One of the greatest learning opportunities available for students is to apply their lessons on real-world projects during an internship with PCL Construction. Each year, PCL offers more than 150 internships at projects and offices across the country. Many students share that PCL’s unique internship program is a life-changing experience and sets them up for success as they enter their careers.
Kate McGhee, human resources and professional development manager at PCL’s U.S. Head Office in Denver, offers the following insight for prospective internship applicants:
We begin recruiting in September for internships that will take place May through August of the following year. Many students start as an intern their sophomore year, and it’s not uncommon for someone to return for a second and even third year.
Many of our interns – at least 70% – are in construction operations. A construction internship at PCL doesn’t mean they are getting coffee for the team or making copies of proposals; they are tasked with field engineer duties. They work under the direction of an experienced superintendent with the support from an assigned mentor, or buddy. We also have intern positions in estimating, accounting, human resources, marketing/communications, and health and safety.
What we hear over and over from students is their summer with PCL was more valuable than their classroom learning because it's real-life work experience. We will let a person do as much as they're interested in and able to do. For example, if they want to tailor their internship toward emerging technologies, we will provide that.
Students have shared that they didn’t fully understand a concept until they saw it in action on a job site. For example, one student shared that while they had been taught about developing project schedules in school, observing firsthand how different trades work together on a jobsite and can be impacted by project changes was invaluable. At PCL, we are proud to help enhance the classroom learnings by putting people on the job the day they start.
In addition to real world experience, a large part of our internship program success is centered on the idea that we don’t treat students as an intern who will only be with us for three months, we treat them as a full-time employee who has access to all the same company events and activities as our other employees. Providing social opportunities helps interns connect with the project team and other interns. For example, in Denver we host happy hours and volunteer events. Many projects organize a kickball team, others do escape rooms or our teams in Hawaii and California will organize surfing lessons.
Everyone starts the process with an online application submitted through the PCL Career site. There’s a special section about PCL internships that’s full of additional resources.
I also recommend seeing if PCL will be attending a job fair at your school. If we see people at a job fair, we consider that an initial screening. If you’re a student planning to stop by the PCL booth, be prepared for a meaningful conversation and anticipate a follow up interview as soon as the next day with one or more PCL employees.
When we interview candidates, we’re looking for folks who have a passion for construction and are assertive enough that they’re going to be able to ask questions during the internship. In any position at PCL, you can’t find the answers in an operating manual or expect someone to sit you down in a classroom and teach you the concept – you have to be willing to raise your hand or tap someone on the shoulder and ask, ‘Can you help me with this?’ ‘Can you explain this to me?’
Historically, the construction industry has not been very diverse. PCL knows one of the best ways to change that is to engage with students and offer support as they embark on their career. We focus on recruiting at diverse universities around the country, including recruiting from historically Black colleges and Hispanic-serving universities. As a result, roughly 50% of our interns each year are women and minorities.
We cover transportation costs for a student to move if needed. If they’re not going to be staying with family or in their current living arrangement, there is a housing allowance. We encourage interns to room with each other and we also have connections and resources to help them find summer housing.
We have internships at each of our offices across the country. Someone applying through the site can search for internships in the area they want to be in. It can be easier to get an internship in your current city than relocating to a new one, but if you can show the team you plan to stay with family or already have secured living arrangements in a new area for a summer, you may be able to find an internship in a new city. We certainly have interns that are in one city one summer and then in another area the next.
Our interns often act as PCL ambassadors when they return to university — a role made easy given the PCL merchandise students pick up over the summer. The majority of our interns either come back for another year or are hired to the organization full-time after graduation.
If they’ve had a great experience during their internship, we include previous interns in our fall recruitment process. They love getting their friends over to the PCL booth and gaining the experience of assessing talent.
Ready to start your journey with PCL? Find open internships on the PCL Career Site.