News Release Archive

By Chad Lucas
Communications Nova Scotia

Andrea Lovasi has done something few students are lucky enough to
accomplish. She's found a summer job that not only interests her,
but it relates to her career goals.

"I'm doing something I want to do, instead of just sitting at a
job, mindless for eight hours, or working shift work," said the
third-year Dalhousie law student.

Ms. Lovasi is working with the Public Prosecution Service,
helping with research and attending court sessions. It's a
position she obtained through a mentorship program at Nova
Scotia's  Department of Human Resources. For the past six years,
the department has hired female students pursuing careers in
"non-traditional" fields such as engineering, fisheries, geology
and construction and paired them with government employees.

The program has been a resounding success from both perspectives.
For the students, the hands-on experience they receive -- while
earning a paycheque -- has been invaluable. Janie Astephen, a
Sydney native who's entering her second year of engineering
studies at Queen's in Kingston, Ont., views her job as an
education in itself.

"I've learned a lot, especially about the courses I'm taking,"
said Ms. Astephen. "It's nice to see things hands-on, and to get
a feel for what things are really like. You get to see what
you're learning about in school." 

Working for the Department of Labour, she's spending the summer
travelling around Cape Breton helping to inspect boilers and
pressure vessels.

The students find the helpful, receptive attitude from mentors
and co-workers makes the program all the more beneficial and
enjoyable. "Everyone here is really fun to work with, and they're
very helpful," said Amy Burns, a DalTech engineering student
working as an assistant engineer with the Department of
Environment in Truro.

As for the mentors, they're finding they reap as many benefits as
the students.

"It's wonderful," said Penny MacLeod of the Department of
Environment in Granton, Pictou County. This is her fourth year
hiring a student through the mentorship program. This year the
student has taken part in everything from complaint
investigations to inspections on the new Highway 104. "The
students are definitely a major help," she said.

The program was established through the Department of Human
Resources' Diversity Management Unit, which exists to ensure the
civil service reflects Nova Scotia's gender and cultural

"Government wants to invest in its population and mirror the
population profile of Nova Scotia," said Elizabeth
McDougall-Salchert, who directs the mentorship program.

Mrs. McDougall-Salchert, who also manages employment programs for
aboriginal students, black students, racially visible students
and persons with disabilities, is a strong believer in the value
of young people. For her, the key to helping more of these eager
students reach their goals is a combination of strong support
from families and teachers and the added boost of programs such
as mentorships.

"As a young student, you have the initiative, you have the
intelligence, you have everything you need and you're using it,
but it needs to be recognized. That's what needs to be done: more
recognition given to the students who are really working hard,
really trying."

The province's mentorship program is continuing to grow in
reputation within government; 13 departments participated in the
program this year. So far this summer, 15 students have been

The next step, said Mrs. McDougall-Salchert, is to develop a
followup process to reach the program's ultimate goal, which is
seeing more of these young women become a permanent part of the
civil service. There are signs the government has already taken
some steps toward that goal. Several students were offered
part-time positions through the school year, and in one
department a mentorship student returned the following summer and
acted as mentor for another student.

Others, like Andrea Lovasi, have been reassured they've made the
right career choice. Her early experiences with law school made
her question her decision to enter the field. Those uncertainties
are now behind her.

"This job has really helped me gain a sense that I could do
criminal law, if that's what I wanted to do," she said. "It's
completely turned around my attitude toward practising . . . it's
broadened my options."

Now, she's expressing interest in a career with government, as a
Crown attorney or perhaps in labour and employment law.

Perhaps a few years down the road some of these young women will
be working in government, acting as mentors themselves. In the
meantime, the program is helping to prepare women for the

"It's a great opportunity to give students, and to actually get
them out working," said Ms. Burns. "A lot of people say,  Well, I
can't get a job because I have no experience.' We're getting the
experience so we'll have some when we graduate, and I think
that's really, really, really good."


Contact: Norma MacIsaac 
         Communications Officer

By Chad Lucas 
Communications Nova Scotia

Besides the mentorship program, the Department of Human Resources
also has a Diversity Incentive Program. It's a summer employment
program that since 1986 has been giving civil service experience
to aboriginal students, black students, racially visible
students, and students with disabilities.

"I've learned a lot about the government," said Michael David, a
participant in the program. A second-year commerce student at
Saint Mary's, Mr. David is in his third summer as a clerk with
Human Resources' Central Registry. He said his work experience
has also broadened his educational options.

"Now that I've got this experience in records management, I might
take a couple of courses in it to go along with my degree," he

Another benefit of the program, said Jesse Brothers, is that it
takes learning out of the textbooks and brings it to life.

"In school, you do a lot of  book learning,' and you don't really
receive any first-hand experience. But through this job I feel
like I'm taking a lot of the skills I learned in school and I'm
using them in the workplace," said the fourth-year Dalhousie
commerce student. He's working this summer as an audit technician
with the Department of Health.

The diversity unit also conducts outreach programs in the
community and workshops on diversity and employment equity for
government employees. Mrs. McDougall-Salchert said it can
sometimes be a challenge combating the notion that programs such
as affirmative action advocate "reverse discrimination."

"We try to ensure that people are being considered for employment
not because they're from a designated group but because they're
qualified," she said. "You'll see the old myth out there; there
are still people saying:  He got that job because he's
affirmative action, because he's black.'

"The students didn't get the job because of the program. A window
of opportunity was opened for them, but they got the job because
they're qualified."

Mrs. McDougall-Salchert said the program is a benefit for both
sides. It gives students valuable experience, and it helps
develop potential government employees. "It's a good strategy for
government, and a good program for youth," she said.

The program has drawn a huge response from black students, with
applicants numbering in the hundreds, but the number of inquiries
this year from aboriginal students and persons with disabilities
-- about 30 -- has been "disappointing," said Mrs.
McDougall-Salchert. She would like to receive more applications
from students in these groups as well as from rural areas. Most
have come from the Halifax area.

Mrs. McDougall-Salchert encourages students to submit their
applications to Human Resources. Even if they aren't hired for
one of the approximately 20 positions available each summer
through the diversity program, they remain on a master list and
are considered for future employment.


Contact: Norma MacIsaac
         Communications Officer

EDITOR'S NOTE: Chad Lucas is employed under the Diversity
Incentive Program with Communications Nova Scotia as a Public
Information Officer.


trp                      Aug. 1, 1997 - 1 p.m.