Student stories

Three co-op work terms with the Government of Canada gives MPA student practical work experience

Meghan Corbett

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Privy Council Office

What is your name and your area of study?

Meghan Corbett, Master’s of Public Administration (MPA)

 

Please tell us a bit about yourself. Why did you choose UVic/your program? Why did you choose to participate in co-op?

I looked at a few different MPA programs because I originally wanted to deliver public programs and projects, and chose UVic because I liked the balance between courses, work experience, and research experience. And getting to live in Victoria was a big plus! I also chose the MPA because it has two mandatory co-ops, and I wanted the chance to earn money and try out different jobs while in school, as well as gain experience and a network to help get a job after I graduate.

 

Please tell us about your work terms with the Government of Canada. (Where did you work? What was your role? What were your responsibilities? What was your favourite part?)

My first co-op was with Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) as an Assistant Evaluator in the Evaluation Division. My responsibilities included designing a tracker/database to help manage projects internally, creating tables for the Departmental Plans going to the Treasury Board Secretariat, and synthesizing information on climate change adaptation. My favourite part was all the learning opportunities I got to take advantage of, like going to a conference, special presentations, and sitting in on meetings.

My second co-op was also with ECCC but as an Economist/Analyst in the Regulatory Analysis and Valuation Division within the Economic Analysis Directorate. My team specialized in performing cost-benefit analyses for species protections under the Species at Risk Act, and I was responsible for synthesizing information and data to be inputted into cost-benefit analyses on different species protection scenarios. My favourite part was proposing and leading my own project to design a project tracker/database to meet the business needs of my team, which leveraged my previous co-op experience and gave me the chance to learn more about my unit’s work.

I am currently doing my third co-op with the Privy Council Office as a Junior Policy Analyst in the Impact and Innovation Unit. So far, I’m analyzing data from the national COVID-19 Snapshot Monitoring (COSMO) survey and translating this knowledge into a paper to support pandemic response and recovery. My favourite part has been getting to apply my statistical knowledge and do work that is behaviourally-informed.

 

How do you compare hands-on learning with classroom learning?

I think they’re very different! Hands-on learning is more applied because you learn by doing, but you can also customize it more. In all my co-ops, my managers have been committed to assigning me work that aligns with my interests and learning objectives, and there are so many other learning opportunities (like courses and webinars through the Canada School of Public Service) to pursue what interests you. Hands-on learning can also be more spontaneous, like a new project suddenly coming up or having a conversation with a teammate, compared to having a syllabus that sets out the entire semester.

 

What was your experience with the Government of Canada hiring process?

It was very structured and collegial, and involved filling out lots of forms! The job descriptions provide a lot of information and give you a general idea of the type of work you will be doing. With interviews, I sometimes got the questions in advance, and the interviewers were always happy to repeat questions or let me gather my thoughts before I answered. They were very open to answering my questions, and gave open and informative answers. Onboarding involved filling out a lot of forms and took a few months to get everything in place, but my hiring managers were always available to answer questions.

 

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

I would like to work in a position that uses a behavioural lens to inform climate change or sustainability policy. Co-op has helped me to discover new career paths, learn the type of work and work environments that I enjoy (and don’t enjoy!), and gain experience and a network that will help me find a job after graduation.

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