In the blog series entitled, Virtual Construction Education 101, Procore partners and education specialists share the challenges, results, and silver linings of continuing their programs through the pandemic.
Ranked in the top 35 largest national general contractors, HITT Contracting is a commercial construction leader based in Washington, DC with offices throughout the United States. HITT’s 1,150 construction professionals offer a wide range of services – from base building construction and renovation, to corporate interior fit-outs, and service and emergency work – and provide expertise in preconstruction, sustainable, and virtual construction.
HITT manages emerging talent through the HITT Futures Program; a comprehensive four-phase training and development program that starts at the internship level and evolves four to five years into a team member’s career at HITT. It includes broad-based training platforms, such as hands-on construction experience, classroom training, mentoring and protégé opportunities.
Jobsite recently spoke with HITT Futures Program Manager Sarah Schmitt about how the company adapted their internship program in the face of adversity during the pandemic.
In the following Q&A, Sarah explains how HITT “doubled-down” on their student experience to continue to provide meaningful and engaging opportunities for their emerging talent pipeline.
Q: Can you start off by giving us a brief overview of HITT’s summer internship?
A: Our goal for HITT’s nationwide internships are to identify and recruit top collegiate students who are interested in pursuing a career in commercial general contracting. The structured, paid internship training is an opportunity for candidates to familiarize themselves with the different facets of construction while learning how HITT conducts business relative to others in the industry. This period is also an opportunity to become familiar with HITT’s history and corporate culture.
For our 2020 summer internship experience, we adapted to the current COVID-19 business climate based on the following values: maintaining a safe work environment for all HITT team members, providing a valuable and productive educational experience for our student team members, and continuing to build HITT’s entry-level pipeline.
Q: What in-person activities did you offer for the HITT Futures interns in the past? What has been difficult about the transition to a virtual environment?
A: With this year’s program jeopardized by the pandemic, we adapted our project-management based internship to include a hybrid model, combining some on-site construction experience with virtually hosted training content.
The curriculum for HITT’s 2020 program was modified to include virtual trainings, replacing previously scheduled in-person group activities. Added training experiences include health and safety content and preparedness for all interns who report to HITT job sites. The hybrid model of virtual and on-site experience allowed students to be in the field, but also empowered by their supervisors to complete tasks remotely.
Procore has been a part of the HITT Futures internship for the past six years and continued to be a success as we moved online, as most students in construction management or building construction programs were already familiar with it.
Procore enabled HITT to focus virtual learning on construction technologies this year, and it resonated with students to hear about Procore’s mission. They also enjoy the gamification part of Procore certification and getting the badge for their LinkedIn profiles.
Q: What did you learn this past summer of conducting the hybrid construction internship that you can share with other construction-focused programs?
A: As an essential business, we were fortunate to provide some on-site construction experience to our interns. The essence of our program was able to translate well virtually, but the on-site experience is integral to its success. Our secret sauce is the program’s structure, curriculum, and focus on mentorship. Every intern is assigned to a daily supervisor, who conducts performance reviews and sets expectations with their student. The students then meet with me to talk through their experience and see if they are ready to commit to coming back full-time.
The best feeling is when HITT superintendents and PMs come through my office and say, “I talked to my intern from two summers ago the other day. How cool is that?”