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Constructing an Internship

I have always been infatuated with building things. My interest in building began with Legos at a young age, progressed into building large, modular skateboard ramps with my father, and eventually turned into summer jobs as a carpenter. So when I started looking at colleges, I thought about a future career in the construction industry and what programs would best suit it: architecture, real estate development, or construction management. Eventually I settled on something slightly different—business management—because I believed it would give me a broader experience. And I chose Ithaca College to help me fulfill my dream.

I knew that it would be difficult to get a job in construction management without any relevant work experience and a related degree, so at the start of my junior year, I began looking for an internship. Construction of IC’s School of Business building had been big news on campus for some time, and it gave me an idea: an internship working on the new building would provide valuable experience and help solidify my career goals. I learned that Gilbane Building Company was the construction management firm on site and, like any good student, I did my homework.

One of the largest construction management firms in the United States, Gilbane has several regional offices around the country, employs 1,800 people, and has an annual revenue of $3 billion. I knew that an internship there would be a definite asset when job hunting later. But there was a catch: Gilbane wasn’t advertising for interns. I decided to pursue the opportunity anyway. The first step was creating the internship. I contacted Rick Couture, the associate vice president in the Office of Facilities, to see what he thought of the idea. He not only welcomed it but also set up a meeting with the two Gilbane construction managers, Sean Cahill and Keith Foshay, supervising the Ithaca College job site. From there, Rick, Sean, Keith, and I designed an internship that allowed me to observe and participate in the construction management process. Mark Cordano, associate professor and chair of the management concentration, outlined some requirements and agreed to be my faculty supervisor.

I spent the first few weeks of my internship familiarizing myself with the project by reading blueprints, contracts, OSHA safety regulations, and LEED building codes. Although not as exciting as being in the field, this reading was necessary to understanding the fundamentals. Once I was more familiar with the project, I was responsible for posting requests for information (RFIs) on the blueprints. I would take a stack of answered RFIs from the architect or engineer, identify the problem area on the master set of blueprints, and refer the viewer, either a contractor or construction manager, to the specific RFI number. I was also responsible for filing the daily contractor reports. These are all tasks that would be handled by an entry-level construction manager.

I was also an observer in the weekly meetings between Sean and Keith, IC facilities officials, and all of the job contractors, who discussed the overall project progress as well as any delays or problems. As I shadowed Sean and Keith around the job site, learning their day-to-day responsibilities, they were extremely helpful and took time to explain the ins and outs of the construction management business.

Having this two-semester internship was extremely valuable. When I interviewed for jobs, I was more secure in my knowledge of the industry, and I believe I had an advantage over applicants who lacked similar experience. I recently interviewed at some large construction management firms in Boston and accepted a job offer from William A. Berry and Son, one of the city’s best firms. (I also met with Gilbane’s New England office, but unfortunately they had completed the hiring for their management training program in November.) I strongly believe this job offer came about because of my internship and my ambition to find one in a place where none previously existed. Drive and determination go a long way when looking for an internship and, eventually, a job after graduation. It worked for me.

Watch our time-lapse video of the School of Business being built:





Originally published in Fuse: Constructing an Internship.


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