School: University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Omaha Campus)
Major: Civil Engineering
Company: Black & Veatch
Internship from May 31, 2016 — August 12, 2016
My name is Cory Staashelm and over the past summer I had the pleasure of having a construction internship with Black & Veatch. While going through Civil Engineering curriculum at the University of Nebraska I have been able to get a better idea of whether I wanted to pursue more of a design role or construction role in the industry. By the end of my sophomore year it was clear to me that construction was what I wanted to do. Getting to see what you learn in the classroom be constructed out in the field is something that brings me great satisfaction.
On campus, I am the Vice-President of the American Society of Civil Engineers. One of the main reasons I got involved with a leadership position within this organization was due to the competitions that this organization offers. We have a concrete canoe team that plans, designs, and constructs a canoe made out of concrete. We then compete in races against other universities within our region. This is what ultimately got me interested in the construction side of engineering. We also have a steel bridge team that competes in the same way as our canoe team. Both teams are great ways for students to get involved on campus and apply the theories we learn in our textbooks to real world work.
After deciding that I wanted to pursue an internship in construction, I started doing my research on potential employers that were coming to my university’s career fair. One of the employers that really stood out to me was Black & Veatch. The recruiter and I spoke quite a bit about my previous geotechnical engineering background from my previous internship. They explained how my experience with different construction materials and soil would be very beneficial to any construction site.
After the spring semester ended I headed to Kansas City to start my internship. Once I arrived I was introduced to my supervisor and we discussed what types of tasks I would be accomplishing over the course of the summer. A few of my duties would be working with Project Managers to ensure that the correct pieces of equipment would be on site at the necessary times as well as going out on site to do safety inspections with our Safety Managers. I was confident that the experience that I was going to learn would be a huge step in the right direction for my career in construction.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
As a result of working for Black & Veatch, I was able to not only better myself as an employee and student, but I was also able to contribute to helping the company reach some of their goals on the year. One of the things that I like most about Black & Veatch is the emphasis that they put on making sure that each employee feels valued. Even as an intern, I felt as though I was given meaningful work assignments that were necessary to help get the job done in a timely manner.
I had many times where I sat in on meetings with company directors and department heads, discussing different approaches to problems. There wasn’t a meeting during the summer where somebody didn’t ask for my opinion. I was able to express my thought process on issues and help collaborate to solve the problems that come up during construction project. Being located at the World Headquarters, I had my hands in many different projects at one time.
One of my big accomplishments throughout my internship was helping to integrate a telematics system for our fleet of equipment within the company. Having this system ensured that we would have a better idea of where our fleet was when problems arose. Black & Veatch has over 75 offices throughout the United States so keeping accounts for each of the company’s pieces of equipment is vital for the success in making sure things run as smoothly as possible. I was a part of the team that was able to get this new system started within the company. Through a telematics company called GeoTab we were able to get this new company policy underway. This system allows us to create geo-fences around each of the projects that Black & Veatch is currently working on. By doing so we are able to keep better track of which vehicles leave the job site and when. Ultimately, we are able to have eyes on all pieces of equipment even at a centralized location.
Seeing the data from these telematics, we are able to create a more productive job site. We are able to determine the amount of miles driven as well as fuel consumed. By knowing this information with such accuracy we are able to increase company profit simply by reducing the amount of unnecessary hours put on pieces of equipment. Being able to look back at previous data, we also were able to determine that our safety numbers were benefiting from the driving restrictions that we put on road vehicles. There were less accidents happening, which also increases company profit as well as safety of our employees.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
Throughout this internship I was able to learn a lot of valuable lessons not just about construction, but about being professional as well. One of the things I was looking forward to being in such a large office was being able to expand my network of construction professionals. I created relationships with a lot of different people that work in many different phases of the construction process. I quickly learned that organization was key to being successful and productive. There are a lot of moving parts during the construction process and being able to communicate effectively and in an organized fashion helps ensure both quality and safety of the project. Having an attention to detail is also a must when trying to progress through the construction process. Overlooking one simple aspect of the process could cost the company a lot of money. Being a good problem solver is something that I think is highly looked upon by other professionals. Even if you may not know exactly what to do in a certain situation, you should still try and tackle the issue on your own as long as you are aware of the projects schedule. I learned that asking for somebody to cover your work for you will not get you anywhere in the industry. Through this process of finding answers on my own, I found how much passion I had for the construction industry. I kept wanting to know more about how and why things were the way they were on site. Going to work didn’t feel like a job at all. I also learned that having a strong work ethic is essential to getting tasks completed on time. No construction project is exactly the same as another so being able to buckle down on unexpected job tasks as they arrive will create a work environment that others will want to be involved with. Having strong leadership on a job site is one of the most important factors when it comes to accomplishing the tasks at hand. If other professionals are willing to go the extra mile for you, the project is ultimately what benefits from that.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
During my internship I had the opportunity to go out on site with our Safety Manager at one of the power plants in the Kansas City area. It was the Nearman Creek Power Station, a Board of Public Utilities facility. This plant was adding on an air quality control system that would regulate what comes out of the power plant’s stacks. Throughout my time on site with the safety team, I would walk around and do inspections on certain areas of the project and see if the subcontractors were following OSHA standards. By doing these inspections I was able to get a better understanding as to why safety is taken so seriously on a job site. When you have multiple pieces of large equipment on a job site like the two 2250 Lattice Boom Crawlers at Nearman, it is important that everybody on the project understands the importance of keeping safety in mind. Safety is the top priority at Black & Veatch and that is one thing that I liked most about them as a company. If the people on site are not conducting their work in a safe matter, the possibility for a set-back is much greater. On top of the fact that work might be pushed back, it is also important to understand that all of the workers have their own families that they want to go home to each night. What many people don’t understand about the construction industry is that laborers do work in less than ideal conditions on a daily basis. One of the first things I was told when I walked in the door at Black & Veatch was that there is always room for improvement when it comes to safety. We strive to create a work place that has zero OSHA recordables. One of the major reasons that people tend to not follow safety procedures is because they think it will be quicker if they do it another way. This almost always leads to injuries which cost the project time and money.
There is a certain level of respect that the safety managers have on a job site. It is important to keep good relationships with the other professionals on the site so that the laborers will be more willing to cooperate with what standards you hold for them. If they think that you are just out to make their work harder, they most likely won’t bother giving any thought to what you are telling them. At the end of the day, a safe day is a successful day. In the construction industry, there is nothing better than a safe and successful day.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, I think it means that we need to put an emphasis on all that goes on in the construction industry. Particularly in recruiting the next generation of construction professionals. There is a lot that goes on when conducting a construction project and most people take for granted all of the hard work that these professionals put in throughout their career. I think that it is important to emphasize the opportunities within construction to attract students to the industry. If we are able to recruit top talent from the next generation than the industry will have a better chance of adopting new technologies to enhance the construction process. As technology continues to advance at such a fast rate, it is important that construction as an industry stays up to speed with the trends. I believe that if we are willing to adapt to new ways of completing tasks with technology then that will help attract the younger generation of professionals. One of the big problems that the industry is going to face soon is the fact that a lot of our trade professionals will be retiring. The need to have young professionals pursue careers in the construction industry will play a large part in the development of future projects all across the United States. I believe that I Build America is focusing on showcasing how great of a career construction can be to a professional. For me, growing up I thought that construction was just for people who didn’t want to go to college. But as I progress through college, I realize how much more there is to the industry. There is no other career that I want to pursue. The challenges, the collaboration, and getting to see the final results of building a world of difference is what drives my passion for this industry. I love being able to see the impact that I am having on not just our country but all the people that live here as well. We need to keep the ball rolling for more and more generations to come. If we do so I believe that the possibilities that America could become are endless. The sky is the limit.