Student stories

Co-op terms with the Government of Canada help MPA student prepare for the professional working environment

Juraj Kobzik

Department of Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs (CIRNAC) - Treaties & Aboriginal Governance division

Juraj Kobzik is currently finishing his studies in UVic's Master of Public Administration (MPA) program. During his studies he completed two co-op work terms with the Government of Canada's Department of Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs (CIRNAC), Treaties; Aboriginal Governance division.

Why did you choose UVic and your program? 

I came to UVic after living in Northern Ontario for the last six years. During this time, I came to understand that the public service plays an integral role in the life of Canadians. I chose to study public administration at UVic to better understand how important policy decisions are made and to gain the experience needed so that I could apply my knowledge to real topics in Canadian governance. 

I chose UVic specifically because of the opportunities that I would get from the co-op program. Having the chance to learn while actively employed in the public service was a fantastic way of gaining real-world experience and it gave me a great deal of insight into the complicated ways that Canada’s various levels of government operate. This experience was reinforced by supportive and knowledgeable professors who study and work in the industry.                

What was your experience working for the Government of Canada?

I worked for the Department of Crown Indigenous Relations in the Treaties & Aboriginal Governance (North-West) Division. I began working as an analyst in a self-governance negotiations team in January of 2020, and the responsibilities for this position were varied. Often the job required research to gain a better understanding of the regional level issues that were affecting the Indigenous communities that we were working with.

With my small team, I regularly met with counterparts from other federal departments such as Parks Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Health Canada, Canada Border Services Agency, and several others to discuss issues that First Nations communities were facing. Our role was largely to liaise between the leadership of the First Nations communities and the rest of the Canadian government.

In my position, I provided several oral and written reports to my colleagues, as well as the community leaders we were working with. By the end of my time at the co-op I was assisting with the initial drafting phases of a community’s self-government agreement between the First Nation and the Canadian government.

The job was very multi-faceted which required me to learn a host of topics such as fisheries management, topics relating to child and family services, the Canadian parks system, resource management, object repatriation, and many others. Although this job was incredibly dynamic, my favourite part was visiting and meeting with the communities my team worked with. 

How do you compare hands-on learning with classroom learning from your MPA?

The learning we received in the classroom was well suited for the work I was doing with CIRNAC. Our lessons in class emphasized flexible analytical thinking which was well suited for the wide range of topics I was encountering in my co-op placement. Our tasks were often team focused, which helped me when working for the federal government. Additionally, the MPA program did a great job preparing us for the professional working environment by hosting regular industry seminars, guest speakers, networking events, and educational presentations. 

My MPA cohort came from a multidisciplinary background and the classroom experience created room for us to apply our own knowledge and backgrounds to the tasks we were given. The learning environment was fast paced and often demanding, meaning that adaptability was crucial to get the job done. The experience in the classroom paralleled the real-world experience as often current events had substantial impacts on the work that my department was doing and together with my team we were forced to react. 

The classroom gave me a great foundation to build from once I entered my co-op.       

What was your experience with the federal government hiring process?

My experience with the government hiring process was that it can be tough but manageable. The government is looking for key criteria in the candidates it selects for potential employment. Knowing how to highlight that criteria within your résumé and cover letter was important to be selected. Fortunately, UVic’s co-op team was helpful in getting my resume and cover letter ready for showtime. Once I was able to identify how to tailor my résumé to the needed criteria, I felt more comfortable with applying for the various co-op positions I was interested in. 

Once I was able to secure interviews with potential employers the interviews became the next hurdle. As with any interview there is always pressure, however learning helpful techniques to answering interview questions alleviated some of that stress. In my experience, the interview was quite formal and consisted of a panel asking a series of knowledge-based and personal questions. It was important for me to study and practice beforehand so that when it came time for the formal interview, I felt prepared. The UVic co-op program was great at providing interview coaching and practice opportunities. 


What are your plans for your future career? How has co-op helped you with your career exploration and goals?

At the end of my co-op program, I came back to the department as a part-time student employee while I worked on my master’s thesis. At the end of that part-time contract, I was offered to be “bridged in”. This is when students are offered a full-time position with the federal government after graduation. I am excited to accept this offer and take on a new adventure. The co-op program through the MPA was incredibly helpful. Prior to starting the program, I don’t believe I would have had the same opportunities available. Currently, I will be finishing my studies this summer and will be starting a full-time career with CIRNAC this September!     

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