Discussion Thread

Giving Interns Meaningful Experience

  • 1.  Giving Interns Meaningful Experience

    Posted 02-27-2023 12:12 PM

    There seem to be a lot of different opinions on what an internship SHOULD be. To some people, it is as hands-off as shadowing someone and seeing what different people at a company do day-to-day. To others, it is essentially the same thing as receiving full-time entry-level work. Some of this is driven by the needs and resources of each company, but some is also due to the level of responsibility that people in charge of the intern are willing to take on.

    In my own experience with interns, we typically have them for 6 months at a time. In the work that I do, this is enough time to train them as we would with entry level staff. A lot of the work is data analysis in Excel, GIS, and R. These are all programs that I believe are worth their time to learn, even if many of the tasks are fairly simple.

    Aside from learning software-specific skills, I also try to make sure that they understand the big picture. This includes the reason we are working on the tasks we have, how they contribute to the project at large, and how each other person on the team also contributes, using the intern’s work as part of the whole project. This also involves attending meetings and being included on project-related emails.

    By the time the intern completes their tenue with us, my goal is for them to have developed a few new skills to bring elsewhere (or bring back), and to have seen what it is like to work on one type of water/environmental project. This is at the city/municipal level in an environment comprised of civil servants and supported by additional consulting staff.

    If you were to take an intern, how would you approach it to give them meaningful experience?

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer

  • 2.  RE: Giving Interns Meaningful Experience

    Posted 03-14-2023 08:04 AM

    This is a refreshing perspective. Very different from past experiences I have had and seen.

    Dean Morrell S.M.ASCE
    Des Moines IA

  • 3.  RE: Giving Interns Meaningful Experience

    Posted 03-21-2023 01:56 PM

    I am a freshman at UTRGV, I was looking forward to having an internship experience in the summer with the purpose to grow and develop my skills. Could you tell me if you know about some good internship opportunities for a student like me?

    thank you very much.

    - Brayan Armijo

    Brayan Armijo S.M.ASCE
    La Joya TX

  • 4.  RE: Giving Interns Meaningful Experience

    Posted 03-25-2023 08:49 AM

    Hi Brayan, 

    I'm sorry but I don't live in Texas and don't have any knowledge of what local internship opportunities there might be. There are some other threads on this forum that provide tips for where to get started, or you can post a new thread and ask about it. Otherwise I would suggest starting with your school and seeing if they have an outreach program. Talk to other students and keep and eye out for career fairs at school.

    Good luck! 

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer

  • 5.  RE: Giving Interns Meaningful Experience

    Posted 06-11-2023 10:52 AM

    As an intern across universities, what I enjoyed was getting a glimpse of what the real world would be like regarding workloads and projects. Each week involved the same primary responsibilities and meeting with the same people, but I received a new project from time to time that matched my skillset.

    Looking back as a full-time worker now, I think the key to an internship being a meaningful experience is being the introduction and push that students need to transition into workers. That in between pay and a work routine, interns should receive a bigger picture of their workload every once in a while, so that the interns can step into a full-time workload better.

    Alexander Granato
    Transportation Planning Engineer
    Indianapolis IN

  • 6.  RE: Giving Interns Meaningful Experience

    Posted 06-19-2023 12:48 PM

    I'd be curious if any students could respond to this prompt. 

    What is something that you're looking for in an internship?
    Are you there to learn a new skill or are you there to understand what the "real world" is like?

    I think a healthy balance of the two would be the best solution but there are only so many hours in a day and time = money.

    Daniel Bressler EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Structural Engineer
    Brooklyn NY

  • 7.  RE: Giving Interns Meaningful Experience

    Posted 06-21-2023 12:00 PM

    Me personally, I am there to gain new skills that will permit me to smoothly integrate the real world 

    Gergino Chounna Yemele S.M.ASCE
    Environmental Engineer

  • 8.  RE: Giving Interns Meaningful Experience

    Posted 06-28-2023 11:00 AM

    I don't see those two as mutually exclusive. I think learning about the practicalities of employment is a new skillset in itself. 

    I just started my second internship, and one of my main goals is to learn more about how I work within a large consulting firm. So far, it's been pretty different from my first internship! I'm hoping to land something with a public regulatory body for my last internship before graduation. That way, I'll have more insight as to "which flavor" of environmental engineering suits me best. (credit to my current supervisor for that line) 

    I figure that any specific "hard" skills I'll need for a new position I will be able to learn, and hopefully my employer will want to invest in me to learn those skills. What's most important is figuring out where to find a good fit for employment and learn about the practicalities of employment, or "soft" skills. 

    Kate Connolly S.M.ASCE
    Student, Environmental Engineering, B.S.
    Portland OR

  • 9.  RE: Giving Interns Meaningful Experience

    Posted 06-26-2023 11:01 AM

    Good day,

    My name is Joseph, a first year student from KNIST. I really appreciate you taking your time to enlighten us on this matter. I'll be taking my first internship from autumn to winter and with this in mind, I am going pick up even the simplest of skills to become a better civil servant.

    Joseph Asante S.M.ASCE

  • 10.  RE: Giving Interns Meaningful Experience

    Posted 06-26-2023 11:03 AM

    I'm no longer a student (graduated back in 2017), but I credit my summer internships with success I experienced after graduation. 

    I can't speak for all engineering schools, but if other universities are similar to Rutgers School of Engineering, you learn a lot of important material to help pass the FE and PE exams. What's lacking is the practical application and the instruction regarding specific tools that civil engineering firms are using. The reason why I was such an attractive candidate to hire out of school related to learning AutoCAD, ArcGIS, and Hydrocad in my summer internships. We used those programs to complete actual engineering designs and models which I was then able to print out and bring to interviews as a supplement to my resume. When engineering companies see a student has actually learned to do basic engineering design, they become a lot more valuable and desirable as a candidate for an open position. 

    The AutoCAD design class we had in engineering school was a joke. It didn't translate well into site design, grading, pipe networks, and a variety of other things civil engineers use in their professions. Thank goodness I learned a handful of shortcuts and workarounds while I was an intern because when I got hired along with a few other fresh engineering students out of school, I ended up having to teach them some of the basic AutoCAD commands. 

    In conclusion, an engineering firm hiring interns would do well to equip them with practical skills and experience with commonly used programs. 

    Cody Obropta P.E., M.ASCE
    Environmental Engineer
    Bangor ME

  • 11.  RE: Giving Interns Meaningful Experience

    Posted 06-27-2023 10:35 AM

    Well said Cody. Familiarity with industry standard software is almost as important (just as important?) as learning the fundamental engineering concepts, methods, and materials. 

    Shout out from one NJ state school alum to another. 

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer