The City of Nelson hired Harshit Kandpal, a Thompson Rivers University student, thanks to the Columbia Basin Trust’s school works co-op wage subsidy. Photo submitted

City of Nelson creates student opportunity

“We didn’t realize how much we needed this person until we met them.”

Submitted by the Columbia Basin Trust

“We didn’t realize how much we needed this person until we met them.”

That’s City of Nelson human resources director Joanna Markin speaking about how a project for the city remained on the sidelines until the right person came along to tackle it. In this case, it was a need to audit the payroll against its respective collective agreement.

“I had this project sitting on my desk and knew I needed to find the time and resources to deal with it, but sometimes that’s hard to do,” said Markin. “I knew it was something that needed to be addressed and taken on.”

Enter Harshit Kandpal, a Thompson Rivers University student completing his post-baccalaureate diploma program in human resource management who applied on another co-op position with the city. For Markin and Chris Jury, deputy chief financial officer for the city and Harshit’s day-to-day supervisor, it was a bit of a eureka moment.

“That’s when we met Harshit. We recognized that he had an incredible skill set for auditing and realized we had met the right person with the right experience and that we could create a special project for him to take on that would also fill a need we had. We turned to the Columbia Basin Trust and applied on their school works program to support us in creating an opportunity to hire him.”

The school works co-op wage subsidy provides wage subsidies to employers in the Columbia Basin to help them hire post-secondary students enrolled in full-time education and participating in a recognized university or college co-op education program. The City of Nelson worked with College of the Rockies, who administers the program on the Trust’s behalf, to hire Harshit.

For Harshit, the co-op position at the City of Nelson has been a game-changer on several levels.

As a student from India and new to Canada, it’s provided an opportunity to work in a job relevant to his field of study as well as become a member of a community, not just as a student on campus, but as a resident, employee and volunteer.

“It has been an awesome experience,” said Kandpal. “The co-op position has allowed me to gain real-world experience in Canada in what I want to do professionally. I had never really thought about working for a municipal government before and with this opportunity, I have been able to use my education and previous work experience to do just that.

“It’s given me the break I was really hoping for, and it’s allowed me to discover a different part of B.C. and be part of a new community, like volunteering with Nelson and District Recreation and the Nelson Leafs.”

Similar to the experience for Kandpal, the co-op term has been beneficial for the City of Nelson, not just to undertake this special project, but as an opportunity to reflect on internal processes and see a new way of looking at how work gets done.

“Having Harshit in the co-op position allowed us to have a bit of a critical eye on how we did things as an employer,” said Jury. “By mentoring Harshit in his new job, by explaining to him how processes worked at the City, it allowed us to do some analysis on why we were doing things a certain way and ask ourselves — why are we still doing it this way? It’s helped us make some changes for the better.”

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