Varcoe: Alberta lets tech sector use time period ‘software program engineer’

Varcoe: Alberta lets tech sector use time period ‘software program engineer’

‘In the entire main tech markets, together with Silicon Valley, this time period is used freely,’ stated Know-how Minister Nate Glubish

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Software program engineer.

Who would have guessed these two little phrases would have induced such an unlimited kerfuffle in Alberta over the previous 12 months?

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After months of battle, session and even litigation over the time period, the Alberta authorities determined Monday to let know-how companies use the job title, comparable to after they’re searching for potential staff.

The choice got here after the Affiliation of Skilled Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA), which regulates the engineering career within the province, opposed the tech sector adopting the time period.

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Nevertheless, after speaking with either side, the UCP authorities made a clear-cut determination, introducing modifications Monday to the Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act.

It’s going to let know-how corporations use the title software program engineer to draw employees, and be included on staff’ enterprise playing cards or posted on their social media accounts.

“In the entire main tech markets, together with Silicon Valley, this time period is used freely. However Canada is exclusive in proscribing using this title. And up till as we speak, Alberta’s regulator has been probably the most aggressive at proscribing its use,” Know-how Minister Nate Glubish instructed reporters.

“This has induced vital hardship for Alberta’s tech sector, inflicting many tech corporations to have to start hiring outdoors of Alberta to satisfy their development calls for.”

Alberta Technology and Innovation Minister Nate Glubish
Nate Glubish, Alberta’s Minister of Know-how and Innovation. Jim Wells/Postmedia file

The difficulty got here to a head final 12 months after the Council of Canadian Innovators (CCI), a nationwide enterprise group representing home tech-sector corporations, issued an open letter to Premier Danielle Smith. It known as on the federal government to let its members use the job title as companies search to recruit extra employees.

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Tech companies contend they want to have the ability to promote for software program engineers — as an alternative of programmers — as it’s a widely-used time period that potential staff will seek for when scouting for a job. With out having the ability to use the title, they may lose out on recruiting some employees.

(It even led to a authorized tussle between APEGA and Edmonton-based Jobber, a big tech agency that had used the time period in its job ads, taking part in out in a Court docket of King’s Bench in September. No determination in that matter has been made but.)

Organizations that regulate engineers in Canada have lengthy maintained there are vital guidelines and laws in place detailing exactly who can use the engineering title.

Below the present Alberta Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act, solely knowledgeable engineer, licensee or allow holder can use the phrase “engineer together with another title, title, description, letter, image or abbreviation” to point that they’re an engineer.

“You wouldn’t need somebody to function on you within the province if they aren’t licensed by the School of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta,” Jay Nagendran, APEGA chief govt officer, stated in a information launch final fall.

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“By that very same token, you don’t want somebody designing your pacemaker or self-driving automobile if they aren’t a licensed engineer. That places folks’s lives in danger — one thing APEGA takes very severely.”

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But, the time period software program engineer is utilized throughout the tech sector and it is smart for the federal government to let the time period be embraced by corporations, stated Cam Linke, CEO of the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii).

“M.D. is regulated, however there’s a Rug Physician on the market and no one’s coronary heart is getting steam cleaned,” Linke stated in an interview.

The province has “listened to what (is) a really commonsense argument, from an trade that’s rising quickly,” he stated.

“This is a vital growth for the innovation sector within the province and can give corporations and their staff the liberty to make use of titles which have lengthy been universally accepted within the tech trade,” Jobber CEO Sam Pillar stated Monday in an announcement.

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Sam Pillar
Sam Pillar, CEO of software program firm Jobber, seen at his workplace in Edmonton in 2012. The corporate is one in every of two preventing an effort by the Affiliation of Skilled Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta to limit utilization of the time period “software program engineer” to APEGA members. Picture by Larry Wong /Postmedia, file

Whereas the federal government opted to let the tech sector use the time period, the amendments will reaffirm the title “skilled engineer” can solely be utilized by certified engineers who’re registered with APEGA.

And if software program engineers are making use of engineering rules of their jobs, they nonetheless must be regulated, famous Superior Schooling Minister Rajan Sawhney.

The CCI stated Alberta is the primary province to make such a proper recognition of software program engineers as a place inside the trade.

“We’re clearly thrilled the Alberta authorities is shifting ahead with these modifications. Expertise is the jet gasoline of the twenty first century economic system,” CCI president Benjamin Bergen stated in an interview.

In an announcement Monday, Nagendran stated the federal government’s determination to take away title safety for the time period software program engineer stemmed from lobbying by the know-how trade.

“We consider title safety is important to preserving public security and sustaining excessive requirements of practise and ethics . . . We supplied potential options throughout our discussions,” he said.

“The federal government determined to go in one other path.”

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The difficulty has bubbled over because the know-how sector has grown quickly in Alberta and throughout Canada.

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The downtown Calgary skyline was photographed on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. Picture by Azin Ghaffari /Postmedia

Between 2020 and 2022, Canada’s tech sector employment elevated by 16 per cent, or 150,000 positions, based on a current report by CBRE.

Calgary noticed a 61 per cent enhance in jobs inside the trade between 2017 and 2022, second amongst main North American centres, trailing solely Vancouver. Edmonton additionally recorded sturdy development, with employment taking pictures up 45 per cent.

Alberta’s tech sector is booming and the federal government needs to make sure it continues, Glubish stated.

“That is merely saying that for software program engineering, that it is a title that can be utilized freely in Alberta as a result of the tech sector is a world trade,” he added.

“Tech expertise can transfer anyplace on the planet. And we wish to guarantee that they wish to come to Alberta.”

Chris Varcoe is a Calgary Herald columnist.

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