By: Mila Jokovic (she/her)
Municipal governments are typically responsible for numerous areas, programs and services. They offer students the chance to gain valuable skills while making a difference in their communities.
Work terms within municipalities are a great choice for students who wish to explore future career paths and apply knowledge from their studies – regardless of their program.
Waterloo co-op students, Anne Lytle, Cassondra Jonker and Mawj Al-Hammadi spoke to us about how working within government gave them a fulfilling experience and an opportunity to make an impact.
The government works in the best interest of the public. If you’re someone who wants to make a direct impact and help make communities better, working in any division of the municipal government is really fulfilling.
- ANNE LYTLE (SHE/HER), FOURTH-YEAR PUBLIC HEALTH STUDENT
Lytle says that her roles within municipalities have been pertinent to her studies because public health jobs focus on research and various subsets of health. “Public health is broad and comprehensive,” she says. “As a community program analyst, I was able to look at all the different aspects of health; social, political and environmental.”
Lytle completed a co-op work term with the City of Hamilton as a community program analyst and is currently working with the City of Waterloo as an active learning programs assistant.
In both roles, Lytle developed skills in time management, research analysis and communication. “Communication is a really big one that I think is important,” Lytle says. “In public health, you have to take into account what people in your community are saying.”
Cassondra Jonker (she/her), a third-year Recreation and Leisure student, also learned the importance of strong communication skills.
“Waterloo is a diverse place,” says Jonker.
“You need to be aware of different cultural backgrounds and communication styles.”
Jonker worked as a parks administration support and event bookings assistant for the City of Waterloo.
As part of her role, Jonker worked with Active Waterloo, an activity registration program, giving her ample opportunity to connect with the community.
“I love talking to people and learning about all the creative events people host, it’s really interesting,” says Jonker.
Networking for future opportunities
Municipal governments often have multiple departments, which gives students the opportunity to connect with employees across the organization.
“When working with the government, you have the opportunity to work with people in different departments like forestry, recreation services and community services,” says Jonker. “You're able to see how you need all those people to make things happen.”
Jonker built connections with upper management at the municipality and secured a part-time position after her co-op term. “I think it’s all about being able to get your foot in the door,” she says.
Mawj Al-Hammadi (she/her) is a fourth-year Health Sciences student working as a research trainee for the Environment and Energy division at the City of Toronto. In her current position, Al-Hammadi collects energy-use data from commercial buildings that are relevant to the Net Zero 2040 strategy.
Al-Hammadi found that working within municipalities gives her the opportunity to network with a variety of colleagues. In her role, she participates in meetings with city managers and public health employees. “I’ve connected with people in different phases of their careers,” she says. “It's a great networking opportunity.”
Al-Hammadi's believes co-op students should embrace the opportunity to connect with others because it provides insight into various fields and options to explore for the future. For example, she set up a meeting with a project manager to learn how he got to where he was in his career.
Taking the lead
Co-op roles within municipalities can be broad, offering freedom to students who wish to incorporate program-specific knowledge into their jobs.
Al-Hammadi's role was not specific to Faculty of Health students, so she talked with her supervisor about some health-related responsibilities that she could take on in her role. “Communicate what you want with your supervisor,” says Al-Hammadi. “I expressed that I wanted to take this role in a health direction, and he agreed. Take the opportunity to not just work, but also figure out what you want during your co-op.”
Al-Hammadi's role within the government was different from her past co-op positions, which helped her gain a better understanding of her abilities and her interests within her field of research.
Lytle had a similar experience, claiming that her roles within municipalities helped her discover her interest in being a program analyst.
Much of her role was analyzing research and determining how the government’s programs were performing. “These jobs helped me determine what sort of job, in general, I would like,” says Lytle. “Before these positions, I was really unsure and now I’ve determined that I really like the programming side of things.”
Jonker’s experience also helped her to clarify her passion. She knew she was interested in long-term senior care and discovered a new interest in working within municipalities. “Seeing how seniors react within the city turned me towards working for the municipal government,” says Jonker. “This is definitely a field that needs to be talked about more.”
Jonker found that the supportive and welcoming work environment at the municipality helped her to enjoy her co-op experience. “People are always excited to talk to co-op students, whether they’re directors or in entry-level positions,” she says. “They love hearing your ideas and getting you involved.”