Summer interns arrive fresh-faced and ready to work, but at design firms they often end up doing the most basic of production tasks. That’s because many architecture, engineering, and construction companies just don’t have the bandwidth to run a full-fledged internship program.
Run well, however, internship programs can help solve one of the industry’s biggest dilemmas: the skills gap in hiring.
Niche engineering specialties such as low-voltage are in need of a better hiring feedstream. Degree programs focus on structural and electrical engineering to such an extent that students may not even be aware of engineering niches such as low-voltage design.
To tackle the problem, TEECOM created an 11-week structured internship program to attract the best and brightest undergrads. The program, TEECOMuniversity, is designed to introduce emerging engineers to the world of low-voltage design through hands-on content taught by senior leadership. Class subjects include “Project Phasing,” “AV and the Law,” “Project Management Communications,” “Revit Instruction,” and “The RFP Process.”
“Most students graduate with a great theoretical understanding of engineering,” says TEECOM Associate Principal Paul Au, who helped create the TEECOMuniversity curriculum. “We wanted to give them some real-world experience to go along with it. We put together a series of courses where we talk about projects we’ve worked on, as well as field trips to construction sites. Beyond just the technical skills, we also introduce them to working in a corporate environment and the social skills you need to get along.”
Kaylee Pit, an undergraduate in Architectural Engineering at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, interned previously at a construction management firm in Hong Kong. Her experience at TEECOM has been dramatically different.
“My Hong Kong internship was pretty much just basic office tasks, not a lot of learning experience or interaction with my colleagues,” she says. “Here, we learn directly from the engineers about what it’s like to work not just at TEECOM, but anywhere — what you need to know about how to interact with other people at the office, how to present in a meeting, interview skills.”
Krishna Mehta, structural engineering undergraduate at University of California, San Diego, likes the formalized learning environment of TEECOMuniversity. “It’s more like an educational setting,” he says. “You learn a lot more explicitly instead of the learn-as-you-go approach. They actually sit down and teach you stuff.”
In addition to technical knowledge, TEECOMuniversity immerses the interns in the culture of a growing organization. TEECOMuniversity students enjoy our monthly team lunches and General Office Meetings, and volunteer at the Alameda County Community Food Bank through TEECOM’s Give Back program. These experiences give the group insight into how corporate values form a strong culture.
As they prepare to return to their university courses, the TEECOMuniversity “grads” will take a new understanding of low-voltage design for buildings. Some of them may even decide to make it their career.