Growing up I couldn’t help but notice PCL’s influence from speaking to neighbors and seeing PCL projects around my home town of Stony Plain, such as the Transalta Tri-Leisure Centre in nearby Spruce Grove. As I grew older, I continued to notice PCL’s positive reputation as a large contracting construction company from seeing their work on the university campus and the downtown arena.
After applying to countless other co-op jobs, my attention was suddenly drawn to a posting for a position in Nisku, Alberta, at PCL. The possibility of working at PCL was an exciting prospect, so I quickly applied. During my interview, I was told what the position would entail and where I would fit into the company. I knew this was the placement I wanted for the next eight months.
The third year of the electrical engineering program is known to be brutal, and the fall semester lived up to its reputation. I was quite relieved when it was over. But all the hard work paid off, and during my work term with PCL I was able to see how the complex things I had learned in school fit into the real world of construction. I also quickly realized how little I had learned and how much more complicated things were. EHT zone drawings, piping isometrics, cable tray layouts, termination drawings—I hadn’t learned any of these things in school.
The first week of my work term went by and I felt like there was a mountain of knowledge I needed to climb before I could even begin to contribute in a meaningful way. Luckily, I was surrounded by knowledgeable people who had no problems explaining the ins and outs of construction drawings, monitoring construction progress, making materials requisitions, and many other aspects of the construction industry.
My apprehension soon faded away as I realized that there will always be someone who has faced similar issues. After overcoming the learning curve and working through an adjustment phase, I no longer feel intimidated by new problems because I know I can always depend on someone to help set me in the right direction.
One of the best days of the semester as a PCL student is Student Appreciation Day. After months of working you finally see all your fellow students that you met four short months ago. You get to share your stories about crazy work days, funny coworkers, and tasks you completed that you never thought you could or would do before working here. The tours of the PCL facilities were certainly eye-opening experiences after working at a desk for four months, and the team-building activities can bring out lively debate on how to best get a marshmallow to the highest elevation using only spaghetti noodles, string, and tape.
The best piece of advice that I could possibly give to any new student starting a semester here at PCL may be clichéd, but it holds true—ask questions. Coming in as a student, you most likely will not know much about construction, but people expect a lot of you so you must learn as much as you possibly can while you have the opportunity. Every PCLer is more than willing to help you understand the problems you face, so don’t be afraid to go back and ask for explanations. Also, as an engineer, learn to use Excel inside and out. As long as you are enthusiastic about learning and contributing you will take a lot from your term at PCL.