Careers in Construction: Planning an “Intern for a Week” for Students

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For many years, the construction industry has suffered from a shortage of skilled workers. Some builders seek a more proactive solution to the problem by focusing their recruitment efforts on local high school students. Week-long internship programs in the construction field have the green light from school administrators, parents, and students who are eager to learn about the career field while earning some extra cash. Host construction companies must carefully plan out the intern week so that students have a positive, memorable, and safe experience on their work sites. Here are some things to consider when pulling together successful week-long construction internships for high school students.

1. Build a Welcome Packet

A welcome packet is like a company’s handshake to its interns. A strong yet friendly handshake is just what construction companies need to attract new talent. When generating a welcome packet for students, these companies will want to convey important information about the program in a modern way.

Construction companies that want to emphasize the informal, fun vibe of their work sites can create personalized welcome messages to interns using humorous videos starring various team members. They can also digitize the onboarding process by automating forms for intern pay, work waivers, and school credit. Today’s high school students have grown up using technology and social media. Make them feel welcome by giving them login credentials to a pre-specified part of the company’s intranet and internal social media channels.

Other items to mention in a welcome packet for high school interns include the company’s mission, general information about work sites, and items to bring for the first day on the job. A welcome packet that includes an onboarding plan helps students to know what to expect when they arrive at the work site.

2. Orientation

Orientation is an opportunity to reinforce the purpose and benefits of the company’s week-long construction internship program. Safety is one of the most important aspects of all construction operations. Construction internships must emphasize a safety-centric mindset to students from the first day on the job. This is often done by giving an orientation that contains important Occupational Safety and Health Administration training. Host companies can also wrap up any administrative details such as requesting missing forms, issuing parking decals, and giving out information about local lunch options during orientation.

3. Itinerary

Offering high school students different building experiences helps them to make decisions about career possibilities in the construction industry. A host construction company that has building projects in different phases can craft itineraries for students that include activities such as framing, roofing, and HVAC installation.

Builders can also offer a second track itinerary for students who are interested in construction specialties. Some of these specialty areas include drywall installation, trim carpentry, and masonry.

4. Hands-on Learning

Students who understand that they learn best by “doing” are often attracted to the construction industry. Host construction companies can play to their strengths by pairing interns with work leaders who’ll train them on specific tasks and impart valuable building skills. When working independently in small spaces, the work leader can give remote instructions via a two-way radio to his or her intern.

5. Insurance/Liability Waiver

While the construction industry has some of the strictest safety standards in the nation, it’s a field that’s rife with hazards. Enforcing safety rules helps to reduce workplace accidents and liabilities. However, host construction companies must protect themselves by maintaining the right insurance coverage. Traditional insurance products for construction companies may deny coverage for temporary workers such as high school interns. To make the week-long program work, builders may have to get policy addendums through their insurance companies and liability waivers that are signed by students and their parents.

6. Follow Up From Company

To reap the most benefits from the internship program, construction companies must keep in touch with an intern beyond his or her introductory work week. Besides sending updates about the company and its new opportunities to former interns through its human resources (HR) department, a builder can encourage ongoing social media chats to develop long-term relationships with the students. By using its social channels, a builder is able to get feedback from students about the strengths and weaknesses of its internship program. Representatives also stand by to answer questions that students have about joining the company for full or part-time work after graduation.

Conclusion

Engaging students and safely introducing them to a variety of construction-related tasks are the main goals for construction companies that host week-long internships. However, the lure of a traditional college education may still be strong for many students. Forward-thinking construction companies will work with their HR departments to offer tuition assistance or scholarships to students who want to work in construction and later earn four-year degrees in areas such as construction management or construction engineering.

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