Where to Look: The Public Sector

There are two basic areas where you can apply for jobs, the public sector and the private sector. Now we definitely learnt what this means in school but I have had people ask me to clarify so I will. The public sector is essentially working for the government.  The private sector is any job that is owned and operated apart from the government. So private businesses. Wal-Mart is a multi-billion dollar company but falls in the private sector, It is not ran by the government. There are three levels of government in Canada and you can find jobs at all three levels and the public sector will be the basis of this post.

The Municipal Government

The first is the municipal. This means at the City or Town level. So if you are working for the City of Edmonton or the City of Calgary or the Town of Morinville…you are working for the government at the municipal level. These jobs would include things like working in the recreation department (as I have previously done), working in parks (so mowing lawns, watering flowers, picking up garbage, snow removal etc), it could mean working in transportation and driving bus or train, the police or fire department, clerical work for any government organization etc. There are numerous opportunities working at this level. Opportunities range from entry-level clerical work to childcare to tradespersons. There are opportunities for people to work in political science field, trades, construction, accounting, business, etc. Think of all the things that are required to create a well run city or town…people have to work these positions.

The new (and in my mind dumb) way of applying for jobs is online. Therefore you can browse postings at the municipal government website. Here are some examples.

The City of Edmonton
The City of Calgary
The City of Red Deer
The Town of Tofield

Any town or city that you can live in should have an official website with an employment or careers section for you to find. I could never list them all. Be careful when searching though. If it says monster, kijiji etc. you are getting into the private sector (which I will talk about in a little bit). Public sector positions with the municipal level of government will be posted on an official page such as the ones listed above.

The Provincial Government.

Exactly as it sounds this means working for the government of a province or territory. Again you can find job postings online by googling it. Here is the Alberta website. There are similar ones from each province and territory. On here you are going to find jobs…surprise surprise that deal with things at a provincial level. Again, there is a wide range of positions available Probation, Peace Officers, Lawyers, Child Interventionists, Engineers, caseworkers, Clerical, Emergency Response, Board of Directors etc.

There is also a “grey zone” with the provincial government. For Alberta this would include things like Alberta Health Services. Some would classify that as a government job others wouldn’t. However they are so heavily mandated and funded by the government of Alberta that I personally would say this counts as a provincial job.

The Federal Government.

This includes being a “public servant” for the Government of Canada (or the United States etc.). Again these jobs are incredibly vast and can include a wide range of skills and services. Including things such as the RCMP, Post Office employees, Park Rangers, Parole Officers, Telecommunications, the Military, Statistics Canada, etc. And again go figure you can find jobs with the federal government on …*drumroll* the Government of Canada website. Which you can view here. They recently changed the format of this site and it a million times better and WAY more user-friendly.

Benefits to working in the Public Sector.

Generally speaking these jobs are unionized. Which can be a blessing or a curse. Personally I love the stability of a union. The union works both ways it protects the employer from lazy stupid employees (in theory) and it protects the employee from lazy stupid employers (in theory). The union will have a union agreement with the employer and the employer must follow what is written in the agreement. If they do not you have the right as an employee paying union dues to go to the union and file a grievance. As someone who has done this I appreciate the stability and don’t mind paying union dues. (So yes, if you are part of a union a small portion of each pay cheque will be removed to pay for the service).

Generally speaking these jobs generally pay more than equivalencies in the private sector. This means working in recreation for a municipal government will probably pay more than the YMCA (The City of Edmonton pays anywhere from $2-10 more per hour for recreation then the YMCA).

These jobs are THEORETICALLY more stable and get less stable as the level gets bigger. A municipal job is more stable than a provincial a provincial more than a federal. (This is just in my experience anyways). The reason I say this is that the government hires highly skilled individuals and needs to be picky. This means there are A LOT of temporary contracts out there. When I was working for the municipal government I worked in the same department for 6 years, over that time I was hired on 9 seperate temporary work contracts ranging from 2-8 months a piece. Which means that while I was never unemployed, one contract would end monday the next would start Tuesday, I was laid off and re-hired 8 times in 6 years. This can be extremely nerve-wracking for people who need stability. However, I always knew what to expect. I knew with plenty of time in advance when my contract was ending and when a new one was starting so to me it was very stable. I know other people may laugh at 9 contracts as being stable.

Governments know how to take care of their employees. There are going to be times where you are overworked but as an employer, each level of government offers plenty of room for advancement, good benefits (depending on the contract), and further training opportunities.

Cons of working in the Public Sector

You may feel like you don’t have as much as a voice as you will be bogged down by beurocratic red tape. What I mean by this is even though you may see a great way to boost morale, improve worker relations, improve program development or implementation your ideas may fall on deaf ears. Things are the way the are for a reason.

Stability (like I said it worked for me…I know it wouldn’t for a lot of people…the thought of being laid off 2-3 times a year is terrifying).

If you work for the Provincial or Federal government they can move you anywhere within that jurisdiction. This means while you were hired by the Government of Canada to work in Edmonton, generally speaking, they can ask you to relocate to Nunavut. This would be outlined in your contract agreement and the government will usually help cover moving costs etc. however if you need to be stable and cannot leave the place in which you currently reside anything above municipal government may not be for you.

Now if you are a twenty-something and just learnt that there are three levels of government, if this was brand new information….first of all I am frightened for you and wondering how you made it through high school. I am wondering if names like Alison Redford and Stephan Harper ring a bell…and am sincerely worried that you are not doing your due diligence as an adult to learn about your government and vote intelligently. But these are not issues for this blog…cause seriously you should have learnt this in school.

I simply cannot believe how many people ask me how I have gotten jobs in public sector and where to look. Google is your friend…use it! This was the easy part. The difficult part is getting the public sector to give you the time of day. We’ll look at that next time.


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