Gainey’s Concrete Products tradition of hosting summer interns came with a unique twist in 2019.
By Sara Geer
Gainey’s Concrete Products typically will have 4-5 interns working for the company during the summer, but this past summer was different. Owners Lisa and Greg Roache said not only did the company host eight interns, but one intern was their daughter, Lanie Chandler, and another intern was Adam Wieser, son of Mark Wieser, P.E., vice president of Wieser Concrete Products, who runs the company’s plant in Portage, Wis. Both are NPCA Foundation scholarship recipients. It was the first time Gainey’s hosted an out-of-state intern, Lisa explained, but more importantly, they invited Adam to live with them during the summer. The full immersive internship experience was fruitful for all involved and benefitted Gainey’s beyond what was expected.
Following in the family footsteps
Growing up, Lanie Chandler’s earliest memories involved walking around Gainey’s office and plant and picking up loose rebar. She never had an inclination to work in the precast concrete industry until attending high school. There, she started seriously thinking about where she wanted to go in life.
“I’ve always admired the work that my parents do and always admired the industry and NPCA because of the family-like atmosphere it has always had,” she said. “I knew there was nothing else I would want to do for the rest of my life.”
She said she would like to run the business one day, but in order to do so correctly, she needed to attain the technical knowledge first. This led her to pursue a civil engineering degree at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and a minor in business. And, what drew her to apply for an NPCA Foundation scholarship was the internship requirement. She made the decision to complete her first internship at Gainey’s in conjunction with completing some summer school courses.
“I was really nervous at the beginning working for my parent’s plant, but it ended working really well in the end,” she said. “I got to see my first taste of what all goes into what we do and since I already knew the people that were in the company, it really gave them an opportunity to show me something new that I didn’t know about, like the different skills that they have and what exactly goes into their job. It also gave me an opportunity to gain some respect within the company at the same time.
“I was showing them that this is what I’m passionate about and this is where I want to come back to. I am putting in the time and effort to prove to you that I’m worthy and dedicated.”
She said her internship followed the NPCA Foundation template structure which included spending one week in each department – from estimating to post-production – to gain an overview of the entire company. The most challenging department for her was working in production due to the physical aspects of the job. The department she liked best was post-production. Other plant workers found it funny that she enjoyed post-production because the department is in the constant sun, but she felt a sense of pride helping the crew finish the products in preparation for their delivery to the client.
“I had the most fun in post-production because the people I worked with are so passionate about what they do and care about the product so much,” she said. “Their end goal is to please the customer and they made sure everything sent out for delivery was as perfect as they could get it.”
After completing her time at Gainey’s, she said the internship helped give her a better appreciation of the work her parents do to ensure the lights stay on every day. The experience also helped her to better tailor her coursework to her field of study and has given her the momentum to continue pursuing her goal to one day run the company. Next summer she plans to complete her second internship at C.R. Barger & Sons in Kingston, Tenn.
“If I had anything else to say about the entire experience, it would be to say thank you to everyone who supports the NPCA Foundation and what they do,” she said. “I could not get through college in an engineering degree without it.”
Like father, like son
Like his grandfather, father, uncles and brothers before him, it was only a natural progression for Adam Wieser to follow the same path and enter the precast concrete industry. Working alongside his father, Mark Wieser, P.E., since he was 14 years old inspired him to become an engineer. He currently is pursuing this passion by completing a dual academic degree – spending three years at University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse focused on applied math and continuing his education at another school for civil engineering. At press time, he said he was applying to civil engineering programs with the hope to attend UW-Milwaukee.
After completing his first internship at Lindsay Precast’s plant in North Carolina, he searched for a company that could build on that experience, but also tailor the work to his field of study. Gainey’s was able to provide that need.
“My biggest focuses during the summer was on capital improvement and quality control,” he said. “I had fun learning about mix designs, which I worked with Greg Roache on. I had no experience with it before.”
According to Lisa Roache, Adam worked on several special projects for the company as well. He created new production procedures and put together a new plant layout to increase efficiency. He also wrote up an equipment inventory report listing molds that needed to be removed from the production floor or could be fixed. At the end of each week during his internship, he gave an update detailing each project’s progress.
“At one time he was juggling four projects at different stages while moving them forward,” Lisa said. “So, it was critical that he turned in a weekly report, which we’ve now carried on with each intern. They need to understand the importance that it’s not for a grade, but there is a real tangible benefit we need to get from their time with us.”
Adam said one thing though that made this experience far different than past internships was how he was not the only NPCA Foundation scholarship recipient present at the company and had direct access to the top management after business hours. While he stayed with the Roaches during the summer, he enjoyed chatting and sharing ideas with Lanie about future plans and what the Foundation has done for them both.
“I really want to encourage people to actually open up your home to an intern to enrich the experience because it was a much better experience as a result of having both Adam and Lanie with us,” Lisa said.
And like Lanie, Adam credits the Foundation for it all.
“I’m not entirely sure I would have done this many internships,” he said. “Even living in different places, I would not have done that without receiving the scholarship.”
A lasting benefit
Even though summer has passed, Gainey’s is still benefitting from the work the eight interns completed. Greg said tying the NPCA Foundation scholarship with completing relevant work was the best decision made by the Board for improving the precast concrete industry.
“It’s the old NPCA formula: what you put into an internship program, you get back in dividends,” Greg said. “We were enriched as a family for hosting Adam and enriched as a company by sharing his learning experience and having young minds hanging out with us.
Sara Geer is NPCA’s communication manager, and is managing editor of Precast Inc.