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How Internships Impact Future Construction Managers

08/20/2020 Blog

A career in construction management includes planning, coordinating, and supervising construction projects from start to finish. Internships at undergraduate and/or graduate levels can significantly benefit a construction manager’s career by including focused, on-the-job learning.

The Nature of Internships in Construction Management

The shorter period of an internship — whether it is just through the summer or a whole semester long — is perfect for learning the tricks of the trade and acquainting yourself with workplace culture. An internship in construction management may occur during the process of gaining a degree in this field as a part of one’s graduation requirements. Alternatively, it could occur after graduation, before starting a full-time job. Sometimes, internship programs during the academic year will lead exceptional candidates to a full-time position upon graduation. At the minimum, most internships in construction management will lead to course credit.

More often than not, these internships are a collaboration between the institute of higher education and the workplace at which the internship occurs. Regardless of the specifics, an ideal internship program helps an aspirant learn how to work in a team while simultaneously gaining as much personal knowledge of the craft as possible.

The Benefits of an Internship for Construction Management
In the construction industry, a well-crafted internship can teach one a variety of soft skills, as well as specific hands-on skills like civil engineering (design, construction, and maintenance of naturally built environments) and sustainable construction (design and build with effective use of resources, in an environmentally sustainable manner). Aspiring construction managers can become better trained in practical construction through internships, where they can acquire and hone essential skills such as:

Analytical skills: Analytical skills are vital for planning project strategies as well as cost-estimating materials, labor, and time required to complete projects.

Decision-making skills: Construction managers need to be able to choose staff efficiently. This includes coordinating personnel and subcontractors when necessary and maintaining a sound working relationship with the whole team. Construction managers may also need to interact with lawyers and local government officials like city inspectors to ensure all regulations for construction are met.

Initiative: Learning how to take initiative at an early stage is one of the keys to success for a construction manager. For instance, in the case of self-employed construction management, generating business opportunities becomes of paramount importance. This includes finding clients, marketing services, and technical skills to interpret contracts and construction technology.

Communication skills: Communication skills — especially oral communication — are essential to explain complex technical information to clients, workers, and building specialists such as architects, electricians, and landscaping workers. Similarly, for construction managers, written communication skills are necessary to formulate proposals and budgets as well as document the progress of the building work.

Aside from practical experience, the soft skills gathered through an internship can not only be used either to boost a job application to the same company but will also come in handy at a later stage in one’s construction career. Ultimately, internships enable aspirants to develop confidence in the field of their choice. In turn, construction managers who have completed internship programs may be more likely to pay it forward for future generations of construction management students.

Components of a Construction Management Internship Program

For those who become successful construction managers, instituting a construction management internship program or improving an already-existing program at their place of work is a great way to pay it forward.

As mentioned in an article by Forbes, interns should be as carefully selected as employees. Beyond general qualifications, interns must be willing to learn the technical skills of the job, fit the mold of the company, and believe in teamwork. This is especially important for future construction managers, who need to have a thorough knowledge of various stages of building and maintenance to oversee and delegate work efficiently. Willingness to learn fast and be open to ideas can help in decision-making at critical moments, saving both time and money. Thus, the first step of creating a successful internship program is carefully formulating selection criteria for potential candidates.

Secondly, the implementation of mentorship may improve the quality of internship programs. This involves pairing interns with mentors who are construction industry professionals. For example, an aspiring project manager intern shadowing an actual superintendent or a project manager can learn practical details of the job faster. This ensures focused learning which better prepares the interns for real-world experiences.

An important part of any training program is helping trainees help realize their potential. One way to do this is to have interns write down their goals at the beginning of the internship and revisit them at the end of the program. Additionally, experts recommend ensuring that interns learn a new thing every day and ask questions about construction. These channel focus, boost confidence, and may even encourage interns to pursue specialized training before applying for a job.

Finally, an internship program must necessarily illustrate team and management hierarchies. In other words, it is useful to have an understanding of how the team functions, who reports to whom, and why it is so. An internship in construction management should then ideally allow interns to see how different levels of management interact with one another, and the various qualities necessary for managers to succeed. Like all other project management jobs, construction management requires an expression of passion that inspires and motivates a team; courage to take risks and execute risk management strategies; establishment of stern but accommodating authority; and resilience to turn mistakes into future successes.

Internships, whether part-time or full-time, are beneficial for management career paths. Ultimately, these programs should offer a learning environment where interns are treated like employees without pressuring them to perform alone. Construction management internships have the potential to benefit both the hiring company and the intern, allowing interns to gain entry-level practical experience while allowing the company to determine whether the intern could be a good fit in terms of future employability.

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