School: University of Wisconsin-Platteville
Major: Civil Engineering
Company: SJK Engineering, LLC
Internship from May 20, 2016 — August 25, 2016
My name is Paige Jelinek, I am 21 years old and currently in Junior standing at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. When I first recognized my interest in construction, I was a youngster in Kindergarten. At that time, my dad was a foreman for a paving crew at Payne and Dolan, Inc. based out of Fitchburg, WI, while my mom was a lab technician for the same company. After job shadowing my mom for countless years (even up until last fall), I finally decided the construction career field was for me. I changed my major from Mechanical Engineering to Civil Engineering and found myself under the wing of a family friend’s private contracting business, SJK Engineering.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
Before I began to work on-site for SJK Engineering, I first was required to pass the Portland Cement Concrete Technician 1 (PCCTEC-1) class at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. This licensed me as a certified tester, as well as the Transportation Materials Sampling (TMS). By switching my major from Mechanical Engineering to Civil Engineering, I did not have the chance to take crucial classes, such as surveying. Thankfully, my boss taught me majority of the essentials I needed to know about surveying, while also exemplifying an educated contractor throughout my internship. I strived to become the most responsible and dependable employee I possibly could by remembering the contracting essentials and working irregular, continuous hours, since most of the job sites consistently conflicted with one another. A few days throughout the summer, I worked 20 hours in a 24-hour period, in which we jumped from site to site toiling ourselves to accomplish as much as possible within that 24-hour period. Most of my weekends consisted of working, but I challenged myself to contribute as much effort as possible to the company and to my future career path.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
During the period of my internship, I learned the true value and definition of a good “work ethic,” and I gained a deeper understanding of the amount of effort one must contribute to the construction industry. In this industry, one must often work “ridiculous” hours in order to accomplish every unfulfilled task and confirm it is completed correctly. The whole “working crazy hours” occurred often throughout the summer. Strangely, I became accustomed to it, because I was mindful of the fact that my mom accrued endless hours at her company during the busy season, as well. Accumulating over eighty hours per week was not what I had in mind, but looking back at the situation, I’m thankful the opportunity was present to demonstrate the rewarding aspect of the job. I was exposed to the intense labor my parents have been exerting their entire life, to ensure my life would be as complacent as possible. The short three months on the job altered my opinion of my parents, hence I came to the realization of the reasons they were unable to attend every sporting event, as every one of my peer’s parents did. I became more mindful of networking, mainly from the ways in which my boss communicated. While working countless hours through my internship, I was taught the ways in which communication assists career opportunities; communication is an essential tool in deriving new business ventures.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
I was involved with safety throughout my internship because I was constantly in an atmosphere that was “unsafe.” For example, majority of my time was spent intertwined among busy traffic, heavy machinery, mixing plants and everything else in between. With all of these potential dangers, arises the importance of safety. Every day, I was certain to wear a hard hat, as well as a safety vest and a bright neon yellow shirt. I wore steel-toed boots and pants to cover my legs as protection from any debris and/or chemicals near the area I was working. When I tested concrete, I made sure I wore safety goggles to ensure the protection of my eyes. I was instilled with quality during my internship by physically testing concrete that was inserted into the paver. We had a set of random numbers, generated from Excel, and were instructed to test every one thousand feet for the quality of the concrete that had yet to be paved. If the concrete was out of specification, I informed my project leader, foreman, paving company, and the verification tester, so we could reevaluate the concrete to be accepted into specification. This experience changed my perspective on construction. Before I began my internship, I did not realize the innumerable amount of dangers that adhered with construction. Lastly, my experience with SJK Engineering changed my perspective on the entire industry by simply realizing the excessive testing performed in order to ensure the quality of the roads, buildings, etc.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
To me, “I Build America” is a method to show appreciation for the individuals employed within the construction industry. The website and organization teaches the younger generation the ways in which construction impacts their lives. For me, “I Build America” really hits home when I think about the ways my mom has been involved in construction. With nearly her whole life invested in the construction field, as well as my dad being employed in the construction industry for a big portion of his career, both of my parents have dedicated their time and effort into “building America.” I find inspiration in observing others who also put their time and effort into improving our infrastructure. Ultimately, this organization is a system to show our appreciation for those who work in this incredibly laborious industry. “I Build America” educates our youth, which in turn will assist and persuade the young generation of America to not only appreciate the construction industry, but strive to build better infrastructure systems. Without infrastructure, our country would not be as easily accessible or privileged.