The LA Structural Intern Training Program
As we do every summer, KPFF LA Structural welcomed our 2022 Summer Intern class to explore the world of structural engineering and experience our interactive office culture. This summer, we have twenty interns. While the stereotypical tasks of an intern may include getting coffee, moving boxes, and making copies all day, this didn’t fit into KPFF LAS’ long-term vision or mission. We want our interns to feel they’ve had a productive summer – learning skills on the job to help their academics and beyond.
During the first week of their internship, interns are assigned to an engineering team and a live KPFF project. To bring the Interns up to speed and provide them with the skills needed to contribute to these projects successfully, we created a comprehensive training program. By giving Interns these skills early in the program and connecting them with engineers at all levels, the interns can jump into projects immediately and experience what it is to be a structural engineer.
When I asked staff to gauge interest in leading the seminars, I was AMAZED how easy it was to find eager volunteers. We had 47 volunteers to conduct training sessions – 26 veteran trainers and 21 new trainers for the Crash Course series! The trainers range in experience from new engineers to 25-year engineering veterans.
This enthusiasm exemplifies our “Forefront” philosophy. Forefront, our education philosophy, provides a supportive and positive environment to make it happen. The forefront experience starts the day you walk in the door at KPFF and continues as a career-long effort to help us all advance and grow together. Engineers at all levels bring something to the table and can be resources to their colleagues.
Putting together a training series or revamping one from previous years is no easy task. Trainers met weekly for several months to create outlines, models, reference guides, practice examples, and PowerPoint slides; and then performed dry runs of the material before the first training session. Although our office was busy overall, the level of effort and attention to detail in this training was unparalleled.
At the beginning of this calendar year, when discussing how to improve our intern training program, we met with the Team Leaders since they are the ones who train the Interns and assign the engineering tasks. We incorporated the feedback into our 2022 Intern Training Program, which features the following components:
ENTRY LEVEL CRASH COURSES
Entry Level Crash Courses are a new addition to the 2022 training schedule, intended for new engineers and interns coming right out of school. Ideally taken during the first week of employment or their internship, these practical trainings include elements of structural engineering design. The Interns and new hires are brought up to speed faster and can jump in on projects more confidentially.
We intentionally recruited junior trainers for the Crash Courses – they are closer to the actual numbers, spreadsheets, etc., and can offer more recent lessons learned than some of the more senior engineers. Additionally, most of the junior engineers are naturally younger, and we felt they would be more approachable as another resource in the office the Interns could refer to for questions.
ENTRY LEVEL SEMINARS
Upon completion of the Crash Courses, the Interns attend the Entry Level Seminars, which are provided for all new KPFF LA Structural Engineers. These Seminars cover structural engineering topics in more depth and offer insight on professional development at KPFF, relationship intelligence, and other aspects of the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry.
INTERN DESIGN PROJECT
We provide our Interns with hands-on experience on real-life KPFF LA projects, but since we only have them for 8-12 weeks, they will not see the project through completion. The Intern Design project gives interns experience on every project level – from concept through completion – on an accelerated schedule to fit within the summer program.
Our Intern Design Project changes each year and is based on a completed KPFF LAS project. The Interns are tasked with developing an ETABS model, analyzing the building and proposing a retrofit scheme, and then presenting their project to their team at the end of their internship. Interns are provided with weekly training sessions and an assigned liaison for support.
Structural engineering is about continuous learning and then learning some more! We hope out interns feel like they made strides in their professional development while enjoying themselves during their time at KPFF. If not, we hope they take the opportunity during their exit interviews to provide honest feedback so we can improve our program for next year’s interns!