Last fall, thanks to funding from the BC Innovation Council (Innovate BC), the BC Public Service began an experiential learning pilot with Riipen, a Vancouver-based tech startup whose mission is to eliminate graduate underemployment. The company offers a web-based platform that connects students, recent graduates and educators to employers through project-based experiences both in and out of the classroom.

The pilot

The platform offers the Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology (JTT) a means to address the tech talent shortage in B.C. and supports Where Ideas Work by promoting engagement with emerging talent.

In November 2017, representatives from JTT and the Ministry of Citizens’ Services (CITZ) joined a panel of local business people and UVic faculty to judge UVic students’ case competition presentations responding to the challenge, “How can the BC Public Service better attract millennials?” The presentations provided valuable, outside-the-box solutions, some of which CITZ has already begun implementing. These include an internal student and recent grad engagement program, increased attendance at post-secondary co-op events (mock interviews, resume workshops, etc.) and ministry/building tours.

Following the case competition’s success, CITZ’s Corporate Services and the Continuous Service Improvement (CSI) Lab began two semester-long projects with student groups from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University (SFU).

Citizen Services and UBC

Karandeep Manak, a Strategic HR planner with Citizens’ Services is working closely with Riipen to address how the BC Public Service can better attract and retain current students and recent graduates.

“Through February and March 2018, 600 UBC Sauder business students have been working on our challenge as a classroom project. Students have approached this challenge as a live case study and applied academic theory and personal insights to develop strategic recommendations. We will be receiving the top 10 graded papers soon and are hoping the students can come to Victoria and present their recommendations to us.”

Continuous Service Improvement Lab and SFU

Brooke Finnigan, the director of cultural transformation with Government Communications and Public Engagement, says working with SFU and Riipen was a great opportunity for the CSI Lab.

“The Lab is all about finding different ways of working in the BC Public Service, using technology to create multi-disciplinary teams that build amazing services for the public. Through Riipen we were matched with two SFU student groups who researched and developed a recruiting plan for developers and a communications plan for telling the story of the lab outside of government (with lots of recruitment activity woven throughout). We asked the student teams to focus on those two areas because we know that if we’re building teams for the future, we’ll need to find innovative, creative ways to reach developers (and UX researchers, designers and scrum masters to name a few) and connect with them to start building relationships, and, building internal capacity for those skills within B.C. government.”

What’s next?

These two projects are wrapping up, and the Riipen pilot has one more project in the works: JTT will be working with a student group to support the upcoming Smart Communities pilot.

The Riipen pilot is building on the successes of other government experiential learning initiatives, such as co-ops and internships, and demonstrates the BC Public Service’s commitment to innovation.