Matt's Co-Op Experience: Reflecting on 15 Months of Meaningful Work

On his last day, Matt Askett, a co-op student for Alberici's Canadian division, reflected on the 15 months he spent with Alberici:

Today is the last day of my co-op term with Alberici, and I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for these past 15 months.

I’ve heard many horror stories from fellow students who spent their co-op terms getting people coffee, and occasionally getting the work that their boss just didn’t want to do. If I’m being honest, I did get people coffee, and I’m sure I did work that my bosses’ didn’t want to do, but that was luckily just a small part of my job.

One week into my internship I was driving a boat full of carpenters and labourers across Lake Ontario having never driven a boat before. I spent that summer helping organize the logistics of pouring thousands of cubic meters of concrete underground on an Island. Later, I was given the opportunity to tour projects in and around St. Louis, and lastly I was sent to Pearson International Airport where I learned a great deal about conveyor systems, and working in a high security area. Even half of that would have been a dream internship for many.

I’ve learned so much over the past year and a half. A ton information has been thrown my way, and at times it’s been stressful, but I never felt overwhelmed because I always felt like I could ask any question. That’s what has stood out to me the most during my time with Alberici. If I had an issue with payroll, financial, safety, or quality documentation, someone was always willing to help. If I didn’t understand a process on site, someone would always be able to explain it to me.

I had high expectations going into this internship, and Alberici easily exceeded them.

Hailie's Intern Experience: Summit in St. Louis & Last 2 Weeks in Ottumwa

I’m heading into the last week of my internship and I can’t believe how quickly this summer has flown by. I’ve been able to do and see so much this summer it’s crazy to think it’s only been three months. The site has changed so much since I got here. When I first arrived, we were just working on constructing the foundations for the SCR structural steel and building the fab tables for the ductwork fabrication. Since then, we’ve erected over 200 tons of steel, fit-up and welded inlet and outlet ducts, constructed a crane pad and placed 1000 cubic yards of concrete in it, and erected the massive Manitowoc 21000 crane. Having never been on a construction site before, it’s unbelievable to me what can be accomplished in just three months.

Last week I traveled to St. Louis for the Intern Summit. All of the U.S. and Canaidan interns from Alberici, as well as interns from Flintco (Alberici's sister company) attended the summit at the Alberici corporate headquarters. The night before the summit I went Go-Kart racing at Pole Position Raceway with the eight other interns out of the St. Louis office. I had never been go-kart racing before so it was really fun, even though I came in last in both races! The next day, at the summit we got to meet the ACL and Flintco interns and it was so cool to hear about the projects they had been involved with this summer. On the first day of the summit we heard from the Market Leaders about all the different markets that Alberici serves. After a tour of headquarters, we took a bus to Hillsdale and learned about Hillsdale Fabricators and Kienlen Constructors. We got a tour of Hillsdale and the warehouse. There was some very high-tech looking equipment in Hillsdale that was being used to fabricate the steel, which was fun to watch. In the evening, we all go to go to a Cardinal’s game. Alberici got a box for the night, so we all got to eat, talk, and watch the game. A lot of Alberici full time staff came to the game too. It was awesome to have the opportunity to get to know them outside of work.

The second day of the summit began with site tours. Half of the group went to Lock & Dam 25 and the other half went to the Route 47 Bridge Project. I was in the group that went to the Bridge, and it looked like a really exciting project. In order to build the bridge, they had had to put one of their cranes on a barge on the river, which was something I had never seen before. After the site visits we went back to the office where we learned about the technology Alberici implements for their projects and we made a point-cloud scan of the conference room. The day ended with employee and returning intern panels. We learned about the employee’s backgrounds, projects, and experiences and the returning interns told us about why they decided to come back for another summer with Alberici. The panels were very helpful and relatable because we got to hear from people that were or still are in our shoes and how their careers with Alberici have grown.

After the summit I went back to Ottumwa for my last two weeks of work. I was excited to get back because the Manitowoc 21000 crane had finished being erected while I was away and I was so excited to see it. I can’t believe my summer is coming to an end, but at least I still have one more week!

Hailie's Intern Experience: Finding Solutions to Unforeseen Issues

The last few weeks on site in Ottumwa have been very exciting and eventful. Construction activities have ramped up a ton. I got to witness the first columns of steel being erected, the first outlet ducts be fabricated, and the delivery of the first pieces of the Manitowoc 21000 crane, which will come in a total of 68 truck loads.  One of the most valuable things I’ve learned in my time here so far is that no matter how much planning and coordination you do for a construction project, there are still problems that arise that you couldn’t have predicted.

For instance, a major scope of the project this past month has been to build a crane pad for the 21000 crane. To do this, we have had to excavate a large area in the yard outside the plant. In the process, a system of pipes was discovered that run through the yard. There were no existing drawings that showed what the pipes were used for or their path. We brought in a hydro-excavator to pothole around the yard so we were able to determine where the pipes went and their purpose. I was able to assist one of the on-site engineers in taking measurements of the pipe dimensions, then I added the pipe paths to existing drawings and sent them to the engineering side of the joint venture who added them to the official drawings. We then encased some of the pipes in concrete and rerouted others to protect them from the weight of the massive crane that will be erected in a couple of weeks. One of the things I find most exciting about the construction industry is this need to be able to navigate around unforeseen problems quickly so that you can stay on schedule and under budget.

Another project I’ve been given was to complete the 3D Lift Plan. This is an online-program that allows you to build your construction site on the website then insert the cranes you will be using on-site. The program has almost any crane you can think of and the lift capacity, radius, and a lot of other information for each crane. Using the program, you can figure out how large of lifts you can make and how far you can make them. To put the existing plant and structures around the plant into the program, I had to use our 3D model of the site and take some measurements on my own to get the right dimensions. I then added the cranes we would be using and some of the larger items we would need to lift. I had a lot of fun working on this, and I know it will be helpful to the team.

This past week my main focus has been to compile the Material Receiving Reports. These reports are made for each delivery we get to the site. They include information about the items delivered, the inspector's report of the items, and pictures. I compiled all the reports, filed them, and put them in the file database we share with the engineering side of the joint venture and the subcontractors so everyone has access to them. Once I became familiar with that process, I was able to start receiving the truckloads myself. This means I am notified when a load will arrive, then I go inspect it, fill out the report, and take pictures once it does. It’s so cool to me that I’ve been given this responsibility since this is something that the project engineers usually do. It makes me feel like a real project engineer.

I can’t believe I’m more than halfway through the summer. My time here has flown by and I can’t wait to see what else I’m able to get involved with in the next five weeks.

Kyle's Intern Experience: Working in an Automotive Plant

Since I last posted, I have learned a lot about working in an automotive plant. One of the key things about construction work in a car plant is coordination. Last summer, Alberici was the only contractor on the project site that I was on, and they organized all work on site. This summer, however, many different contractors with many different contracts with Fiat-Chrysler are working on one site. Every morning, there are coordination meetings to make sure there are no conflicts with everyone’s work. Dozens of people attend these hour-long meetings, and there is a lot of discussion as to how to resolve the issues on site in that hour alone.  The amount of coordination that needs to occur for a project of this size to run is astounding, but with strong communication, completing the project is possible.

After two weeks on the General Assembly side of the Fiat-Chrysler Sterling Heights Plant, I moved to the south side of the plant to help with the construction of the Paint Shop. Despite just moving to another side of a building, a whole new project with a whole new set of challenges, organization, and people is underway! To start, I assisted one of the superintendents in overseeing miscellaneous projects on site, including cutting holes to allow for ductwork. There is a strict deadline for this project, as the holes need to be cut to allow a helicopter to fly over the building and place ductwork in the holes.

Now that I’ve settled in, my main project the past couple of weeks is to be the administrator of a log of items that have been developed to aid in finishing the project on time. A strict deadline to produce vehicles is in place that needs to be met, and this log of items has been developed to gather all issues that haven’t been resolved and find a way to resolve them. These items come from issues all over this section of the project, so as I record these issues, I learn a lot about what is needed to build a car paint shop. I have also learned a lot about the process of getting these items ready to be built. There is a lot of behind the scenes work that needs to occur for a subcontractor to be given specific work, which includes the general contractor asking subcontractors for a price for an item, reviewing the prices, and then selecting the best subcontractor and issuing them a document called a purchase order that provides them the money to do the work. Sometimes the work needs to be changed and reviewed, and so some of those steps may repeat. With the size of the project and the amount of work, this process is repeated many times. Coordination is also key with this project, as there is coordination that needs to occur between Fiat-Chrysler, the project management staff, the engineers, and every subcontractor to identify interferences and unresolved issues and ways to resolve them. As the administrator of this log, I review these issues and communicate the issues in the best way possible to the people who work on these issues. It’s a big task, as a report centered around this log is sent to the senior management of Fiat-Chrysler every week. It requires a lot of detail and time, but it has been teaching me a lot and it’s great to know that Alberici is willing to give important work like this to me.

I only have 5 weeks left. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me!

Evan's Intern Experience: You Win Some, You Lose Some

The past two weeks in the office have been great.

To start off; I experienced my first official bid day since joining the office at the beginning of May. The project we were bidding on was the restoration of Parkdale Pumping Station located in Toronto. This project happened to be the first one that I began estimating on upon arriving at Alberici.

During the week leading up to bid day the estimating team along with upper management worked together on preparing the framework and strategy for the bid. When bid day arrived, prices from subcontractors began flowing in and this continued throughout the morning with some prices coming in with less than 15 minutes to go before bid submission! Throughout the morning the team worked together to finalize the bid; it was awesome to see the team working so well together in a situation where time is not on your side. Time seemed to just fly by; one moment I was having my morning coffee, the next I was waiting in the bid room with the rest of the team for the results!........ WE DID IT! We had successfully beat the competition. I’d have to say that it was a pretty surreal feeling having a project that the team had worked hard on over the past month become a success.

Unfortunately, the next bid day was not as successful as we ended up finishing second place on a building renovation project. “You win some, you lose some” is the phrase which pops into mind. However, a positive takeaway from this experience was how the team reacted to the loss, which was the mindset of “let’s get the next one”.

Once again over these past two weeks I had the opportunity to attend a couple pre-bid meetings. One of the pre-bid meetings was quite an experience as it lasted 3.5 hours, taking the group through tunnels and various buildings at a wastewater treatment plant.

Every day continues to bring about new experiences. I’m looking forward to next week and hopefully another win on bid day.

Hailie's Intern Experience: Groundbreaking and Fun with the Project Team

Hi! I’m Hailie, an intern with Alberici, working on an SCR construction at a power plant in Ottumwa, Iowa. I just completed my junior year at Purdue University, where I’m majoring in Civil Engineering. I’m interested in Construction because it is an industry that has been around since ancient times, but continues to grow and evolve every day.

This is my first internship, so going into it I was very nervous, especially because I would have to relocate to Ottumwa for the summer. I didn’t know what to expect going into the intern orientation the first day, but I left feeling a lot less nervous, and a lot more excited to start. At orientation I got to meet my fellow interns and learn about each project they were being sent to.  We learned about Alberici, its history, and its employees. Many of the employees who spoke to us had been there for over ten years, some over twenty. If people have stuck around with this company for that long, it must be a good place to work. By the end of the orientation we had learned about the company’s estimating process, safety policies, current projects, and had met over thirty employees. We also got a tour of the headquarters office, which is a LEED Platinum building. After orientation, about ten employees took us out to a fun dinner, where we got to know them a little bit better.

My first week at the plant was an exciting one. I got a tour of the construction site and the massive power plant, and learned how a coal-fired power plant operates. They began laying concrete my second day, so I got to see the testing process and watch them pour the concrete. I also sat in on safety meetings, change order meetings, daily update meetings, and a company-wide update meeting. It’s exciting to be able to see some of the things I’ve learned about in school being utilized at the site or talked about in the meetings. After my first day, some of the employees took me to dinner where I tried my first fried peanut-butter and jelly.

Now, I’m just finishing up my fourth week in Ottumwa, and I’ve already learned so much. I’ve been able to sit in on all-hands safety meetings, joint venture meetings, meetings with the owner, and many others. I’ve also had the opportunity to get a look at how RFIs, change orders, and other owner-constructor operations are conducted. It’s been very interesting to see how so many people are involved in every task on the site. 

There is a daily meeting where the craft superintendents meet with the management to staff to give updates on what has been accomplished that day and what is going to be accomplished in the next few days. These meetings have helped me to understand every task that is complete on the site, as well as the problems that arise and the solutions that are used to correct them. One of the tasks I have been given here is to make and send out the daily report. This is a report that updates the JV and the owner on what was discussed in the daily meeting the day before. It’s cool to know that something I write is being seen by so many people, and is providing them with information about the project. Another report I worked on over the last two weeks was the monthly report. This is a report that is presented at the monthly meeting, which was held this week. The monthly meeting is an opportunity for all of the people involved in the project, on-site and off-site, to come together and discuss the progress of the project, the safety statistics, the schedule, everything down to the recycling stats. At the meeting, everyone is given a copy of the monthly report. It was awesome that this report that I had worked on was being used by so many people who were very important to the project. Another task I have been given is to label the existing steel columns around the plant with their location elevation. To do this, I had to go through the owner’s reference drawings and determine which column had which location and which floor had which elevation. This was challenging to do as the drawings can be confusing and you often have to look at several at a time to understand them. This task has been really helpful to me, though, because I not only understand the drawings a lot more, but I also have a much better feel for the plant because of it.  

I was also lucky enough to attend the Groundbreaking Ceremony at the plant today this past week. There was a presentation about the project and pictures with the owners and the joint venture. This only happens once throughout the project so I was lucky that I got to experience it. 

It hasn’t been all work here, we’ve done some fun things around the area after work. After the monthly meeting we all went out to dinner together, which was exciting because I got to know the people who were working on the project off-site. We also went trap shooting. It was my first time shooting, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I even hit some birdies which was another surprise. Hopefully we’ll go again soon, and maybe by the end of the summer I’ll get the hang of it!