Navigating an Internship Amidst a Pandemic

On March 13, 2020, many students across North Carolina went to their schools for the last time of the 2019-2020 school year. COVID-19 was labeled a pandemic, as it spread across the United States forcing students and their families into quarantine. High school seniors who normally looked forward to special events like the prom and graduation were now facing the fact that these events were cancelled or being held online. Due to this, I was worried my summer internship would also be cancelled, so when I received my internship notification letter on May 18, 2020, I was ecstatic!

Learning in the Office

I was awarded my summer internship through the Mayor’s Youth Employment Program (MYEP). MYEP places high school students with companies and jobs that match their personal or career interests within the city of Charlotte. During high school, I was enrolled in the Academy of Engineering at Independence High School and through that program I joined the ACE Mentor Program of America (ACE). ACE is a free, award-winning, after school program designed to attract high school students into pursuing careers in the architecture, construction and engineering industry, including skilled trades. Because of what I learned and experienced at these programs I developed a strong interest in learning about construction management and administration. As a result, I was very happy when I was placed with the architecture, interiors, and planning firm LS3P.  My experience with LS3P was great from the beginning, because prior to my arrival I received excellent guidance from my supervisor, Vincent Spencer, as he worked to develop a schedule that would teach me more about the details of construction management and administration.

As outlined in the work schedule, my assignment for each week focused on a different phase of the design and construction process. During the first week I was given four types of AIA contracts to read and review. The contract review process helped me to determine various types of project contracts and the responsibility of each participant depending on the contract that was utilized.  The next week, I focused on developing my skills with 3D rendering on Sketchup. I was given a training example to learn more about the nuances of Sketchup and how to use it efficiently.  Week three was dedicated to Revit training. I had previous knowledge about using Revit from high school but it was eye opening to see how truly complex and proficient the system really is. Because of the training I received in a very short period of time I was able to improve what I learned in high school and really apply it to the work environment. Another aspect of my Revit training was learning how to develop and apply Energy Insight Models. Weeks four and five were spent learning more about building specifications and site plans where I was presented with the massive site plans and specification manuals. The site plans and manuals presented were for current projects in which I made site visits each week. This helped me to get a better understanding of how a project goes from the design phase to construction.

In addition to that, I was able to sit in on the K-12 CLT office update meetings. There I was able to observe their check in meetings where they discussed their projects. I began to understand that to develop a project as large as a school, it takes a lot of coordination and communication. The K-12 team also took their time to answer any questions I had and were supportive of my learning endeavors.

Site Visits

As part of the schedule, Thursdays were dedicated to site visits.  On the first visit, Zoom calls were utilized to help maintain social distancing. It was odd at first, but soon everyone on site became acclimated to the technology. For the rest of the site visits, we were able to just wear masks and went to two public K-12 schools, a police station, and a YMCA. On each site visit I worked with the construction managers and supervisors to review the project details and construction phase. They also took time to share their personal experiences within the field and offered advice to me as someone new to the field.

Prior to this internship, I was already familiar with project schematics and plans because of ACE. However, when I went on site I often found myself speechless and in awe because those tiny drawings were now being transformed into reality and full scale.  The main thing that I took away from each site was that learning about construction in a classroom setting is vastly different than actually being on a construction site. From the design phase to the completion of the building, the construction manager has to pay attention to every project detail while representing the client and their company.

Final Thoughts

Throughout my internship, LS3P values were often referenced: excellence, integrity, empowerment, collaboration, balance, stewardship, and caring. Just from these quick five weeks I was able to see these values demonstrated every day from each of the employees with whom I interacted. The importance of collaboration is one of the LS3P values that I found to be most valuable and beneficial in my internship. Without collaboration I would not have had the enriching experience that I received while working with different project teams. Also I was able to see firsthand how important communication and trusting partnerships are to successful construction management for both LS3P and their clients. I was able to learn so much due to the efforts of everyone around me and I am grateful for that. I value the experience I received and will use it as I continue my education and future career in the construction industry.

About Olivia

Olivia Manning, a recent graduate of Charlotte’s Independence High School, joined LS3P as a summer student intern through the Mayor’s Youth Employment Program. Her experience includes participation in her school’s Academy of Engineering and the ACE Mentor Program (President of her school’s chapter, 2018-2020). She has also served as a member of the College Board Opportunity Ambassador Program (AP Ambassador) for which she promoted the AP program and tutored students in related coursework; as a volunteer at JH Gunn school, where she worked in the library and worked with youths to encourage academic success; and as a Leadership Intern for Camp Invention, where she worked with elementary students on math, science, and invention skills. She plans to attend Central Piedmont Community College this fall to study Construction Management Technology.