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Co-op Workterm Overview
Co-operative Education integrates degree-relevant, paid work experience with academic study and offers MPP students a unique opportunity to apply newly developed skills in a practical context and build a network of professional contacts.
The Public Policy Co-op work term occurs in the May to August timeframe between the first and second year of the program. All students must complete the 12-16 week co-op term as part of their program requirements except when a student has considerable public policy work experience and receives permission from the program director for exemption.
SFU’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Co-op Education Department is renowned for their expertise in recruiting high-level co-op opportunities and is ranked among the best co-op programs in Canada. In addition to a tailored and engaging student preparation program, SFU’s commitment to service ensures both student and employer needs and expectations are recognized and addressed along the way.
Preparation and Types of Opportunities
A Masters Co-op program coordinator works directly with Public Policy students in small groups to develop and enhance resumé writing, cover letter and interview skills. One-on-one practice interviews and extensive resume feedback sessions ensure that you are well prepared for your co-op job search. You will have full access to SFU Co-op’s online job posting system exclusively for registered Co-op participants, as well as, resources and support if you intend to pursue an independent, self-directed search for a position that meets Co-op workterm criteria.
Co-op employers represent a range of sectors including federal, provincial and municipal governments, not for profit organizations, private sector, research institutes, educational institutions, labour organizations, professional associations, health authorities and advocacy groups.
Workterm locations include Metro Vancouver, Victoria, BC regions, National Capital Region (Ottawa and Gatineau), Toronto, Edmonton and some international locations.
I spent my co-op working at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) in their Western Region office in Downtown Vancouver. PHAC is a federal department that promotes health, prevents chronic and infectious diseases, and responds to public health emergencies in Canada. I was a part of the Public Health Capacity and Knowledge Management Unit, which is responsible for increasing the Agency’s understanding of public health capacity and health security systems, as well as conducting health systems analysis for input on policy and program development.
During my time there, I worked on a variety of interesting files. My major project for the summer was to produce a research report on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in BC, which included analyzing antibiotic resistance and utilization trends, summarizing the major AMR policy initiatives in the province, and presenting opportunities for PHAC engagement. I was also given a lot of other neat opportunities, like meeting in-person with Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer and conducting a literature review on chronic emergency management for the Vice President of PHAC’s Health Security and Infrastructure Branch.
My unit was very supportive, and I was given a fair amount of independence and was able to take leads on certain projects, so I was able to further develop some of the skills I learned in the MPP program. My experience at PHAC has given me a better understanding of federal government work and fostered my career interests. I think the skills and knowledge that I’ve gained over the summer have positioned me really well for future government work, particularly in the field of public health.
This summer, I worked as a Policy Analyst and Researcher at the Ministry of Transportation – Passenger Transportation Branch in Coquitlam, BC. The Branch is responsible for passenger directed commercial vehicles such as taxis, intercity buses, limousines, party buses and transportation network services (ride hailing). With all the many transportation changes happening in BC such as the introduction of ride hailing and the withdrawal of Greyhound, I got to work on really interesting and topical projects! This position was highly immersive and provided me with many great learning opportunities.
One of my main projects was to establish a driver training framework for BC that is aligned with the Ministry’s priorities of safety and accessibility. It required me to conduct a cross-jurisdictional scan, establish a policy problem, objectives and key considerations, assess BC’s current driver training standards, connect with relevant stakeholders, and create a set of recommendations with the help of the policy team and my Director.
One of my favourite assignments was working on a briefing note for decision about illegal ride hailing operators. I compiled stats and background information, compared the pros and the cons of graduated and hard enforcement strategies, and provided a recommended option. I felt that I was able to put the skills I gained from the MPP program directly into this assignment!
Throughout my time here, I felt that my experience from the MPP program prepared me for handling multiple critical priorities and urgent requests and deadlines. I would highly recommend any MPP student to consider a co-op term here. I was highly impacted by the positive and welcoming work environment, especially the motivation and inclusivity of my colleagues.
This summer I had the opportunity to work at FortisBC on their policy team, as a Policy Analyst co-op. The policy team at Fortis is currently working on the CleanBC provincial climate plan requirements for natural gas, and engaging with federal government and other stakeholders on climate policy requirements. As a natural gas utility, Fortis is constantly looking for ways to innovate and see where natural gas can fit in the climate policy context while keeping rates low for customers.
Some of my work included writing policy briefs and memos to members of the provincial and federal governments, internal and external facing presentations, coming up with ideas for potential workshops, conducting research on climate policies in different jurisdictions, synthesizing technical reports for external audiences and providing information requested by the BC Utilities Commission as requested.
Working at Fortis gave me exposure to working in private industry in a policy context and seeing how it differs from policy in other jurisdictions. I found it very rewarding because most, if not all of my work was useful in that it went to either internal management or external facing audiences. I had the opportunity to gain a ton of exposure with working with different stakeholders and their industries, which not only allowed me to network but also gain a sense of the BC climate context from a ‘big picture’ perspective. My team was incredibly welcoming and what I admired the most about them was how intelligent and passionate they were about their work. I used pretty much every skill I learned at MPP and can now say that my skills have developed substantially over the summer.
I would highly recommend FortisBC as a future co-op for any prospective MPP student. It is hard work, you learn a lot, you are exposed to a lot of different topics and most importantly you get to see what it’s like to work as a policy analyst.
I had a great summer co-op term working at Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) in the Treaties and Aboriginal Government office in Vancouver. I worked in the Fiscal Policy and Arrangements Directorate, which is an interesting team responsible for developing the fiscal policies for treaties and other agreements negotiated with Indigenous groups.
The team I worked with leads the federal side for the Collaborative Fiscal Policy Development process. This is a true policy co-development process with participation of representatives from self-governing Indigenous Governments across Canada. The new policy developed through this process is intended to adequately resource Indigenous Governments and provide structure for the ongoing fiscal relationship.
It was exciting to participate in this meaningful work and have the opportunity to learn firsthand some of the challenges and opportunities of co-developing policies with Indigenous Governments. During my work term I had the opportunity to help with the development of new funding methodologies in key areas like culture, language, heritage, and infrastructure. The skills I learned in my first year of the MPP program were put to work as I researched other policies from across Canada and around the world, and analyzed how these potential policy options could be implemented.
Throughout the summer I honed my skills as a policy analyst and participated in exciting new methods of policy development. Beyond that, working at CIRNAC was a great environment to learn more about a career in the federal public service and the many opportunities for meaningful work.
I spent my summer co-op term working in Ottawa with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) in the Strategic and Service Policy Branch, which is responsible for providing research and policy analysis on socioeconomic policy issues. Within the branch, I worked with the Social Policy Directorate, which was in final stages of putting together Canada’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy during my co-op term.
I was lucky to jump into such a high-profile file just before it was launched and had the opportunity to do a lot of meaningful policy work surrounding poverty reduction in Canada. The work that I did included analyzing various social programs that target low-income individuals and vulnerable populations, as well as analyzing measures and indicators of low-income and poverty.
Throughout my co-op term, I both led and provided input to a number of policy memos, briefing materials, presentations for international delegations, and data analysis products. The team that I worked with was very supportive and treated me as if I was any other member of the team. The work that they gave me also gave me the opportunity to put the skills that I’ve learned in the MPP program into practice and I felt like the program prepared me really well to do my job!
I highly recommend to any MPP students to consider doing a co-op term with the federal government in Ottawa. It was a great way to experience what a career in the federal government would be like and to see what’s happening at the centre of the policy action in Canada.
I did my co-op at the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) as a Policy and Program Assistant. The FNHA “is the first province-wide health authority of its kind in Canada. In 2013, the FNHA assumed the programs, services, and responsibilities formerly handled by Health Canada's First Nations Inuit Health Branch – Pacific Region. [FNHA’s] vision is to transform the health and well-being of BC's First Nations and Aboriginal people by dramatically changing healthcare for the better.”
I worked with the policy team in the Health Benefits department. The role of the Health Benefits department is to administer First Nations health benefits formerly provided through Health Canada’s Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program. These benefits include dental, vision, pharmacy, mental health, medical supplies and equipment, and medical transportation benefits for all eligible First Nations in Canada. Many of these benefits are still delivered through NIHB to First Nations in BC, and so one of the primary goals over the next few years is for FNHA Health Benefits assume control over the administration of these benefits in order to meet the unique needs of First Nations in BC.
During my co-op term, the Health Benefits team was in the process of transferring administration of the pharmacy benefit from NIHB to an FNHA-specific plan under BC PharmaCare. In alignment with this objective, I was given the task of drafting the first ever FNHA Pharmacy Benefit Policy Framework. This project took up the majority of my co-op term and is the project from which I learned the most about the intersection of provincial and federal health systems and policy, and further inspired me to pursue a career in health policy. I felt very fortunate as a student to have been able to take the lead on such a substantial project, as this expanded my professional skills and enhanced my self-confidence. The professional development I gained through this position was instrumental in getting a job as a Policy Analyst with the Doctors of BC where I currently work.
I would highly recommend the FNHA to students looking for a co-op. Because FNHA is a new organization going through rapid and substantial change, there is opportunity to be involved in major projects in a meaningful way. The culture of the organization is that of a family, I always felt welcome, and I felt that the work I was doing was going to have a real and positive impact.