A number of Alberta’s leading tech companies have sent an open letter to the newly elected premier over concerns that an occupational standards body is discouraging workers from moving to the province.
Companies and startups have written to Premier Danielle Smith protesting the “aggressive stance” of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) taking over the title of software engineer.
The more than 30+ signatories to the letter argue that APEGA unnecessarily regulates the software engineer designation and has subjected the position to “onerous, restrictive, and unnecessary certification requirements.”
“This is a classic case of over-regulation: tech companies shouldn’t need a regulator’s blessing to build an app.”
Startups called on the Prime Minister to intervene on the issue, writing that talent is the most important input for tech companies and calling the inability to compete for talent against other jurisdictions and companies a “threat existential”.
Speaking to the Prime Minister, Startups bluntly wrote, “If we can’t compete effectively for the best employees while our headquarters are in Alberta, we need to seriously ask ourselves if this is a place where our businesses can succeed. .
Benevity, Jobber, Neo Financial and Samdesk are some of the companies that signed the letter, along with organizations such as Platform Calgary and venture capital studio Thin Air Labs.
The Council of Canadian Innovators (CCI) coordinated the letter on behalf of the startups.
According to the startups, APEGA has actively targeted Alberta businesses with lawsuits to restrict the use of “globally competitive job titles and descriptions.”
Tech leaders have written to Smith, calling for his leadership and that of his government on the issue. “This is a classic case of overstepping regulations — tech companies shouldn’t need a regulator’s blessing to build an app,” they wrote.
The signatories called on Smith to take action and remove the “regulatory bureaucracy” that they say prevents them from competing on a level playing field with global talent giants.
“As you settle into your new role, we ask that this be one of your first priorities as Prime Minister,” the leaders wrote. “It’s important to our future as an economic engine and innovation leader in Canada.
“As you settle into your new role, we ask that this be one of your first priorities as Prime Minister.”
The open letter also referenced the Alberta is Calling campaign that Jason Kenney’s government recently launched to attract skilled workers to the province. However, the letter dismissed the campaign, saying the truth is that people wanting to work as a software engineer might need to move elsewhere with the companies that employ them.
Campaign targets the Greater Toronto Area and Vancouver’s Lower Mainland with an advertising strategy that highlights Alberta’s lifestyle, career and affordability advantages to attract workers to the province .
For its part, APEGA argues that it has the legal right and duty to “restrict engineering and geoscience practices, and related titles and designations, to authorized persons and firms.”
The association limits the use of the word engineer combined with any name, title, description, letter, symbol or abbreviation that implies being licensed with APEGA. Software engineers fall under this restriction.
Nic Beique, CEO of fintech startup Helcim, told BetaKit that APEGA’s insistence on regulating the title of software engineer has caused problems in optimizing job postings nationally and internationally. Unable to use the title, this led to the restriction of the main keywords candidates would use to search for opportunities, for example.
“This hampers our ability to get candidates to apply even if they can’t find the positions we’re looking for, because we can’t market our vacancies using industry-accepted titles,” Beique said.
Beique pointed out that skilled technical roles are in demand. He noted that the shortage particularly affects Alberta, which he says lacks a large pool of talent in the tech industry, as the province’s tech economy is relatively new compared to other, more established ecosystems. established.
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“Attracting and retaining top talent is critical to our success as a business,” added Sam Pillar, CEO and co-founder of Jobber. “Competition has increased significantly since the shift to remote working over the past two years. Foreign companies, including US tech giants, are aggressively recruiting all over the world, including in Canada. Regulating the words we can use in job titles and descriptions makes this already difficult environment much worse.
While startups have acknowledged APEGA’s role in regulating professional certifications and designations in the interest of public safety, companies dispute that the software engineer title needs to be regulated. They referred to software engineer as “a globally accepted standard job title for people who create software.”
Appealing to Smith, the startups wrote that it shouldn’t be a regulator’s role to determine who can and cannot use common language in the normal course of operating a business.
The Alberta is Calling campaign was not the only initiative aimed at attracting more skilled workers to Alberta. The launch of the Alberta Technology and Innovation Strategy (ATIS) in April aimed to create 20,000 new jobs in the province and help Alberta technology companies generate $5 billion in additional annual revenue by 2030.
“The government celebrated Alberta’s burgeoning tech sector and made talent a central theme in its recent budget,” Pillar said. “They also frequently talk about cutting red tape. This situation is the result of bureaucracy and the overreach of an organization that is empowered by the Government of Alberta.
It was feared that the burgeoning tech momentum would slow with Kenney’s decision to step down as premier, followed by Doug Schweitzer, Alberta’s minister of jobs, economy and innovation. , and his decision not to stand for re-election. But while the change in government raised some concerns about the future of innovation in Alberta, the biggest consensus before Smith’s appointment as premier was that the province’s abandonment of a booming and busting resources will only continue at this point. .
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With Smith in the lead, industry officials said the United Conservative Party generally pays attention to the tech sector, but some argue the provincial government has failed to follow up on critical issues like intellectual property development, according to The Logic.
Even before Smith’s installation as the province’s last premier, a number of people in Alberta’s tech industry told BetaKit they believed the province’s move toward a innovation would continue. Among other things, Thin Air Labs co-founder and managing partner, James Lochrie, said, “Ignorance of technology or other parts of the economy is over in Alberta because they’ve felt the sting of what it actually costs.
Lochrie was one of the signatories to the open letter to Smith, which adds, “Without action, we risk long-term damage to the competitiveness of Alberta’s tech sector and tarnishing our province’s reputation as a where businesses are free to innovate, grow and prosper.