Meet Graham Stuart, the Director of Corporate Planning at the City of Coquitlam. In this quick Q&A, Graham discusses the process of hiring an intern, the rewards and tips for employers hoping to hire a student.
Watching our co-op students grow throughout their term is one of my favourite parts of being a co-op employer. As they get exposed to different projects and parts of the organization, you can see them come into their own and really begin to understand how their role fits into the broader goals of the City. For me, I enjoyed seeing our co-op students develop their writing and strategic thinking skills during their time with us – they had opportunities to provide advice to senior members of our team, and craft input to reports that were approved by Council.
Anytime you join a new organization it’s a bit daunting, especially as a co-op student. One of the key things we do to ensure success is partner the co-op student with a senior leader/mentor in the organization to whom they can ask questions. Coming into local government is a bit different from other work environments, and creating a space where new interns can ask questions to gain a better understanding of how it all functions is hugely beneficial. This can be done in many ways such as one-on-one meetings with leadership, group work with colleagues, or getting them to lead a project; we’ve used all these tools to great success.
The best aspect of having an intern work with your team is the mutual benefit you get of having someone with a fresh perspective come into your operation. Co-op students bring a different lens to the work you do that helps you identify some of the gaps in your own thinking. For me, I also enjoy being able to provide mentorship to someone at the beginning of their career, as others did for me, and to showcase that public service is an exciting and interesting career choice.
Take the time to craft the position so that you have a good understanding of what it is you want that person to do. Have a suite of work for them to potentially do, and allow the right candidate to pick projects that will accentuate their strengths, but also stretch them to gain new skills. Co-op students are worth the investment.