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Baylee Brown started as a Bridging the Gap intern at Halifax Regional Municipality and is now the 2SLGBTQ+ community engagement and research coordinator for the municipality.Supplied

A career at Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) often begins with an overview of how municipal government works. It’s a way of helping employees understand the intimate connections between their new job and the community, says Britt Wilson, executive director of human resources.

“HRM is an organization whose single purpose is to serve the community,” he says. “As part of our orientation we always talk about how council works, about our relationship to council and the kind of services that we provide.”

Halifax Regional Municipality is a sprawling municipal unit, covering an area nearly as large as Prince Edward Island and home to more than 450,000 people. Making sure everything runs smoothly requires more than 3,600 employees in 13 different business units covering everything from fire and emergency services to infrastructure, transit and recreation.

Attracting and retaining young employees is a critical part of HRM’s mandate, Wilson says. “We hear a lot today about how young people are looking to advance, but they’re also looking to try different things and they don’t necessarily want to be stuck in one job for their entire career. We can offer a totally different workplace without changing employers. That means you get to keep the advantages we offer in our compensation: a robust benefits, retirement and pension program.”

Wilson says the municipality’s 311 call centre is a place where many young people start their careers. By helping citizens navigate through municipal services and issues, call centre employees gain an intimate understanding of how HRM works. Municipal recreation programs also attract young entry-level employees.

The municipality works with local universities to develop co-op programs for students, and has created a popular paid internship program dubbed Bridging the Gap for people who have recently graduated from a post-secondary school. “They are usually 18-month internships, and we have a high success rate of interns finding work at the municipality after completion,” he says.

Baylee Brown started in the internship program. Today Brown, who uses the pronouns they and them, is the 2SLGBTQ+ community engagement and research co-ordinator for HRM, a newly created position. Before that, they were the gender equity adviser for HRM.

As a non-binary, person, Brown immediately felt accepted at HRM. “I’m fortunate to be in a very supportive business unit with very supportive people,” they say.

Brown graduated from Bishop’s University in 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. “It was a scary time to be looking for work,” they say. The Bridging the Gap program offered a perfect solution – a chance for Brown to test their skills and see if they were a good fit for HRM.

“My position is very community-focused,” Brown says. “It’s the level of government that’s closest to the people. We get to help people in the community, to find ways to help them access municipal services in the best way possible, and that is very rewarding.”

For Brown, HRM is the perfect place to learn, grow and develop a career. “Even if the first job that you end up in isn’t the one you want to stay in for the rest of your life, there are so many other opportunities throughout the municipality and sometimes it’s easier to find them once you’re in the organization. We have 13 business units that do 13 very different things.”

Wilson says working to improve the community is a mission that resonates with young people like Brown. “Our employees see the work they do reflected in their community. They see how their work immediately impacts the people around them. That’s a great way to build a career.

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