No. A qualified reference is someone who knew the candidate at the time she was performing SE work and who knows what SE work is. References do not need to be SEPs or even SEs.
A SEP candidate should start by looking for anyone who knew her during the time she worked. Then, figure out if there’s a way they can 1) understand what SE is and 2) convince others that they understand it. They’ll need to convince others in the reference form. The candidate may be able to teach the reference what SE is and then they will realize they’ve been working with SE’s all along.
If that fails, the candidate will have to look forward. Starting now, find someone who will be her reference in 5 years. Choose a person who will either be tracking her work or who knows what SE is. Ideally, find someone who can do both of those things. If they can only do one thing, help them with the other piece. Examples: a member of her local INCOSE chapter knows what SE is, so she should start keeping in touch with them monthly to tell them what work she is doing. A customer or manager at work might know what work she is doing, and she can fill their gaps in SE knowledge.
A third option is for the candidate to become an ASEP. It is still a respectable certification for someone who “speaks SE” but hasn’t proven their experience to INCOSE.