School: University of Arkansas, Little Rock
Major: Construction Management
Company: Nabholz Construction Corporation
Internship from May 16, 2016 — August 12, 2016
My name is Kera Lathan. I am from a small town in central Arkansas just south of Little Rock. As a child and teenager, I always enjoyed solving problems, manipulating objects, and organizing information. Those passions and skills led me to study Architecture at the University of Arkansas. During my undergraduate education, I learned more about the built environment, the history of Architecture, and the technical aspects of putting the pieces of a building together.
As I learned more about Architecture and design, I began to realize my passion truly lied in the physical construction of a building. For that reason, I decided to enter the Construction Management graduate program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
This past summer (2016), before starting my graduate coursework, I interned for Nabholz Construction Company. I was given the opportunity to work on the construction of the ArcBest Corporate Headquarters in Fort Smith, AR.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
During the three month time period of interning, I was able to collect and administer the LEED documentation of the project, help with safety and quality inspections, and implement a spatial barcoding system using BIM technology on iPads. The team at the job site expected my role to be mainly that of an observer, but I think they were surprised at the degree to which I could contribute to accomplishing tasks and solving problems.
As far as my own expectations, I expected to learn a lot about the technical aspects of project management (which I did). I didn’t anticipate how much I would learn about the “soft skills” of project management. Just from being around the daily process at the site I picked up on so much; from how to keep subcontractors engaged in meetings to how to respond to the “issues” that pop up every day.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
The most important thing that I learned while interning that will really stick with me is to respect the individual talents that each person has. Both within the management team and the trades, I began to pick up on what each person was best at. Some people are more organized, some people are good speakers, and some people always know what to do to get the job done. I learned to especially appreciate the men and women who do the physical work in the field. In many ways, I learned the most from the HVAC installers, dry-wallers, and masons this summer. They were always sharing details and issues with me, which really helped connect what I had learned in school to the real world of construction.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
Safety and quality were in many ways my main domain during my summer internship. At the beginning of the summer I would take site walks with the superintendents and project managers where they would point out safety concerns and hazards to me and then we would do what needed to be done to resolve the issue. Eventually, I learned enough to be able to take these walks by myself where I would check all the regular safety concerns and look for anything out of the ordinary. Additionally, I was responsible for administering our safety video for new employees to the site and documenting that they had seen it.
My experience in the realm of quality grew much in the same way as my knowledge of safety. I began the summer by walking the site with the team I worked with and soaking up what they said/ directed the crews to do. As the summer progressed, a big part of my time was spent deciphering a way for us to manage quality and inspections on the site. I was able to create a schedule of inspections and check-offs for each floor/ room of the building and use a barcode system that would fit with this so that foremen, superintendents, and architects could all do their own inspections and punch lists on iPads.
My involvement in the safety and quality systems onsite helped me to understand how many tiny pieces go together to make a building. There are so many things that could go wrong, people who could be hurt, and materials that could be installed wrong/ out of spec. It really made me realize the importance of the General Contractor: to organize the projects so that subcontractors can work well and efficiently with one another and to ensure that they meet all the standards of the project.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
I Build America does a great job of showcasing the importance of the construction industry. In the modern age in which we live, its so easy for people to focus on automated systems and infrastructure and disregard the human element that created them. The average person forgets that behind a massive concrete infrastructure project there were hundreds/ thousands of real people who put it in to place. There is a craft to the physical work of construction, as well as the management of that work. My internship really highlighted a lot of the same things that I Build America does, that everything that is built or produced is an agglomeration of the skills and knowledge of all the people who worked to make it.
This is both a scary and thrilling realization. The human factor in construction means so many things could go wrong (what I learned through my work in safety and quality), but also so many things could go right. We can learn from each other and feed off of each other because we are all unique humans with special talents and skills.