Attention Co-op Students: Provincial Government Employment Debunked

21 June 2019
Ask a university student where they see themselves working in five to 10 years. Usually they’ll say somewhere trendy, competitive, and most of the time, they’ll be envisioning a private firm. Often, they see private firms as the main hub of innovative, fast-paced, and rewarding work, such as Google and Tesla – two organizations that have created unique solutions to tackle daily problems. Rarely do they picture the provincial government as competing in the same league.
Although government employment is largely associated with stability and exceptional benefits, it is often perceived by many Millennials and Generation Zs as less exciting work than in the private sector. In fact, after reaching out to several business and economic students, it became clear that working in the provincial government is often seen as slow-paced and mundane. But after completing a co-op with the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training (AEST), I am here to debunk the myths regarding government employment! 
A little about myself – my name is Karissa and I am fourth year commerce student attending the University of Victoria. Prior to my recent co-op with the provincial government, I had spent my time working exclusively in the private sector. I found the work to be rewarding and exciting and at the time, would have been happy to pursue the remainder of my career in the sector. However, after seeing a posting for a position with the provincial government, I thought I would take a chance – if anything, to reaffirm my beliefs about what it would be like to work in government, slow and mundane. And yet, I was happily surprised to learn that many of the perceptions I held were false. Listed below are several of the common myths about working in government debunked.

Myth: Working for the government is slow-paced.
If I could describe the teams working within the provincial government, it would be small yet mighty. Quite often, individuals are juggling multiple tasks at once to ensure goals are met. Working in government allowed me to improve my project and time management skills to fit in all of my required tasks prior to the end of my employment. Although people are busy, they are happy to be there and have a strong sense of pride with respect to the work they do.
Myth: Innovation only takes place in the private sector.
According to the 2016 corporate plan, the provincial government has been actively working towards changing its culture to better deliver services to British Columbians. To create innovative solutions to the complex problems faced by citizens, the organization is shifting its culture to become increasingly experimental, collaborative and people focused. This mindset has been adopted by many employees. In fact, I found many of my colleagues and supervisors constantly asking for new perspectives and ideas on how they could change previously established processes.
Myth: I’ll never be able to advance my career in government.
During my co-op, I enjoyed asking people about their employment history – curious as to what landed them a spot working for the provincial government. By listening to many different stories, I found one overarching theme – almost all employees had moved both vertically and horizontally within the provincial government. And many employees had previously worked for several different ministries and held roles in various positions. As someone who doesn't stay in one place for long and enjoys partaking in different projects, this was exciting to learn. Furthermore, with a projected gap in government employees due to the retirement of the baby boomer generation, it can be expected that the ease of horizontal and vertical movement will increase – allowing for even more opportunities in the future.
Myth: Lack of workplace culture.
To say that the workplace culture of the provincial government is diverse is an understatement. Employees are of all ages, from undergraduate students to individuals approaching retirement. Employees come from all different cultural and employment backgrounds. This makes for exciting meetings as there are varying understandings and solutions brought to the table. The opportunity to serve fellow British Columbians acts as a key motivator for most provincial employees. Never before in my employment experiences had I seen employees refer to their work as a privilege and not a job. I found this to be genuinely inspiring.
So, if you’re contemplating working in the public sector, I say give it shot – you might be pleasantly surprised by your experience, just as I was!
To find out more about the benefits of cooperative education and to see if it’s for you, check out