Internships – A Lucid State of Mind

It is important that individuals in every role of a business understand how they connect to and serve their own workgroups, department, and the organization as a whole. As professionals, we have moments of lucidity, where we get the big AH-HA! and the lightbulb is suddenly turned on. The ability to see the big picture in business is often only attained after years of experience. In retrospect, we often realize that had we had access to a key piece of information, that illumination may have happened months or years earlier.

Personal exposure to a job is useful for any career but is especially important for students who want to work in a field as broad as engineering. Typically, undergraduate engineering programs are very structured from the moment students start college and as a result, most students have little knowledge about what engineers do at work on a daily basis. On top of that, many are completely unaware of the broad career opportunities available.  

At England-Thims and Miller, Inc (ETM), our goal is to help each of our interns reach an AH-HA! moment, so that they understand the role they would play in a firm like ours, how that role fits into the bigger picture, and the professional growth opportunity that can emerge from that role. Ultimately, we want to help them determine early on in their educational pursuits that they are indeed on the right path.

To help our interns achieve that level of clarity, we structure our internship program to provide real-life, on-the-job experiences that they can’t get in the classroom. They have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the day-to-day tasks and routines of a civil engineering firm while applying the knowledge they gained from textbooks and lectures to real projects. The ability to apply that knowledge to real-world settings and gain hands-on experience, replaces their perceived ideas about what their post-graduate job role will likely be like with a clarity that extends beyond the basic job description.

Because we understand how important personal exposure is to prospective engineers, this year we added something new to the internship experience as it drew to a close. Designed to erase any big-picture elusiveness that may have lingered, interns participated in a day-long event led by ETM’s CEO and President, Hugh Mathews.  During a lunch-n-learn, students engaged in a big picture discussion of the some of the company’s high visibility projects – many worked on by the interns themselves. In the discussion, aerial photos of the job sites in their various stages of development were reviewed while the project life-cycle was described from the perspective of various roles in land development, surveying, planning, design, landscape design and inspection. Students were exposed to the many opportunities available to them in a full-service consulting civil engineering firm.

We want them to understand what it really means to be a civil engineer for a company like ETM,” said Mathews.

During the second half of the event, students traveled by chartered bus to the project sites discussed during the lunch portion of the event. Project Managers, Peter Ma and Zach Brecht, served as tour guides, pointing out interesting details and facts about the specific projects on the route. Stops along the way included key project destinations within the St. Johns Town Center, Nocatee, and along the recently completed State Road 9B interchange. Interns were able to see first-hand how the projects they worked on all summer progressed.

“It was cool to see the whole process from start to finish so early in my career,” said Gabrielle Jessurun, a student completing her internship in ETM’s land development department.

Florida’s rapid population growth and expansion places an increased demand for engineers in the industry and it is projected that 32,100 new jobs will open in the civil engineering field by 2026. The profession is expected to grow by 11 percent, compared with an 8 percent growth in engineering jobs overall.

Keeping pace with that demand could be a challenge but our internship program is a fundamental part of our business strategy. The investment of proper time, training, and tools not only ensures each intern’s success but fosters long-term success for the company. As we help shape these new engineers, we can identify our future work force early. If interns turn out to be motivated superstars, they often have the chance to accept full-time employment. And because they’ve been given enough exposure to make informed decisions, interns will understand what they are committing to since they are now familiar with our business, company and the work involved.  

Those hiring decisions, are the easiest ones we make. After all, they’ve proven they can already do the work. And most importantly, they were able to realize early on that they want to do.

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