The Impact of Experiential Learning: Assessing the Outcomes of Internship Experiences for Students Entering the Construction Industry
The state of the economy has brought changes in the construction industry creating a more competitive employment environment in the construction industry as well as an increase in project requirements due to complexity, duration of work, fewer employees to do the work, and the type of projects being undertaken. These changes have created an increased need for managers to possess both technical skills and also emotional competencies. Employers are now seeking to hire individuals who exhibit emotional competencies and other soft skills, such as empathy, verbal communication and relationship building.
Soft skills improve the development and maintenance of relationships among the diverse group of professionals necessary to complete projects. With the construction industry being nomadic in nature, the ability to develop and maintain relationships can be especially important. Employers are placing more emphasis on these soft skills when evaluating potential hires and starting salaries.
With these changes comes the realization that students seeking to gain employment in the industry need to have a competitive edge. While soft skills are critical for students graduating from construction focused programs, opportunities to learn and enhance these skills are not always available within the curriculum. The majority of students graduating from college programs today are part of a generation referred to as Millennials"a generation differing greatly from those that have come before them.
For Millennials to gain a competitive edge and maximize employment opportunities, they must first have an understanding of what the industry perceives students need to be successful in the industry. Program curriculums must also find a way to produce students that offer more than just technical knowledge to employers. This is not always possible within existing programs trying to meet the demands of accreditation requirements within the credit hours required. One option construction focused programs could consider to incorporate opportunities for students to gain a competitive edge would be through the mandatory participation of a structured internship experience.
This research sought to address these issues and offer insight into what characteristics industry felt were necessary for student success. The work also sought to establish whether students had an understanding of these characteristics and whether they felt they were strong or deficient in these areas. The research also identified the role internships played in current accredited construction focused programs and whether student participation in internships had an impact on their understanding of the characteristics required to be successful in the construction industry.