Licensure Must be Based on Qualifications | APEGA

Licensure Must be Based on Qualifications

Members may have read recent news articles about a United Conservative Party (UCP) campaign promise. The party’s leader, Jason Kenney, is concerned about the time it takes for internationally trained applicants to become licensed in a profession, such as medicine and engineering. He has stated that if the UCP wins the provincial election, the party will introduce legislation requiring professional licensing bodies to determine within six months if an applicant’s credentials are sufficient for licensure.

We appreciate and echo Mr. Kenney’s desire to have all Albertans engaged in meaningful work.

As the regulator for the engineering and geoscience professions, APEGA is mandated by the provincial government to establish, maintain, and enforce the qualifications and standards of those professions. We have a clear understanding of the regulatory framework and our obligation to ensure all of our members and permit holders practise to the highest professional and ethical standards in service to Albertans and their safety.

All applicants to APEGA are assessed to ensure they meet the required educational standard and have adequate and appropriate work experience. 

Qualifications-based Process

The process we use for assessing applicants is based on qualifications, not country of origin. All applicants are treated in an equal, balanced, and fair manner. As the qualifications for no two people are identical, we assess each individually. For internationally trained engineering applicants, if their education is from a program not recognized by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB), we assess their education by comparing each course against standard syllabi that are produced nationally by Engineers Canada. If there are shortfalls, we assign examinations or courses by which the applicants can meet the standard. 

For assessing work experience, we use a competency-based assessment (CBA) method* to evaluate their experience against the required Canadian experience standard. For evaluating work competencies, CBA is considered best practice by the Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications and by the Government of Alberta’s Foreign Qualification Recognition Plan.

According to an Edmonton Journal article, Mr. Kenney said some immigrants wait far too long to know whether their credentials are transferable. We understand that the wait can be longer than applicants would prefer, but we assure them that we process applications honestly and fairly, and as promptly as possible.

*Currently, competency-based assessment is only available for engineering applicants. A different process is required for geoscience applicants.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Becoming a professional engineer or professional geoscientist is not a one-size-fits-all model. We are mandated to protect the public by ensuring applicants are fully qualified prior to obtaining licensure. Application-processing times range between six and 12 months. Delays occur when we’re waiting on information from applicants, their universities, or their references. The review process does not start until we have received all required information. 

On average, APEGA processes more than 5,000 applications annually. In 2015, 53 per cent of applications were from internationally trained applicants (ITAs), making us the largest licensor of engineering and geoscience ITAs in Canada. So, we understand how important the process is for them.

During the review process, the lines of communication are always open. Applicants are assigned a dedicated application coordinator who can answer questions regarding application status and any outstanding information. In addition, applicants can check the status of their application online in the Member Self-Service Centre. There, they can see if APEGA is awaiting any information and from whom.

YearPercentage of Internationally Trained Applicants (ITAs)
2014 56%
2015 53%
2016 29%
2017 26%
2018 26%

We believe the reduction in applications in 2016 to 2018 was due to the downturn in the economy.

YearAvg. Days to Process ITAsAvg. Days to Process Canadian Applicants
2016 282 174
2017 240 118
2018 232 156
 

Professional Members Make Final Determination

Another aspect of self-regulation is that professional members, not APEGA staff, make the final determination if applicants are qualified for licensure. These professional members are volunteers who meet at set intervals to assess applications. Without these volunteers, the government would have to use taxpayer dollars to hire experts, or APEGA would need to greatly increase application fees and member dues to hire dozens of professional members and university professors. Applicants are informed of this process and the expected time frame for review. 

All forms of regulation are designed to protect the public. But only self-regulation ties public protection directly to the people performing the regulated services. It’s effective and publicly affordable, and it’s backed up by nearly a century of APEGA service to the public interest.

We proactively work with each Alberta government to explain the self-regulatory model of the engineering and geoscience professions and how that model ensures the safety of all Albertans.

We also continuously strive to enhance and expedite the application process without compromising public safety. To learn more about our application process, please visit www.apega.ca/apply.