Expanding Career Horizons & Plant Capacity: An Invaluable Internship
We know that amazing career journeys begin with inquisitive minds and a drive to learn and grow. CDM Smith’s internship program offers students hands-on, real-world experience in their field of study and guidance from some of the best and brightest professionals in the industry. Our program allows students to not only put their knowledge into practice, but make real, lasting impacts on communities.
This summer, a group of eight interns studying construction management worked alongside our CDM Smith Constructors, Inc. team on the largest progressive design-build project of its kind presently underway in the U.S. – the Northeast Water Purification Plant (NEWPP) Expansion Project in Houston, Texas. The project will expand the city’s plant from 80 million gallons per day (mgd) to 400 mgd, dramatically increasing its ability to support steady residential and commercial growth while reducing dependency on groundwater.
“It’s insane, in a good way of course,” noted Allan Moran, an intern from the University of Houston. “I didn’t understand the magnitude of this project until I got on-site. To be able to learn out here and apply it to future classes will be extremely valuable.”
For this 10-week internship program, each intern cycled through different departments on the project every two weeks, including scheduling, procurement, quality control, safety and field experience. Taking on tasks and responsibilities from each department, and from their mentor or project manager, provided a diversified experience to allow students to learn what it takes to manage a project of such a massive scale. Being exposed to different aspects of progressive design-build, the interns learned a variety of skills and technologies, including using drones and building information modeling (BIM) tools for virtual design and construction (VDC). “With rotations to different departments, I’ve learned many roles in construction, and it’s help me narrow down what I’d like to do,” noted Justin Martinez, a student from the University of Houston.
Interns were supported by a network of colleagues, mentors, managers and program staff. One mentor, assistant project manager Doug Sagastizado, had completed an internship at CDM Smith several years ago. “I explain tasks step-by-step, so my mentees grasp concepts completely. When they ask questions, I try to help them figure it out on their own, so they learn to be self-sufficient,” he said. “I do push them to be the best they can be.”
The interns expressed appreciation for the guidance and support they’ve received this summer. “We’re not treated like interns, but like actual employees,” attested Martinez. “The people on this project really care about intern growth and invest their time to help us reach our goals.” Luis Mendez, also from the University of Houston added, “What I’ve enjoyed most has been the abundance of knowledge in the people afforded by the magnitude of this project. I am beyond grateful to be a part of a project that upon completion will benefit the city I live in.”
As they continue their education and set off on their career journeys, each intern can take pride in the fact that they played a role in strengthening the water supply in Houston for a more sustainable future. While CDM Smith continues work on the project, the firm looks forward to maintaining relationships with the students. The goal of the Intern and Co-op Program is not only to provide valuable working and learning experience to students, but also to eventually see them return as permanent, full-time employees.