Applications are now open for a summer jobs program for Black high school students in Nova Scotia aimed at getting more Black people involved with careers with the provincial government.

The Black Youth Development Mentorship Program (BYDMP) is now in its third year. The program offers jobs throughout various provincial government departments specifically to students in grades 11 and 12 who identify as persons of African descent. The students must be pursuing post-secondary education at a university or community college.  

“I would say don’t be intimidated, apply, and take advantage of this opportunity because you never know what doors it could open for you,” said Sierra Jordan, who entered the BYDMP the first year of the program in 2021 as a Grade 11 student. 

Each position is for an eight-week full-time work placement, Monday to Friday. The jobs pay above minimum wage.

Once accepted, each participant is paired with a mentor within their department who identifies as a person of African descent.

The students take part in weekly group meetings with all the other participants in the BYDMP. Students also have the option to return to their positions the following summer without having to re-apply.

BYDMP runs through the Department of Public Works and was started in 2020 in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement to help increase representation among Black people in the provincial government.

This year the program is offering 29 new positions for new students entering the program. 

Streamlining the process 

This is Jessica Quillan’s second year as project lead for the BDYMP and her third year as a mentor in the program. In 2021, she was a mentor through the Department of Health and Wellness where she worked at the time.

In 2022 she was hired by the Department of Public Works as the project lead for BYDMP.

“Timing was a big challenge as I came over in February of [last] year,” Quillan told the Halifax Examiner.

A group of young smiling Black students stand on a wooden platform with a lighthouse standing on rocks in the background. The day is hazy and there are some white caps on the grey ocean water.
Students from the Black Youth Development Mentorship Program (BYDMP) in 2022. Credit: Contributed by Sierra Jordan

As soon as last year’s summer was complete, Quillan said she and her team got a jump start on coordinating for this year.

That included coordinating with different government partners to be ready sooner, getting information packages out to families and schools sooner, and coordinating with the web team to help students access the job postings and application links in a way that was more accessible and easier to understand. 

“We moved over to a more streamlined application process, similar to other initiatives that are in the province,” Quillan said. 

In previous years, the students’ applications would go directly to the Department of Public Works, which would then send them out to the various hiring managers throughout the various departments offering positions.

This year Quillan said the students’ applications go directly to the hiring managers for the positions they’re applying for, which makes the process quicker and more convenient. 

“Those challenges were really my own, they didn’t impact the students in any way,” she said. “We were quite successful with getting students interested and applying and [receiving] positions.”

Getting the word out

Sierra Jordan got into the BYDMP through a position with the Department of Public Works. 

“And so, I’ve been very fortunate to work with the team that develops the BYDMP and to hear their stories on the work that it took, and I’ve learned that this program is the result of their hard work and the dedication of a team of advocates at the Department of Public Works,” Jordan said. 

“They didn’t only advocate by speaking up, but they actually actioned a plan to enact change. That plan was to bring in Black students and give them opportunities.” 

A young Black woman with long wavy hair and glasses sitting on top her head. She is wearing a blue and purple print top under a white cardigan and with a blue skirt and white sandals. She's sitting in an office chair and behind her is a laptop sitting on a desk. There are a few water bottles next to the computer.
Sierra Jordan. Credit: Contributed by Sierra Jordan

Jordan returned last year after completing Grade 12 and has since been hired on as a university student with the Department of Public Works. 

“I’m technically no longer a part of the program because the program only employs grade 11 and 12 students, but so I’m now integrated into the university student program,” she said. 

“When you get into post-secondary education there are special cases like mine where the hiring manager is able to welcome [students] back as a university student to work May through August, which would be a longer placement.” 

Jordan is currently in her first year of university at Dalhousie studying for a major in psychology with plans to complete a minor in the sociology and anthropology of social justice and inequality. 

“This program is a way to intervene and give Black students who will be pursuing post-secondary education a chance to be exposed to the government and learn about these opportunities because the reality is that they really don’t hear about these opportunities or our communities don’t trust the government,” said Jordan. 

Jordan said the government has been hiring university students for years but that they were rarely Black students. 

Quillan said she’s still working on getting the word out to Black students across the province about the BYDMP program. 

“We certainly understand that the school system is quite saturated, but what we also do find is that we get the most turnout from schools when the support systems are invested and understand the value of the program,” said Quillan. 

“And so, when the [high school administrations] take the time to familiarize themselves with the documents that we send to outline the program and [when they] realize the value in it, they are more apt to go out of their way to ensure that the students who are eligible to participate know about it.” 

For more information or to apply for positions through the Black Youth Development Mentorship Program (BYDMP) click here

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Matthew Byard writes news, profiles, and stories of the Black Nova Scotia community. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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