A summer indoors equals a perfect internship for a graduating student

Spending his summer behind a desk at the Town of Richmond Hill municipal offices was the perfect placement for graduating student Neave Constantine.

Neave Constantine

A mature student, Constantine will earn his BES (Honours) in environmental studies in April. Not only did his placement confirm that he chose the right major, but it kept him out of the hot sun.

“I have an advanced Ontario diploma in civil engineering, so I worked on a job site for two years,” Constantine said with a chuckle. “I had my fill of being out in the weather.”

Even better, he gained hands-on experience working with a geographic information system (GIS) and six credits as part of ENVS 4001.

“I’m intending to work after graduation, so I wanted to see where I fit into the job market,” Constantine said. “I’m certified in GIS, but I had no experience.”

That has all changed after a summer – 540 hours – spent working for the Town of Richmond Hill’s Environment & Infrastructure Services. Rapid development is turning the town from a rural environment to an urban one, and developers and contractors need real-time information about the infrastructure before they break ground on new projects. Constantine took surveyors’ data about the location of watermains, gas lines and other services and created the maps used by the builders. He worked under pressure, knowing that people would be coming into the office daily requesting the maps he was creating and expecting them to be correct.

“My contributions were needed and they [the supervisors] trusted me,” he said. “It gave me a real sense of responsibility.

“I also got real GIS experience. I had been taught specific theory, but working with the team, I learned different ways of going about it.”

It wasn’t only the technical lessons that Constantine learned. “I was part of a team and it was essential to fit in seamlessly,” he said. “You must be able to get along with everyone.”

Having previously worked in the private sector, he was intrigued by the difference he saw working for the government. “In the private sector, it was about the quantity of results,” Constantine said. “In the public sector, you want good quality results. What you do must be done properly, because you are accountable to the public.”

Town of Richmond Hill municipal offices

After interviewing for the placement and being offered the position, Constantine discovered that his supervisor was a York alumnus.

“People do look after each other,” he said of the University’s alumni community. “On the job, too, the networking has been immeasurably helpful.”

Constantine has begun to apply for post-graduation jobs, but he has decided to keep his options open by also applying to a master’s program in environmental studies. Whichever route he takes, he is grateful to his placement for its lessons and opportunities.

“It made me more confident that the future I hope for is attainable,” he said. “Even the positive criticism made me believe that there is a future for me in the job market.”

By Elaine Smith, special contributing writer to Innovatus