ASET helps refugees in Alberta

Written by Daniel Gonzalez

An initiative by The Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET) looks to help engineering technologists who are refugees get their professional start in Canada.

A competency-based program plans to fast-track the process for refugees who are educated and trained as engineering technologists coming to Alberta.

ASET is the professional self-regulatory organization for engineering technologists and technicians in Alberta, with over 16,000 members.

ASET CEO Barry Cavanaugh. Photo courtesy of ASET

Engineering technologists act as the bridge between engineering and tradespeople.
ASET CEO Barry Cavanaugh believes Alberta needs the program since engineering technologists are fundamental throughout the province.

“Almost every community of any size in the province has some ASET members,” says Cavanaugh. “A third of our memberships are in rural communities.”

Cavanaugh hopes this program will reach more people and is proud that the organization can help refugees coming to Alberta while providing Alberta with well-regulated engineering technologists.

“We’re the first to do anything like this in terms of developing competencies-based standards so that we can assess people and know that the people we are approving can be safe,” says Cavanaugh.

Through the program, ASET will waive many application fees for refugees seeking to become members costing $1,000 over time.

In addition to waiving fees, a competency-based program launched in 2016 allows refugees to enter the workspace faster.

According to Cavanaugh, one objective is to level the playing field for foreign engineering technologists coming to Alberta.

After noticing several applicants of refugee status could not provide education history and news that Alberta would accept refugees from Ukraine, ASET decided to take action.

“Our council decided it would be appropriate to remove any obstacles that were in their [refugees] way,” says Cavanaugh.

“An application fee and an examination fee that amount to almost $1000 is a pretty big obstacle. So we decided to waive it for anyone with refugee status, whether they’re coming from Ukraine or they’re still coming from places like Syria and Afghanistan.”

ASET Member Mila Wagner at work. Photo courtesy of ASET

ASET member and newcomer Mila Wagner believes the program will benefit engineering technologists like herself in the future.

Wagner is originally from Kiev, Ukraine and fled the country with her three-year-old son in 2016 after the Russian invasion of Crimea.

After moving to Canada, Wagner had to work outside her engineering technologist field to make ends meet for her and her son before she married her husband soon after moving.

Looking back on the process, Wagner remembers the difficulties of returning to her field of work.

“When I started to apply for jobs in my field, no one would call me for an interview because my education credentials were not applicable in Canada,” says Wagner.

Although Wagner completed a engineering technology program at Lethbridge College to find employment, she sees the benefits the program can offer people.

She remarks that if she had known about the program, it would have streamlined her process. In addition to ASET waiving fees for refugees, she implores those who qualify to apply.

“It saves time and money. It’s one year through the competency-based program, while it’s two years to receive a diploma from Lethbridge College,” says Wagner. “It will be a game changer for people who come to Canada and look to start a new life here.”

ASET invites anyone who qualifies for the program to apply online or inquire about the program.

Daniel Gonzalez
ECA Review

About the author

Daniel Gonzalez

Daniel Gonzalez is a multimedia reporter from Calgary, Alberta. He has experience reporting news from the streets of Calgary and even serving on the Institute of Investigative Journalism. He also has experience working in the nonprofit sector with the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta.

Daniel has graduated from Mount Royal University with a degree in Journalism in 2021. He hopes to learn more about Alberta and continues to hone his skills in the media industry.