The Intern Experience – Redefined in the Age of COVID-19

At DPR, we aim to hire, inspire, develop and grow bullet-smart individuals. Each year, students from across the United States who study construction management, engineering, business and various other studies apply to spend their summers on a DPR project where they learn through hands-on experience. Things were a little different this year.

Week 1 of the internship consisted of learning about DPR's culture, meeting teammates and taking the MBTI personality test.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic gave DPR the opportunity to reimagine a traditional internship experience. Where interns used to be limited to the location and project type they were placed on, a virtual setting allowed for global audience connection and holistic business understanding.

“When we decided the internship was going to be virtual in early April, we put our heads together and decided a competition was the way to go,” said Sean O’Mara, who leads the College Recruiting team. “We paired up with different workgroups within DPR to design a program that would challenge and prepare interns for working in construction.”

During Week 2, interns learned about contracts from a DPR subject matter expert.

Over the course of eight weeks, seventy-one interns teamed up and learned about different parts of DPR’s business from leaders across the company. The ultimate goal of the program was to apply these lessons to a real-life project scenario and answer the question, “Should DPR pursue the project?”

Throughout the summer, teams completed deliverables that built upon the material that was taught during the weekly webinar training session. The deliverables included: developing a schedule and site logistics plan, performing a drywall take off, completing a schedule of values and conducting contract risk assessments and a go/no-go analysis. Using a Microsoft Teams site, students were able to collaborate in real time, regardless of their geographic location. If teams needed guidance, they could reach out to their “captains,” which were DPR employees who acted as mentors throughout the program.

“The support from across the organization was overwhelming,” O’Mara commented. “Since it was online, we were able to hear from leaders around the United States. It was fun to see how excited everyone at DPR was to get involved and help out.”

Before presenting in Week 7, interns learned some valuable presentation skills from DPR's Learning & Development team.

The eight-week schedule consisted of presentations led by subject matter experts from across the company, and included:

  • Week 1: DPR Culture, Teambuilding & Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment
  • Week 2: Contracts & Site Logistics
  • Week 3: Planning & Schedule
  • Week 4: General Conditions & Schedule of Values
  • Week 5: Break
  • Week 6: Sales Analysis & Presentation Skills Training
  • Week 7: Round 1 Presentations
  • Week 8: Round 2 Presentations to Management Committee

Week 7 was the final leg of the journey for some interns. Scores taken from weekly deliverables were combined with first-round presentation scores, and the top four teams moved forward to present their arguments to DPR’s Management Committee during Week 8. Members of the winning team each received a DPR gift box.

The winning team celebrates their win! Members of the winning team each received a DPR gift box.
One member of the winning team celebrates her win with a dance.

We asked our summer interns to describe their experience with this year’s Virtual Internship Program:

  • “The weekly deliverables were on point and the deadlines made me work on my toes like I was actually working in the team! Overall, I am sure I have made the best use of this summer and enhanced my knowledge and skills on various topics. I wanted to thank everybody in DPR who gave us great presentations, feedback on our deliverables and all other people who were a part of this program.” Jesline Althea, Arizona State University
  • “My favorite part of the internship was meeting all of the great people at DPR. They taught me aspects of the construction industry that other internships didn’t. I’ve realized that you must be goal-oriented and always moving forward to learn about things in the industry.” Isaac Michel, California State University, Sacramento
  • “I really enjoyed having access to the DPR employees throughout the program. During a regular internship experience you only get to see what’s going on in your project and talk to your team on site, but this opportunity was great for getting feedback and information from so many different professionals.” Julia Krok, University of California, Davis

In the first half of 2020, change has been the only constant. Mitigating risk and managing disruptions has been a necessity for all companies. At DPR, we know that being able to adapt and move Ever Forward is key to ensuring success.

"This summer’s internship program showed that no matter the obstacles, we will always build something great–great teams, great programs, great experiences, “said O’Mara.