United Nations Sustainable Development Goals take centre stage at York Region

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

York Region logo with an aerial view of a residential sub division

By: Namish Modi

Advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a key component of student work terms at The Regional Municipality of York (York Region).

York Region stretches north from Toronto to Lake Simcoe and includes nine municipalities. The Region has a vision of serving and forming strong communities for today and tomorrow. This vision offers experiences for students that focus on building a better community and continual improvement in the public works (formerly environmental services) department. 

York Region provides water, wastewater and waste management services that protect public health and the environment to meet the needs of the region’s thriving communities. Students play an impactful role in ensuring quality treatment of water and wastewater. Students work with the integrated management system (IMS) to update documentation and ensure resources are available to onsite teams.

“Sustainability is of utmost importance to York Region and how we deliver services to our residents,” says Meredith Pratley (she/her) (BES ’06), program manager in the IMS at York Region.


2021 Impact in Sustainability award

 
“Our employees and co-op students play a vital role in making a brighter, more sustainable future.”
York Region logoYork RegionImpact in Sustainability2021 CEE Employer Impact Awards

York Region won by providing students with the opportunity to make a real-world difference and enhance their learning.

 

topquote

“Students working in public works at York Region get a first-hand understanding and practical experience of the criticality of advancing the SDGs. Through these experiences, students develop a mindset focused on sustainability attitudes heading into the future workforce, which in turn leads impactful contributions towards a more sustainable future.”

- Shabnam Ivkovic, director of international strategic initiatives at CEE


Advancing the UN SDGs

The public works department at York Region is committed to providing student experiences that align with the UN SDGs.

“We provide flexible opportunities for students to learn and grow in the industry and the municipal sector,” says Pratley. “The IMS team supports York Region’s ability to meet SDG 6, which is related to clean water, and SDG 12 which is sustainable consumption and production.”

Students are helpful in tracking and mapping communications from residents to identify investigations and issues. They are critical in working in the IMS to deliver various continual improvement initiatives.

Waterloo Alumnus Samia Anwer (BES ’22) worked as an IMS co-op student for two terms at York Region. As part of her role, Anwer (she/her) worked in environmental auditing and helped with administration of the IMS.

She appreciated the free courses in ArcGIS and Advanced Excel offered by the Region during her work terms. Through learning to use these software programs, Anwer was able to help map complaints received across the region. The map she created was published on a portal for all employees at York Region.

“I think with York Region, on my specific team, everything that we did we made sure that our operations were sustainable and were impacting the environment in a positive way,” says Anwer. “It was always a top priority for anything that we worked on. It was such an empowering thing being given that level of responsibility and it made me feel really valued.”

Later in her work term, Anwer wrote an article for Municipal World Magazine, which she now proudly displays on her resume and LinkedIn profile.

“There was a specific job description for my role, but they allowed me to step out of that box. It was just empowering to be able to explore things that I wanted to explore personally, and they were supportive of that,” Anwer says.


The value of co-op students to York Region

In just under a decade of hiring Waterloo co-op students, York Region has hired 835 students in nine different departments and from all six faculties at the University.

“Students acknowledge that data and information literacy is a component of any job and incoming students are agile with technology,” says Pratley.


topquote

“Students look for opportunities to improve and set goals for themselves. Waterloo students are natural relationship builders. They feel comfortable building relationships in new environments and then can network easily. We have also noticed that Waterloo students are flexible and resilient, which is especially important in today’s environment.”

- Meredith Pratley (she/her) (BES ’06), program manager in the IMS at York Region


As part of their work terms, students gain exposure working in the public sector, experience working in municipal government, and customer service opportunities. They have opportunities to improve in public speaking, project management, networking, written communication, data literacy and team building through social events.