Title currently requires a license from the provincial supervisor of professional engineers
Posted: November 6, 2023
Last updated: November 6, 2023
Alberta plans to allow technology companies and employees to use the title “software engineer” without a license from APEGA, the provincial regulator for professional engineers.
Bill 7, introduced in the legislature on Monday, would carve out an exception in Alberta’s Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act.
Under the province’s rules, someone who is not a professional engineer or license holder cannot use the term “engineer” in conjunction with any other name or title.
Technology companies have been calling for that to change, saying it is hurting the growth of the Alberta industry.
But the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) issued a statement last year warning that “any exception to the use of the title engineer will set a dangerous precedent and endanger the lives of Albertans. “
After the proposed legislation was unveiled on Monday, APEGA registrar and CEO Jay Nagendran said the change is “not something we asked for, but it is what it is.”
Advanced Education Minister Rajan Sawhney said the new legislation will be “the first of its kind in the country” to allow broader use of the title of software engineer or related variants.
If the bill becomes law, companies would be able to advertise job openings for software engineers and employees would be able to use the title publicly.
Different rules for Alberta
Last summer, the leaders of all provincial and territorial engineering regulators signed an open letter to “advocate the alignment” of nationwide restrictions on the use of unlicensed software engineer or related titles.
The letter from national agency Engineers Canada notes that people who “falsely pose as engineers” have faced enforcement action.
That included an injunction granted by an Alberta court against an individual who used the title “software engineer” in online profiles despite not being registered with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta.
Nagendran noted that Alberta’s proposed change will set the province apart from regulations in the rest of the country.
Sawhney said that the work that software engineers do is usually not within the scope of practice of a professional engineer with a P.Eng designation, and that all software engineers who “apply engineering principles” in their role will still be regulated by APEGA .
But she gave no details on exactly how that will work, saying the government would continue to work with employers and the regulator.
“Our technology sector is thriving and we are listening to our stakeholders and this is what they need to be able to recruit and retain talent in this province,” Sawhney said.
Push from the technology sector
APEGA’s position is that software engineering should remain regulated amid the increasing use of artificial intelligence.
Minister of Technology and Innovation Nate Glubish said Monday the province is working on a framework for artificial intelligence.
“Ultimately, responsible use of AI does not fall under APEGA’s jurisdiction. That is the jurisdiction of the Government of Alberta.”
Last year, representatives of technology companies wrote
an open letter to Premier Danielle Smith, requesting that the provincial government intervene in the matter. The letter now has more than a hundred signatories.
The technology workers said APEGA was hindering the growth of Alberta’s technology sector with what they called an “aggressive” stance that software engineers should be regulated and subject to certification requirements.
“This is a classic case of regulatory overreach: tech companies should not need a regulator’s blessing to build an app,” the letter said.
The group argued that software engineer is a “globally accepted standard job title” common in cities with strong technology sectors, and that blocking it means Alberta cannot compete for workers.
Benjamin Bergen, president of the Council of Canadian Innovators, told CBC News that Alberta needs an exemption specifically for software engineers because APEGA has been more active with enforcement.
“Regulators have not been monitoring companies at the same level or to the same extent as in Alberta,” he said.
APEGA recently sued Edmonton-based technology company Jobber over the company’s use of the title software engineer in job postings.
Nagendran said a judge has heard arguments in the case, but he’s not sure how the new provincial legislation could affect the outcome.