When Alex Burkhart graduated in May 2016 from Texas State University’s Concrete Industry Management program, four NPCA members were interested in hiring him. Although Burkhart had more knowledge of precast than most, having grown up in the industry, an internship made him a valuable candidate and helped him determine what he wanted to pursue as a career and where to begin.
As an undergrad, Burkhart completed an internship with Smith-Midland that was structured around his areas of interest. It exposed him to the project management, scheduling and engineering departments.
“It (the internship) certainly helped me out,” he said. “The great part about an internship is it gives the student exposure to the industry with, ideally, a permanent employer.”
He now works full-time at Smith-Midland as an assistant project manager.
Burkhart’s experience is the model the NPCA Foundation hopes to replicate for the 2017 NPCAF Scholarship recipients. The scholarship requires that an undergraduate student complete a minimum of 320 hours each academic year as an intern at an NPCA member company to receive payments for years two, three and four. The change is to help keep students in the precast industry.
“We have not done a good job of ensuring the scholarship candidates we select stay within the industry, which is the initiative of the Foundation,” said Richard Isaacson, principal at iwi group LLC and newly elected NPCAF Chairman. “We have learned from the past and are making changes for the future.”
The scholarship’s goal is to help the precast industry gain more qualified workers. Students are encouraged to complete an internship that exposes them to different departments of a precast concrete facility, said Kirby O’Malley, president of Garden State Precast and NPCAF Chair-elect.
“I think this new initiative, where a young person from any walk of life, whether its engineering, accounting or marketing, spends 320 hours in a precast facility, is going to help expand our industry and get better people,“ O’Malley said.
Just as the NPCAF Board of Directors is excited about the future of the scholarship program, Alex Burkhart is excited about his new career in the precast industry.
“Starting out in my new career, I’m seeing a bright future with precast and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Applications for the undergraduate and the Daneen S. Barbour graduate scholarships are available at precast.org/scholarships. The application deadline is March 20, 2017.
Precast manufacturers and suppliers can also post internship opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students at precast.org/internships.