Intern Program Provides Experience to Launch Construction Careers
When the Superior Construction 2021 Intern Program ended at the end of August, the reviews began rolling in. With an overall average satisfaction rating of 9.3/10, the positive comments about the experience were overwhelming. We heard repeated reviews that mentioned “surpassed expectations,” “great supervisor,” “loved being in the field,” “allowed me to build connections,” “I would return,” and the ultimate compliment: “have already recommended the program to friends.”
What made the experience so worthwhile? We attribute it to intentional efforts to offer a full program that gives the interns not only hands-on experience — similar to what they would get in their first three to six months on the job — but also opportunities for growth. Nicole Greene, Recruiting and Training Specialist at Superior, examined the Florida program and took a look at how to offer the best, most worthwhile experience companywide. In 2021, Superior implemented a few new, creative activities that proved to be a huge success.
- Lunch and Learns. Interns participated in lunch programs where a project manager (PM) or executive committee member explained where they started, how they got there, projects they’ve worked on, challenges throughout their career, and how things changed over time. Interns got involved, asked questions, and loved the full experience.
- Intern Challenge. We selected a completed Superior job, divided the interns into teams, presented the details, and assigned them a mock bid. PMs had pre-bid and bid review meetings, released addendums, and made the experience mirror the real-world project pursuit and bid process. At the end-of-summer intern bash, all of the SE interns gathered to present their proposed approach (again mirroring real-world project interviews), resulting in one team winner.
These are just a couple of the exciting changes and possibilities that are offered from a Superior internship. “Our biggest lesson after trying out these changes is that, the busier interns are, the happier they are. The more hands-on experience they get, they appreciated that ten-fold,” says Nicole. “The program is only growing — it is getting better and bigger each year.”
The goal with all internships is to offer an opportunity for real skills and growth. Every Superior intern benefits from:
- Hands-on experience. Interns are assigned to specific projects, and are treated as a valuable part of the team — getting experience in the field as if they are a field engineer, HSE professional, or survey crew. “This work is the most valuable experience you’ll have in construction,” says Josh Kistner, who heads up the internship program in the Midwest. “If you understand how it works, you can build off that experience and leverage it for your future career.”
- Mentors. Every intern is assigned a mentor, who makes sure they receive theon-site experience. We carefully choose mentors based on their ability to provide growth. And mentorship is a huge part of the construction industry. “Some people come in with a good strong skill set, but we still go every day learning new skills, avenues, paths, and ideas we didn’t have before,” says Brian McGarity, Northeast Florida Division Manager. “A green intern needs that guidance, as well as a first year field engineer, and on and on through your career.”
- Training opportunities. We like to offer training opportunities, like the Lunch and Learns or other outings, where interns get a chance to understand what a career in heavy civil construction is like.
- Invaluable connections. Internships offer the opportunity to make connections with mentors and PMs, executive board members, project team members, fellow interns, and more — thanks to Superior’s size and family-like culture. “It’s not unusual for the CEO to walk around at a project talking to everyone,” says Josh. “This is unparalleled — the culture and family-like atmosphere.”
- From orientation to celebration. All interns are welcomed in with an orientation, where they have the opportunity to get to know Superior’s culture (and might even walk away with some swag). Throughout the internship, they become a valuable part of the team. Then the internship is celebrated at the end of summer with a bash to provide closure and the opportunity for review so we can improve upon the experience next year.
Interns are paired with a mentor, and the recruitment team acts as an additional point of contact to provide additional guidance and input so their internship is successful and feels worthwhile. Regular check-ins offer the chance for Superior to understand intern progress and accommodate any requests for further growth opportunities that might be available.
By far, the most valuable takeaway from a Superior internship is the experience and opportunity for personal growth. Every intern is assigned tasks “within or beyond abilities (similar to stretch goals),” says Brian. “If interns don’t know how to do something, we provide them with tools and knowledge to move forward with it.”
“We make sure to set interns up with PMs and mentors at jobs that will be most beneficial to the intern development,” says Brian. “We choose team members to mentor and interact with interns who can help them be most productive, and we offer a highly interactive program that gives interns involvement and inclusion in not only the daily work but the entire program, helping them to achieve objectives we set with them.”
Gone are the days where interns are running to get coffee, notes Nicole. Perhaps the Superior program is so successful because interns are valued. “We make sure they receive a full-fledged experience and understand what it is like to have a full-time position,” says Nicole. “They hold the cards. They are setting the tone. They are the next generation. We make sure the internship is valuable, and keeps them wanting to come back to complete our three-year program.”