School: Worcester Polytechnic Institute Major: Civil Engineering Company: PC Construction Internship from 5/18/15 — 8/7/15
I worked with the Special Projects Group at PC Construction this summer, and worked at a variety of job sites throughout Vermont. I started at the Special Projects warehouse, where I mainly worked carpentry tasks such as tearing apart old rotting platforms and constructing new ones of specified measurements for later use at the Essex dam.
Next, I spent multiple weeks at the Burlington Shopping Center, where my tasks involved replacing a pipeline in the basement and core drilling through the first floor for the installation of plumbing pipes for a new business in the mall. I also did touch-up work at dams in Middlesex and South Burlington, which involved painting railings, adding new railings for safety purposes, and manually mixing and pouring cement. One day my foreman took me with him to help install an instrument that would test the oxygen levels of the water before and after the dam for a scientist working to regulate the water in the area.
After my work was completed at the mall, I was transferred to Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, VT. Here I performed demolition tasks, such as using machines to peel up tile, tearing down ceiling tiles, vacuuming for the worker running the ring saw to build new doorways, removing bathroom stalls and windows, and other clean-up tasks inside the school building. This was an interesting project because I got to see how parts of the building were constructed by reversing the process. Another company came to the project site after we made some progress and as we did the demolition work, they began to replace the windows, add new flooring, and insert doors into the doorways. It was an intriguing process to be able to see step-by-step process and progress of refurnishing a building.
The last month of my summer was spent at a dam in Essex that needed to be refaced due to deterioration. My work there consisted of using the platforms I had built at the beginning of the summer to jackhammer 8 inches deep total into the face of the dam, first through a weaker layer of Shotcrete and then through more compact concrete.
What results did you achieve on the project(s), and what impact did they have on the company?
A really fascinating part of working construction was being able to see the step-by-step progress made each day on a project. When I did carpentry at the warehouse, my work was to be later put to use on a project site, so it was vital that they be constructed properly, to the correct measurements, and waterproofed. We were also able to save many two by fours from the old platforms, thus saving the company money in buying supplies.
At the Burlington Shopping Center, we not only improved the leaking pipeline system of the mall, but we also helped add two new businesses to the center by tearing apart and adding new walls to make room for them. PC Construction and the other companies working with us did most of the work for the two businesses coming in regards to drainage, electricity, and space layout, so all they had to do was bring in their own furniture and equipment.
The touch-up work on the dams was just as important as any other job. PC Construction’s motto is “We go above and beyond on every job, period.” Therefore the finishing touches such as touch-up painting or cleaning up after themselves at a site is a significant part for the completion of a project. They truly work to satisfy their customers, for every project impacts the company.
My final project of the summer at the Essex dam was very important for our company. First of all, there is a deadline for the project, so everything there had to be completed efficiently and properly the first time. Also, it was a dangerous project to work on, and PC Construction stresses safety on job sites, so work there was taken very seriously. The results we achieved on the project at the time I left to return to school were immense from where we started. We had chipped about three quarters of the required section of dam, and soon they would be able to pour new concrete. The end result of this project would be a safer dam, for the old face of it was deteriorating, leaking through in some areas, and by refacing it, the company could greatly improve the appearance of the dam.
What real-life technical or business skills did you learn during the internship?
I’m attending college in pursuit of becoming a civil engineer, therefore one day I hope to design and/or manage projects like the ones I worked on this past summer. I gained great experience from working at all of the sites and talking to PC laborers and foremen about the different projects and the company. The internship helped me understand how working as a construction laborer can give insight into engineering, and how they are closely related. Getting hands-on experience at the labor behind complex projects has helped me prepare for a future in this career.
I found it interesting that the work behind a seemingly simple project could be much more complicated and time consuming than it is assumed to be from the outside looking in. Working as a construction laborer has helped me realize how important it is to experience the work behind a project and being knowledgeable of what that side of the job looks like before attempting to designing a project. The experience has prepared me more to be an engineer in the real world. I have a better understanding to visualize the step-by-step process it takes to complete a project and all the easily forgettable details involved that laborers need to take into account, which in turn will allow me to efficiently plan and design a project and be knowledgeable of what is happening at the job sites I must visit and check the progress of.
Throughout the summer, I not only learned the names and uses of construction tools and machinery, but I was also given the responsibility of applying my knowledge and using the tools and helping the company make progress on each project. Everyone at the job sites depended on each other for the job to be completed effectively and safely, and being a part of that community taught me how to work with all different types of people and communicate with them and take responsibility for other’s actions, which will help me in a future in any business.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
I believe that gaining knowledge and experience in more than one aspect of a job or company can make people more successful in their own branch of work in the job or company. Therefore, being a future civil engineer working as a construction laborer helps me see the sides of the project I wouldn’t necessarily know much of without this internship. I am better prepared to be an engineer because of my experience working for those I may have the opportunity to manage in my future. I know how to and how not to interact with the people on job sites, how to communicate with all types of people effectively to make progress, and I know through first-hand experience what happens at the job sites every day when people are working towards completing the designs of an engineer. I think my internship made me truly appreciate construction laborers and what they must to day to day to complete a task designed by an engineer.
Another positive effect this internship had on me was that it opened up a new route my education at WPI can take me that I hadn’t thought of before. Talking with my project managers, I realized with my background and experience working as a laborer puts me in a position to be a construction manager rather than an engineer, which would in turn allow me to use my knowledge of job sites and my education to receive designs from engineers and figure out how to implement them most effectively cost-wise and labor-wise, and understand details of both sides to help the process from design to physical result flow smoother.
Over all my summer internship opened up a whole new list of possibilities for my future and I’m truly grateful for the opportunity I was given.
Where do you think technology will make the biggest impact in construction in the next few years, and how will it do that?
In the next few years, I believe that prefabrication will have the biggest impact the construction industry. Being able to assemble the components of a project offsite is desirable for many people. The owners of the construction company will not have to spend as much time on safety at job sites because more work will be done through technology and offsite and less hazards will exist onsite to worry about. The completion time for a project will be reduced, which is favorable for all because every day people look for ways to improve efficiency. However, it will also impact the construction industry in another way. As processes are sped up in this way and more work is done offsite, less tradesmen or skill requirements are needed onsite by those working there.
While increasing efficiency, this could potentially hurt employment for construction companies because different skills and a lesser variety of trades would be required if less time is spent working on job sites. It would change a lot about the definition of construction, with less labor onsite and more use of technology to assemble materials and transport it to the sites partially completed.