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Tech companies want Alta. the Prime Minister launches into the battle for the title of “software engineer”

Canadian tech companies are calling on Alberta’s new premier to intervene after a regulatory group filed a lawsuit over job titles such as “software engineer”.

More than 30 signatories to a letter sent to Danielle Smith on Friday say the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) “has taken the aggressive stance that software engineers must be regulated and subject to certification requirements expensive, restrictive and unnecessary.”

The signatories, which include executives from Helcim, Aimso and Neo Financial, consider “software engineer” a standard job title for anyone building technical programs and argue that APEGA should not treat it as a role requiring certification and regulation like professional engineers. .

“APEGA is actively targeting Alberta businesses with legal action to prevent us from using globally competitive job titles and descriptions,” reads the letter orchestrated by the Canadian Council of Innovators. (CCI), a national technology advocacy organization.

The signatories cite APEGA lawsuits against tech companies that use variants of the engineer title. They want Smith to “act and remove regulatory bureaucracy” they say hinders their ability to compete for global tech talent, who have long been lured to the United States with promises of big job titles and even higher salaries. students.

“Some companies have considered moving because they find this bureaucracy extremely difficult to manage and will need to hire more engineers,” says CCI President Benjamin Bergen.

“You will see companies opening offices in other jurisdictions where they actually use the correct terminology.”

He argues that this is a case of a regulator that has “overstepped” on an issue that has not seen this level of action anywhere else in the world.

The Prime Minister’s Office has sent a request for comment to Labor and Immigration Minister Roy Dallmann’s press secretary.

Dallmann said his office encouraged the ICC and APEGA to find a “mutually acceptable solution” and promised to work with both groups to resolve the issue as he is “concerned about any regulations that impede our competitiveness.”

APEGA said in a statement that the term engineer comes with a set of licensing and ethical responsibilities and responsibilities. He said the same was true for other regulated professions, such as the health and legal professions.

“You wouldn’t want someone operating on you in the province if they weren’t cleared by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta,” said Jay Nagendran, Registrar and CEO of APEGA.

“Similarly, you don’t want someone designing your pacemaker or your self-driving car if they’re not a licensed engineer. It puts people’s lives at risk, which APEGA takes very seriously.

Nagendran also noted that software engineering is a nationally and internationally recognized engineering discipline.

APEGA’s website states that it has the “legal right and obligation” to restrict the practice and use of engineering and geoscience-related titles to authorized persons and firms.

In addition to traditional titles such as professional engineer, professional geologist, and professional geophysicist, it is stated that those who are not licensed cannot use the word engineer in combination with any name, title, description, letter, symbol or an abbreviation that implies they are accredited by APEGA in job titles. , on CVs or on social networks.

APEGA argues this is because “the public may believe you have the right to practice engineering or geoscience” and “it may endanger public safety”.

An open letter signed by the heads of every provincial and territorial engineering regulator in Canada in July stated that the use of “software engineer”, “computer engineer” and other information technology titles with the suffix engineer is prohibited anywhere in Canada unless the person using it is licensed by one of their regulatory groups.

Engineers Canada, the national body of provincial and territorial associations, also points out on its website that there is legal precedent in this regard. An Alberta judge ordered an injunction against a person not registered with APEGA who used an online “software engineer” in 2019.

Worker licensing is common in many professions, including the legal and medical fields, as it is considered essential for maintaining worker ethics and competence when public safety is at risk. However, it is rarely, if ever, used to regulate tech industry players, including workers who create apps and other software and hardware.

“Talent is absolutely the most important element of our future success and our ability to attract and retain talent is critical…so if we’re going to have regulators creating a hostile environment for business…we can’t not be competitive,” says Sam Pillar, CEO of Jobber.

When his Edmonton-based home services platform first heard from APEGA about its use of engineering titles, he says it put disclaimers on its site. Web to differentiate its workers from positions regulated by APEGA. Later, Jobber was sued by APEGA in December 2021.

The case is still pending in court, Pillar said, adding that it was time for the government to intervene as it is “dragging” and affecting companies as big as Google and Apple as well as smaller companies that have more. need for talent.

A 2019 report by the Information and Communications Technology Council, a non-profit organization providing labor policy advice, predicted that demand for digitally skilled talent in Canada will reach 193,000 by 2022 and more than 305,000 by 2023.

A 2020 addendum taking into account COVID-19 predicted that demand would be reduced by almost 24% and indicated that under new reference scenarios, the digital economy should see a demand of 147,000 workers by 2022, with total employment reaching nearly two million.

The 2019 government-funded report lists software developers, data scientists and analysts, cybersecurity workers and IT support specialists among the most in-demand positions.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on October 14, 2022.

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