By: Namish Modi

Working in the public sector requires a diverse set of skills that range from being a strong communicator to being a self-starter.

Recruiters from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), a branch of the Canadian federal government, are looking for that dynamic set of skills in their next hires.

Waterloo co-op students have brought immense value to the organization along with great attitudes, motivation and dedication to go above and beyond their assigned responsibilities.

“I think one thing I see with Waterloo students is they stand out, because they’re able to present themselves in a professional way,” says Sonal Patel, senior analyst with ISED.  “They’re not afraid, and they have confidence.”

ISED works with Canadians in all areas of the economy to improve conditions for investment, enhance Canada’s innovation performance, increase Canada’s share of global trade, and build a fair, efficient and competitive marketplace.

As a former co-op student herself, Patel has first-hand knowledge of the skills and aptitude that students bring to the workplace. Patel graduated with both an Arts undergraduate degree and a Master of Public Service (MPS) degree at Waterloo.

“It’s a fresh pair of eyes willing to pick projects up, and bring change to the workplace,” says Patel.

Arts students are extremely versatile, Patel explains, and can take on different roles in various departments. Their transferrable skills, most notably communication skills, have been vital during the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual work environment.

In the public sector, versatility is key. Students hired at ISED often look to continue with a career in the public sector post-graduation.

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Sonal Patel, senior analyst at ISED, explains what skills Waterloo Arts students bring to the real world.

“They’re able to communicate with their colleagues, they’re able to communicate with stakeholders and they’re able to communicate with management,” says Patel.

While technical skills can be taught, Patel knows that Arts students also bring soft skills to the job. They make a significant impact by effectively managing international relationships, engaging with stakeholders and providing strong analytical writing.

Known for being Canada’s leading innovation university, Waterloo co-op students live up to the brand. They are excellent problem-solvers who propose fresh, innovative solutions, which is what managers are looking for. For example, one MPS student significantly helped improve efficiency at ISED by developing a database to track submitted business applications.

Building ISED as an ‘employer brand’ has been key

co-op student speaking into a microphone

ISED wants to stand out to attract the best students.  They have immersed themselves into the Waterloo student community by attending job fairs, including the Partnerships for Employment (P4E) Virtual Career Fair

Patel feels events like these are important as some students think the government is one big entity, and don’t know about the multiple branches for possible employment, like ISED. Exposure is huge.

ISED also hosts a ‘Data Fest’ with MPS students from Waterloo. The hackathon-style event allows prospective co-op students 48 hours to analyze data and provide policy solutions.

Judges from external entities, like banks, select the winners.

“What they say has value and you can see they have the educational foundation to be able to develop those thoughts,” Patel says. “I think Waterloo has prepared them for that, not only through the standard of education, but through the co-op program.”

ISED also hires co-op students for roles in software development, policy analysis, communications and marketing and data analysis.