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More help for Ukrainian refugees

The Canadian government is offering Ukrainian refugees a one-time financial benefit. The Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET), which has 289 members in St. Albert, announced they would be waiving fees for refugees seeking to attain their designations.

Ukrainian refugees can now apply for a one-time financial benefit from the Government of Canada and one professional Alberta organization is waiving certification assessment fees for refugees.

The Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET) announced it would be waiving fees for refugees seeking to attain their designations.

“Some of our foreign-trained applicants are coming as refugees in very difficult circumstances, and we have to be able to help,” said Barry Cavanaugh, CEO of ASET.

As of May 24, the fees — which can cost applicants up to $1,000 and include an application fee, prior learning assessment, recognition (PLAR) fee, ASET professional practice exam fee, and certification exam fee — will be waived for those who come to Alberta with refugee status.

Some of the waived fees go towards the competency-based assessment program ASET launched in 2016. The program offers foreign-trained engineering technology professionals the opportunity to fast track their ASET designation without having to go back to school full time.

Cavanaugh said ASET realized there was a missing piece in their competency-based assessment program.

“It's only because of Ukraine that we became aware that this could be a problem because we've had refugee applicants before, but often they've been in the country for a while before they apply to us,” he said.

Cavanaugh said a few years ago the organizations decided to develop competency-based standards, a process that involved several volunteer subject-matter experts among all their disciplines, and those standards are kept current by having subject-matter experts constantly looking at them.

“It became obvious to us that a lot of foreign-trained applicants were having trouble ... It was slowing them down in the process [of finding employment in their field] and sometimes really discouraging them and maybe even turning them away,” he said.

Cavanaugh said the association is satisfied with its certification exam.

“If they can pass that they have the same knowledge as our graduates. But we can also offer them a level playing field. And I think it's important that there's a level playing field for all applicants,” he said.

Cavanaugh said applicants do need to be able to function in English in the workplace and that can be a difficulty for some people.

Mila Wagner came to Lethbridge from Ukraine in 2016. She said she had taken many English courses in Ukraine but during that time, her English was not enough to pass the Canadian Language Benchmark Placement Test.

After working for more than a decade in engineerin-technology-related fields in Ukraine, Wagner worked menial jobs to pay for her English schooling and necessities before she could enrol in the Lethbridge College to get her civil engineering technology education diploma.

She wishes she knew about the ASET certification program, as she would not have had to go back to college, and she wants to raise awareness to other Ukrainians with similar circumstances.

“It was quite challenging to start all over again. To get my schooling and to get my job which was related to my previous education from back home and experience as well,” she said.

Cavanaugh said he wasn’t sure if any refugees had yet applied to have their fees waived and he could not say how many foreign-nationals had used the competency-based assessment program to fast track their certification.

ASET has around 16,000 members in 21 disciplines and certifies around 120 occupations. There are about 289 ASET members in St. Albert.

Cavanaugh said it is a near recession-proof occupation.

“There’s a huge demand for engineering technologists, and it's a well-paid career. And they're all around us, they're making sure your water supply is safe. They're involved in the generation of power and support, telecommunications, roads, buildings, you name it,” he said.

New federal help for Ukrainian refugees

Ukrainian refugees can apply for a one-time payment through the federal government.

On June 2, Sean Fraser, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, and Karina Gould, minister of families, children and social development, announced financial assistance for Ukrainians arriving in Canada.

Under the benefit, Ukrainian nationals and their family members will receive a direct, one-time payment of $3,000 per adult and $1,700 per child 17 years of age and under.

This benefit is available for any Ukrainian and their family members who are in Canada and have a valid work permit, study permit, temporary resident permit, or visitor record under the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET).

Individuals who apply for the benefit must have a Canadian bank account and the name associated with the account must match the name of the adult’s temporary status documents, according to the Government of Canada’s website.

“Those arriving should also obtain a Canadian social insurance number as soon as possible in order to be able to work,” the website stated.

Applications for the benefit are available through the Government of Canada’s online portal:

Between March 17 and June 1, 2022, the Canadian government received 278,003 temporary resident visa applications. There had been 127,153 applications approved during that same period.

Between Jan. 1 and May 30, 7,251 Ukrainian refugees arrived in Canada by land, while 32,449 arrived by air.

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