Name another co-op employer that can give you opportunities to fight forest fires, present at conferences in front of hundreds of curious co-workers, and work directly with some of the most influential decision makers in the province, while still allowing you time to unwind every other Friday during bi-weekly ‘flex day’ days off?  

That was the question a panelist representing the BC Public Service on a “Former Co-op Employee Panel” rhetorically raised to an audience of co-op students six months ago at a university career planning event I attended. Her rhetorical question was in response to the questions being posed by students (myself included); it was becoming apparent to her that, amongst those in that room, there were some misunderstandings about working for the BC Public Service.

I’ll admit that as I listened to the panelist describe her employer, I was somewhat skeptical about what she was saying. Despite my skepticism, I still applied on a BC Public Service co-op job posting I came across a few days later. After successfully competing for that position, and over the course of my 16-week co-op placement with the BC Public Service, I’ve learnt first-hand that the BC Public Service is just as excellent an employer as the panelist emphatically made it out to be.

So, consider this to be my attempt to bust some of the outdated myths that some people believe about “government”. Having worked for the last few months for the BC Public Service, I am hopeful that you will be open-minded to recognizing the “myth-conceptions” of being a public servant.

Myth #1: Bureaucracy, Bureaucracy, Bureaucracy

As is reflected in the organization’s new corporate human resources plan, two of the BC Public Service’s main drivers going forward are to fully embrace the mindset of innovation, and to recruit younger and more diverse talent into the organization.  Although “bureaucracy” may be the word that comes to your mind when you hear the word “government”, it certainly does not describe the organization that I’ve worked for during my employment.

About half way through my co-op work term, my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss (so boss X 4) unexpectedly approached me in the hall and requested to meet with me to discuss my experience as a BC Public Service co-op employee. Through taking the time to request to meet with me, the message she was sending was clear: the BC Public Service is committed to becoming more representative of the citizens it serves, and more innovative; and they want co-op employees to help lead the change.

Myth #2: It’s so Boring!

Despite my expectations before starting my job, it has been the furthest thing from boring.  In my short time working with the BC Public Service, I’ve sat on several advisory boards and selection committees; arranged meetings with MLAs; planned events for hundreds of other co-op employees; launched a new “Co-op Job Swap” event across the entire BC Public Service, and much more. Through all of this, my supervisor has regularly checked in with me to ensure that I’ve been enjoying the work I’ve been doing (which I definitely have!).

Additionally, the non-work learning opportunities that the BC Public Service has offered me as a co-op employee have exceed those of most any other co-op employer. In my short time with the BC Public Service, I have attended Lunch and Learns on how to write an effective résumé and cover letter, and to ace a competency based job interview; had a career conversation with a member of government executive; attended multiple events to gather career advice from employees in all different roles and ministries; job shadowed employees in totally different areas of government; networked with other co-op employees…and the list goes on.

The networking I’ve done through these non-work learning opportunities has made me realize that the job of a BC Public Service co-op employee is not “one size fits all”.  This past year, over 400 co-op positions were filled in the BC Public Service, with students from every faculty, in jobs ranging from IT to finance to environmental protection (and everything in between) – there is definitely an opportunity that would interest everyone!

Myth #3: Non-competitive Pay

While this is one of the most common myths about working for “government”, it is also one of the most provably untrue. Look no further than the BC Public Service’s salary information page – undergraduate and graduate co-op employees earn well above what I (and most of my friends) have been paid in the past on a co-op work term (UVic has a great breakdown of co-op student salary information).

In addition to above average co-op salaries, the BC Public Service provides co-op employees with grants of up to $1,000 per work term, to cover their co-op work term tuition fees.  When you combine strong BC Public Service co-op employee salaries with substantial tuition grants, you get an employer that offers co-op employees very competitive compensation.

Six months ago during the panel questioning period, I was skeptical of the panelist who “warned me” that co-op employees enjoy working for the BC Public Service (99% of co-op employees said that they would recommend the BC Public Service to others), however, she was totally right.  I have enjoyed my co-op work term with the BC Public Service so much that I have become the one promoting the BC Public Service to prospective co-op employees. So, my best advice to you: recognize the BC Public Service as what it actually is – a rapidly evolving employer with tons of exciting opportunities for co-op employees.

The BC Public Service is the employer of the BC provincial government. The BC Public Service is comprised of over 27,000 employees in more than 200 different job types working across 280 communities within the province to deliver services to more than four million British Columbians every day. The BC Public Service offers a range of careers and the opportunity to engage in rewarding, innovative work driven by purpose and responsibility to the citizens of British Columbia. 

Written by: Jack Gorham (BCom Co-op, University of Victoria)