Is a ‘software program engineer’ an engineer? Alberta regulator says no, riling the province’s tech sector

Sam Pillar is the chief government officer of Edmonton-based residence companies platform Jobber.HO/The Canadian Press…

Is a ‘software program engineer’ an engineer? Alberta regulator says no, riling the province’s tech sector
Is a ‘software program engineer’ an engineer? Alberta regulator says no, riling the province’s tech sector

Sam Pillar is the chief government officer of Edmonton-based residence companies platform Jobber.HO/The Canadian Press

Alberta’s engineering regulator is in a battle with the province’s expertise sector, insisting anybody with the title “software program engineer” should maintain a allow – and pay charges for that proper.

The Affiliation of Skilled Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA), has requested a court docket to order one of many province’s main software program firms, Octopusapp Inc., often known as Jobber, to cease utilizing the time period “engineer” in job titles and postings until it will get a allow from the regulator.

That has prompted an uproar in Alberta’s tech sector. On Friday, the Council of Canadian Innovators (CCI) revealed an open letter signed by chief government officers of 32 Alberta tech firms, together with Jobber’s Sam Pillar, calling on Premier Danielle Smith to cease “regulator overreach” by APEGA.

The letter says APEGA’s “aggressive place” would end in “onerous, restrictive and pointless certification necessities” for builders, and hurt firms’ capability to compete for expertise. “If we can’t successfully compete for the very best staff whereas headquartered in Alberta, we should critically think about whether or not this can be a place the place our firms can succeed,” states the letter signed by CEOs of Benevity Inc., Symend Inc., Neo Monetary Applied sciences Inc. and others.

CCI president Benjamin Bergen stated he hoped Ms. Smith, who pledged to chop pink tape whereas campaigning to steer the United Conservative Social gathering, would take motion “as a result of that is actually a pink tape problem. It’s the solely jurisdiction globally that’s pushing this. It’s making Alberta uncompetitive within the tech sector.”

A spokesperson for Alberta Labour Minister Kaycee Madu stated in an e-mail the federal government would work with the events to resolve the difficulty, including: “We’re involved by any laws that impede our competitiveness on the earth skilled-labour market.”

Erum Afsar, director of enforcement with APEGA, stated in an interview: “What we’re doing is regulating what the federal government has legislated us to do. In the event you’re utilizing that title, try to be registered with APEGA.”

APEGA and Canada’s 11 different provincial and territorial engineering regulators have complained for years about firms or people who use the titles “software program engineer” and “pc engineer,” arguing they’re prohibited from doing so. In July, Engineers Canada, which represents the regulators, issued a joint assertion calling for people to be prohibited from utilizing the offending titles until they’re licensed as engineers.

“Skilled engineers are held to excessive skilled and moral requirements and work within the public curiosity,” it stated. “The general public locations a excessive diploma of belief within the occupation and these layers of accountability and transparency assist preserve Canadians protected.”

The regulators are mandated to implement their relative statutes and have sporadically taken authorized motion to guard their turf. Ordre des Ingénieurs du Québec efficiently sued Microsoft within the early 2000s to cease it from calling graduates of a coaching course “Microsoft Licensed Methods Engineer.” Quebec’s Superior Court docket in 2005 upheld a lower-court ruling in opposition to Microsoft that got here with a $1,000 superb. In 2019, an Alberta Court docket of Queen’s Bench justice ordered an injunction sought by APEGA in opposition to a person for utilizing the title “software program engineer,” awarding prices to the affiliation.

“We’ve all the time had a priority with folks calling themselves ‘software program engineers,’” stated Engineers Canada CEO Gerard McDonald. “When regulators realize it, that’s one thing they may take enforcement motion in opposition to.” He stated governing our bodies for medical doctors and legal professionals wouldn’t stand for uncertified practitioners calling themselves by these titles both.

Ms. Afsar stated APEGA closes about 500 instances yearly stemming from complaints of misusing the time period “engineer”; simply two involving the knowledge expertise sector are earlier than the courts, together with the Jobber case.

Engineers are available numerous kinds, together with aerospace, chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical. Some construct bridges, rockets, automobiles or dams. They’re sometimes licensed.

However coding “engineers” don’t sometimes search or require business accreditation. U.S. developer Margaret Hamilton is extensively credited with coining the time period “software program engineer” after engaged on the on-board flight software program for the U.S. Nationwide Aeronautics and House Administration’s Apollo program within the Sixties. She stated her crew’s work ought to be taken as critically as different engineering and scientific disciplines. Many agreed. “The time period ‘engineer’ has been utilized in software program for many years,” stated Dax Dasilva, government chairman of Montreal’s Lightspeed Commerce Inc. “I don’t consider extra regulation round terminology is instantly vital.”

Additional complicating issues: “software program engineer” is formally acknowledged by the federal Nationwide Occupational Classification system as a job title.

Provincial and territorial legal guidelines regulating engineers range. Alberta’s Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act states no particular person, company or partnership can use the phrase “engineer” in a job title until they’re “knowledgeable engineer, licensee or allow holder entitled to interact within the follow of engineering.”

APEGA went after Edmonton-based Jobber in late 2021. In an utility filed with the Court docket of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, the regulator argued that Jobber – which sells software program to residence service entrepreneurs to run their companies and employs software program engineers – will not be permitted to name them that or “to carry out or signify itself as being entitled to follow engineering in Alberta” as a result of it isn’t an affiliation member.

APEGA dues per firm are $500 multiplied by the sq. root of the variety of engineers on employees; an organization with 100 engineers would pay $5,000 for instance. “This isn’t a couple of cash seize,” Mr. McDonald stated. “It’s about calling your self one thing you’re not.”

APEGA acknowledged in court docket paperwork it tried to influence Jobber “to deliver itself into compliance” by making use of for a allow; Jobber stated it didn’t should. “There aren’t any circumstances that may justify refusal of this utility because of the danger to the general public of the respondent holding out or representing itself as being entitled to interact within the follow of engineering with out authorization to take action,” the criticism says.

Mr. Pillar stated the precept behind the criticism “is short-sighted” as “software program engineer” is a normal job title globally, and if Jobber couldn’t promote for jobs with that description, it will lose out in opposition to U.S. tech giants who do use these phrases in job postings. Certainly.com presently hosts software program job advertisements for Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Salesforce in Western Canada with “engineer” of their titles.

Mr. Pillar stated there’s little danger “anyone could be confused” and assume his engineers are certified to construct bridges. “We’re not calling our staff licensed skilled engineers or P. Engs. That might be absurd. We’re simply utilizing frequent terminology that everybody makes use of” in software program.

With a report from Alanna Smith