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Is a software program engineer an engineer? Struggle between tech firms, Alberta engineering regulator lands in Edmonton court docket

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A authorized battle pitting Alberta’s skilled engineering regulator towards two tech firms over their use of the phrase “engineer” is underway in an Edmonton court docket.

On Wednesday, Courtroom of King’s Bench Justice John Little heard arguments within the Affiliation of Skilled Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta’s (APEGA) proposed injunction towards Jobber and iStock, which APEGA claims ran afoul of the Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act by posting need adverts for software program “engineers.”

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Jobber and iStock argue the time period software program engineer is broadly understood — each throughout the {industry} and most people — as being distinct from the civil, mechanical, chemical and different engineers who fall underneath APEGA’s regulatory umbrella.

Jobber lawyer Amy Cooper accused APEGA of participating in “regulatory overreach” that will stifle the power of Alberta tech companies to recruit expertise — echoing arguments the Council of Canadian Innovators directed at Premier Danielle Smith final fall.

APEGA is a self-regulating skilled affiliation that licenses people and corporations searching for to observe engineering within the province. The Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act, which provides APEGA is regulatory energy, defines engineering as using math, chemistry, physics or associated topics in work “aimed on the discovery, growth or utilization of matter, supplies or vitality or in some other approach designed for the use and comfort of people.”

To develop into licensed, an applicant has to fulfill sure moral, skilled and technical necessities, after which they earn the proper to make use of reserved titles similar to skilled engineer (P. Eng).

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Katrina Haymond, APEGA’s lawyer, mentioned the affiliation takes a eager curiosity within the “unauthorized use of titles” as a result of it creates confusion about who’s allowed to name themselves an engineer.

She mentioned software program engineering is a acknowledged engineering self-discipline that can have vital public security impacts if executed improperly.

Haymond cited self-driving vehicles, nuclear energy, avionics and biomedical fields as areas the place botched software program engineering can have “catastrophic penalties.”

That prompted Little to ask how a photograph database like iStock might trigger an engineering disaster.

“In order for you a photograph of a bald eagle swooping right down to seize a mouse, that’s the place you get it from,” he mentioned. “How might the general public be impacted by a catastrophic failure?” 

Haymond replied that the harms needn’t be bodily, citing the potential financial hurt that stem from a defective payroll system.

Haymond mentioned because it stands, anybody who takes a three-week coding boot camp may be employed by Jobber and name themselves a software program engineer.

She added that when iStock was taken over by U.S.-based Getty Photos, Canadian iStock staff with the title “software program developer” felt American staff with the title “software program engineer” had extra “skilled cachet” and pushed for the adoption of the time period.

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“It’s very clear that the aim of utilizing this title is as a result of staff wish to convey the next rank of their group, and have a title they haven’t earned by way of their registration with APEGA,” she mentioned.

iStock and Jobber argue that if legislators have a problem with using the time period software program engineer, they need to replace the act — which Cooper mentioned hasn’t seen a big modification with regard to titles since 1981.

She mentioned APEGA is searching for to treatment an issue that doesn’t exist. Jobber sells off-the-shelf software program that helps contractors and home-based companies with scheduling, billing and different administrative duties.

“Nobody is coming to them for engineering providers,” she mentioned. “Nowhere in its title does it counsel it sells engineering providers.” 

All iStock and Jobber have executed is use an industry-accepted time period internally and on job websites the place the “breadth and customary utilization” of the time period is nicely understood, she mentioned.  

“There may be nothing within the work that Jobber is doing that … goes to trigger any hurt that requires regulatory oversight by APEGA,” mentioned Cooper.  

Little reserved his choice for a later date.

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