrity analyst, he was able to focus on other passions. In 2017, he published his first children’s book, The Boy and the Lone Mango Tree, which tells the story of a young boy growing up in a poor family barely making ends meet in the Philippines. The book highlights the importance of love and sacrifice in holding a struggling family together.
While Lopez never previously considered himself a professional writer, he knew he had experiences from his native country that were valuable to share in his new home. Alberta was in an economic downturn and he believed that the book might provide useful guidance to help families get through tough times.
“When I was growing up in the Philippines, I remember comparing myself to others and wondering why my family was so different. It never occurred to me that we were in financial distress,” said Lopez. “My parents tried to explain it but I never really picked up on it. I am hoping that by reading my book, other kids from financially challenged families will acquire the courage and skills necessary to avoid the same hardships that my siblings and I experienced.”
Around the same time that he published his book, Lopez, a self-taught fine artist, turned his attention back to visual art, working largely with minerals and colours to produce abstract pieces. His work was previously on display at a Calgary gallery and is now showcased at the Glenora Gallery in Edmonton where he is the resident artist. One of his pieces was used as teaser art for a novel, The Obsidian Crown of the Lost Dominion. He also participated in the Kunst Gallery/Art Asia Gallery Show, The Stories of the Little Prince. His artwork is viewable on his Instagram site.
“Though I work in the technology profession, I find arts to be a meaningful, productive tool to deal with challenges in life. Other than the fact that it calms me, creating art is a practical pursuit in that it can provide additional income and networking opportunities,” said Lopez. “I believe that the way visual art communicates from sender to receiver is so profound that the artist can help others without even knowing it.”
ASET is the professional self-regulatory organization for engineering technologists and technicians in Alberta. ASET currently represents over 18,000 members, including full-time technology students, recent graduates and fully certified members in 21 disciplines and some 124 occupations across a multitude of industries.
Michele Penz, Calico Communications for ASET