NAU Internships Influence Post-Grad Construction Careers
Phoenix-based McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. is tapping the talent in universities throughout the U.S. in its 3-year-old Intern Advantage Program. McCarthy managers said the program improves the image of construction work as a good career move and also lets the company get a look at possible future employees.
“We are trying to change a viewpoint on construction,” said Mike Gonzalez, McCarthy director of preconstruction. “It is a profession, like doctors.”
During fall semester 2018, three Northern Arizona University students are on site at the NAU Science Annex renovation project working on replacing mechanical systems and installing a new fire sprinkler system. The 34,000-square-foot space on the third and fourth floor is undergoing a complete remodel to open up the chemistry laboratory to promote collaboration.
Photo caption: From left, McCarthy interns Jordan Loos, Nicole Roznos and Regis Rumfola are getting hands-on experience in construction at the NAU Science Annex project. (Courtesy of McCarthy Building Companies)
Besides NAU, McCarthy works with Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, reaching out to students majoring in engineering, construction management, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, and mining engineering. McCarthy currently has six ASU Interns but no UofA interns.
This past summer there were 144 interns from 64 universities in 14 degree programs working on 93 projects in 15 states. Of those who participated in McCarthy’s Intern Advantage program, 76 percent return to school with a full-time job offer after graduation, Gonzales said.
Twenty-one-year-old Nicole Roznos from Seal Beach in Southern California has been interning with McCarthy since her freshman year. She is due to graduate in May. “It’s kind of funny,” Roznos said. "I didn't want to interview with McCarthy; my boyfriend convinced me, and after three months with McCarthy I fell in love. And after graduation, I will be working full-time with McCarthy.”
“Being in construction gives you a tangible experience,” Roznos said. “McCarthy is one of the best if not the best company for self-perform.” Self-perform is an industry term that means the general contractor does the work instead of hiring subcontractors.
Roznos said she wants to inspire women. “Follow your heart, and if you have a passion for what are you are doing and follow your dream, this is the industry for you, and it is totally worth it,” she said.
Out of 144 interns in 2018, 30 percent were females, and in 2017 the total number of interns was 171, and 25 percent were females, Gonzalez said.
From Flagstaff, fellow NAU intern Regis Rumfola, 23, said he worked for his dad’s trucking company. He was pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering when he decided to go for the McCarthy internship. Rumfola graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering with a math minor. “The construction management was a little off the path, but ever since I started with McCarthy I haven’t look back,” he said.
Rumfola said he likes that McCarthy is such a large-scale construction company and works on big projects. Projects range from infrastructure, airports, commercial buildings, government facilities, and hospitals to marine, parking, and renewable energy structures.
“I just wanted to be part of something so big,” he said.
Rumfola said a lot of engineers think construction is too easy and they are too smart for the industry. “If they knew what went on behind the scenes in construction management they would be very helpful if they chose that field in engineering,” he said.
After 22-year-old Jordan Loos of Phoenix graduates in December with a degree in mechanical engineering, he will start a full-time job with McCarthy’s self-perform team.
When he first started with McCarthy after his sophomore year in college, Loos said he didn’t know much about the construction industry. Loos was a laborer for one summer and after completing two summer internships, “I knew McCarthy is where I wanted to be,” he said.
While in the internship program, Loos worked on submittals, the RFI process (Request For Information), material and procurement tracking and ordering, productivity tracking and reporting, coordination of mechanical, electrical and plumbing, and subcontractor and vendor verifications.
“Anything I wanted to learn or do, I have been given the opportunity to do so,” Loos said. He said he’s aiming to be a project manager. “Getting to be a part of many different projects in different parts of the country would be an amazing, eye-opening experience,” he added.
Dzevida Sadikovic is a student journalist at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.