Internship opportunities have prepared NPCA Foundation scholarship recipient Jared Schimmelpfenning for a successful career.
By Mason Nichols
Concepts presented in the classroom often establish the foundation from which students develop an understanding of their skills and interests in their areas of focus. But when it comes to building a career after graduation, academics are no longer the top concern for employers. Instead, a different approach to learning – one that provides students with hands-on knowledge – continues to gain prominence. More than ever, employers are seeking candidates with internship experience.1
NPCA Foundation scholarship recipient Jared Schimmelpfenning, a senior in the construction engineering and management program at Purdue University, recognized this early in his academic career. He secured an internship in 2015 with Kiewit working on the large-scale DFW Connector project in Texas, as reported in the January-February 2016 issue of Precast Inc. Since then, he has partnered with Kiewit for two additional internships, including his most recent experience in Honolulu, Hawaii, as part of the Halona Street Bridge demolition and replacement project.
Schimmelpfenning said while the work for the bridge replacement project is on a smaller scale than the DFW Connector project, the reduced size allowed for additional learning opportunities.
“Being that this was a smaller project, I had my hands in all the different corners of everything going on,” he said. “There were only four staff members, but since this was my third summer working with Kiewit, I felt I had built up to it and that I was ready to take on the challenge. I learned a lot.”
Schimmelpfenning’s responsibilities included owner/client communication, submittals, requests for information, coordination with subcontractors and suppliers, scheduling and more. Because of the small staff size and rapid pace of the work, the position continued to evolve over the summer, which is crucial for his career.
“The experience is exactly what I needed this early in my career,” he said. “I just need to sponge up as much information as I possibly can from all the different projects I work on and all the different people I work with.”
In addition to learning more about construction management, Schimmelpfenning acquired new information about precast concrete products, particularly about the piles that serve as the bridge’s foundation. Although he wasn’t present to see the piles installed, he spoke at length with the project team about why the piles were selected and how they would benefit the bridge during its service life. Schimmelpfenning also learned more about precast from working directly with NPCA Producer Member GPRM Prestress on the project.
“I got a chance to go out to their plant a few times and do some material and quality inspections on our bridge planks before we received them on-site,” he said. “I interacted with the employees out there on those days. They were all very friendly and knowledgeable.”
Overall, Schimmelpfenning’s internship experiences offered him a great deal of expertise that he believes would not have been acquired from classroom work alone.
He said he’s improved his organization, time management, professionalism and communication skills while working with Kiewit. He also feels that he will be in a better position than some of his peers when seeking employment after graduation.
“As a college student, my internships have me light years ahead of where I would have been if I didn’t get the opportunity to work in the industry starting with my freshman year,” he said. “Compiling my three internships, I have an entire year of experience in the industry over someone else who might not.”
Mason Nichols is the managing editor of Precast Solutions magazine and is NPCA’s director of strategic outreach.