Reshaping Canada’s largest military base, one student at a time
By Elizabeth Sharpe,
CFB Halifax PA Intern
Over the years, students have become a great asset to many departments across the Government of Canada. Here at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Halifax, the positive contributions of student employees can be seen and felt across all branches and units.
CFB Halifax hires students using several methods, one of the most popular being the Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP), the largest student employment program in Canada. The program provides opportunities for students at all levels, in every program of study, to gain experience by working in the federal public service. Students working through FSWEP are able to enrich their education, develop and enhance skills for employability, and learn more about potentially starting a future career in the public service.
Rebekah Kinal was hired as an FSWEP student in May 2018, working with the CFB Halifax Base Logistics (BLog) team. Flash forward two and a half years, and she has just been hired into a full-time, permanent position with BLog. It’s hard to believe that Kinal started with no military background prior to her 2018 student hire.
“Kinal was instantly a valuable team member in the section,” says Bob Houghton, the BLog Unit General Safety and Environment Officer at CFB Halifax. “During her time within BLog she has gained the practical experience and additional confidence needed to be able to completely support all administrative requirements and any onsite responsibilities.”
Kinal was asked to assist with the BLog Safety and Environment Program and completed several training courses to enhance her already strong skill set and work ethic. These courses included Fall Arrest Basic Rescue, Spill Response, Environmental Officers Course, and more.
“A benefit of being an FSWEP student is the experience itself. This program opened up so many doors and really expanded the way I thought about my future,” Kinal explains. “The program also set up different networking events for students as well, so I was able to see what other federal organizations were doing and offering for students; just being exposed to the federal government is the greatest benefit of being in the program.”
FSWEP students apply through the national FSWEP portal online, which is maintained by the public service commission. Interestingly, students who apply through FSWEP can be interviewed and employed for positions that do not require a specific area of study. You could be a medical student who decides to work as a landscaper during your FSWEP term, or a business student who ends up working in safety and environmental services.
But FSWEP is not the only opportunity for students looking to gain experience at CFB Halifax. Students enrolled in a university program with a co-op component may also find work placements with the base. Typically, co-op opportunities are linked to a students’ particular program such as public affairs, engineering, occupational health and safety, auto technician, or computer science, to name a few.
Job opportunities for co-op students are posted when a manager on the Base has a need and can mentor a student in a specific area. CFB Halifax has great relationships with local universities and colleges in Halifax, and also offers an annual, 13-week experiential learning program for high school students through the Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE).
Matthieu Lagace-Seguin is a third year public relations student at Mount Saint Vincent University and is currently working his second co-op term at CFB Halifax as a public affairs intern with Real Property Operations Unit Atlantic (RPOU(A)).
“I think working with CFB Halifax for a co-op placement is awesome and it’s a really easy process to apply,” Lagace-Seguin explains. “They have had many co-op students in the past so they know what they’re doing, and I’m never given more work than I can handle.”
Working as a student at CFB Halifax is an excellent opportunity for learning and developing major skills for your future, which has benefited Kinal greatly.
“I took every training opportunity that came my way, which not only helped me increase my skills and knowledge for how things work on the Base, but also helped build my resume for the future,” she explains. “Also, the student services team at CFB Halifax made a hugely positive impact on me as a student working on Base. They were always quick to reply and help with any issue I faced, and made sure students were happy with what they were doing and made sure to let us know they are there to help.”
Deirdre MacKenzie, the Student Services Coordinator at CFB Halifax, has witnessed the benefits of student hiring from the ground up. “Student hiring can rejuvenate the workforce and build the CFB Halifax organization for the future,” she explains, adding that “students bring new ideas, skills and innovative collaboration to our workplace.”
CFB Halifax branches or units who may be interested in hiring a student should know that student hiring is funded by the Base through the Base Business Manager (BBM); this means that branches do not have to find funds to hire students, nor do they have to manage any of the staffing paperwork. The important piece is that managers have meaningful work to offer, have the ability to manage their students’ work schedule, and can be available to mentor students and address their questions when needed.
MacKenzie reaches out to Base branches three times a year assessing the internal demand for student workers. She then interviews students, manages security clearance applications, co-op application processes and staffing paperwork. This makes the process for a manager to hire a student even easier.
Once students are hired, they usually settle into their roles quickly, though it’s understandable to be hesitant when entering into a new work environment.
“My advice for students who may be nervous about working with the government would be to go in with an open mind and don’t be afraid to ask for help,” explains Kinal. “I was very intimidated on my first day, as I always assumed bases were scary and very strict, but I was wrong. I was welcomed into my unit and met so many nice people, and making connections with your co-workers makes a huge difference!” she adds.
It’s clear that Kinal shook her nerves quickly and became an integral part of the team at BLog, and she isn’t alone. Rebekah is one of approximately 10 students we have used student bridging to hire into full-time positions on the Base over the last three years. Student bridging refers to the non-advertised appointment of a student into a full-time federal public service job based on the experience gained during their student employment with the federal government.
Houghton and the rest of the BLog unit are glad to now have Kinal as a full-time member of the team. “We have been extremely pleased with the effort and commitment Rebekah has provided over the past three years and look forward to witnessing her career progression within DND.”
For students interested in applying for jobs through the FSWEP program, please visit the FSWEP website: www.canada.ca/en/public-service-commission/jobs/services/recruitment/students/federal-student-work-program.html.
For universities or students interested in connecting with the CFB Halifax Student Services coordinator to discuss co-op opportunities, or for CFB Halifax managers looking to hire a student, please contact DND-BESStudentSvcs@forces.gc.ca.