Civil engineering student Hannah Workman is working with NPCA to bring precast education to Fairmont State University.
By Sara Geer
As a coal miner’s daughter, Hannah Workman learned early on the importance of developing a strong work ethic. Her parents taught her a valuable lesson as she was growing up in a small town that inspires her now to scope out every opportunity available to help herself and her fellow Fairmont State University students.
“My parents told me a specific lesson that I always remembered, ‘Your last name means nothing in this town and your parents don’t have the money to buy it for you, so everything you get you’ll have to work for,’” she said. “I took that to heart and I’m running with it.”
Workman said her love and exposure to concrete didn’t start until she attended Fairmont State for civil engineering. There, she said, students either embrace concrete or leave. There are no other options.
“They love concrete there, and they make sure you are going to love it too,” she said. “And, I did. Concrete has already opened countless doors for me.”
MAKING NPCA CONNECTIONS
Some of those doors opened through her participation on Fairmont State’s concrete canoe team. She learned valuable skills such as time management (balancing school and work), communication, research and producing a high-quality end product. During the 2017-2018 school year, Workman was assigned to a new position as the team’s compliance officer. The job required knowing the competition rules thoroughly and ensuring every member of the team followed them.
“The job was very involved and stressful at times, but rewarding in the end,” she said. “We even had other quality control and quality assurance people, so trying to triangulate with them and bridge a gap between departments worked well in the end. I think the position will come back again.”
Another great opportunity was meeting individuals from the National Precast Concrete Association Foundation while attending the 2018 American Society of Civil Engineers National Concrete Canoe Competition held at San Diego State University. She said since Fairmont received the concrete canoe scholarship from the Foundation in recent years, she researched more about NPCAF’s individual scholarships with plans to apply. However, when she found out applicants needed to be sponsored by an NPCA member, she realized the school has no connections with any members.
“While at the competition, I walked up to the NPCA table and talked with Marti Harrell and asked if she could name someone in our region to contact as a sponsor,” Workman said. Harrell is NPCA’s vice president of technical services and professional development and the executive director of the Foundation. “She started thinking about it, and the closest she could think of was a company in Maryland. So, we exposed a gap in networking.”
Their conversation also sparked an idea to coordinate with Fairmont to have an NPCA professional staff member visit to talk with students about precast concrete. The relationship would be beneficial for both students and NPCA, Workman said.
In addition, Workman learned about NPCA’s online courses while attending the competition and wants to share them to students as another way to learn more about precast concrete. She has already taken Production and Quality School Level 1 and plans to take more classes as time allows. The information learned from the class has not only helped her with school but has reinforced that a career in concrete is her path.
“A concrete career is right for me because I’ve always looked for job stability,” she said. “That’s been my main priority when looking for a career. And, there is always going to be a need for concrete anywhere.
“It’s the most used manmade building material in the world and not having a working knowledge about concrete, everything that goes into it can be used anywhere with any industry. That is what’s most appealing to me about concrete.”
NEXT STEPS AT FAIRMONT STATE
Throughout college, Workman’s goal has been to complete an internship in each facet of the manufacturing industry.
“The industry is so broad for civil engineering,” she said. “You do yourself a disservice if you don’t explore all your options.”
She’s already completed internships with:
- West Virginia Department of Highways where she learned the basics about construction.
- A land surveyor where she performed field surveys on surface coal mines in southern West Virginia.
- A consulting firm where she’s experienced ecological, technical and structural engineering and more.
With new connections made with NPCA and the potential to bring more awareness about precast concrete back to Fairmont State, the next internship on her list is to work at a manufacturing company to learn how concrete products are produced. She said this internship may also help provide her the knowledge needed to inspire other students to start a robust precast concrete industry in West Virginia.
“I love my state, and I want to bring as many opportunities to it as possible,” she said. “I know it’s a pretty ambitious goal for a college student, but I just hope something good will flourish out of it even after I’ve graduated and continue (to have) an interest in precast in West Virginia.”
Sara Geer is NPCA’s communication manager, and is managing editor of Precast Inc.