Workforce

Investing in Interns Always Yields ROI

Where are they now? BELL Construction helps build bright futures by investing in internships.
By Alexzondra Fleetwood
February 20, 2024
Topics
Workforce

As demand grows for construction projects, finding and retaining qualified workers has become—and remained—increasingly difficult. To help overcome the labor shortage, BELL Construction—a leading construction company in the Southeast providing general contracting, design-build and construction management services—has developed a program for its interns and apprentices designed to build a solid foundation of skills through hands-on learning.

In addition to technical skills, BELL’s training program instills a deep sense of commitment to the construction profession. The program fosters a culture that values safety and excellence, ensuring that participants become skilled, dedicated professionals who make a positive impact on the industry.

BELL has been fortunate to have a number of interns become full-time employees upon completion of the program. These interns-to-team members have made BELL a better place to work and continue to pave the way for future interns to follow in their paths.

BUILDING A DREAM CAREER

Nashville-area native and University of Tennessee alumni JC Craig is a project engineer and former intern who joined the program in summer 2021 while attending UT Knoxville. Craig’s project engineer role is in the company’s building division, where he maintains the construction schedules for building projects and collaborates to plan, budget and meet deadlines. Hailing from Franklin, Tennessee, Craig grew up seeing BELL billboards and signs throughout the Nashville area and was familiar with the company when he learned about internship opportunities while at a career fair in college.

“I’ve always been fascinated with construction and the building process,” Craig says. “My fascination developed into spending summers working with residential builders and developers while growing up.” Once Craig learned about the option to pursue a bachelor’s degree in construction management, he knew that was what he wanted to study. He set out to maximize his experience and grow quickly by working for BELL while simultaneously earning his degree.

“Going to school for a construction management-related degree gives you the foundational knowledge of general construction processes,” Craig says, “but performing the work allowed me to truly learn the ins and outs of the industry.”

The growth path established by the BELL internship not only helped Craig visualize his own career aspirations but also helped him confidently step into his role as a full-time project engineer. “My time as a BELL intern allowed me to transition into a full-time role with ease and confidence,” Craig says. “Internships can potentially become full-time jobs and put you on a steep trajectory for a successful career. If you’re interested in interning at BELL, come eager to learn, work hard and enjoy every day.”

BUILDING CRITICAL CONNECTIONS

Elizabeth Gallagher knows how important connections and relationships are in the construction industry. As a Mississippi State University student in the building construction science program, Gallagher’s professors recommended pursuing summer internship programs during her junior year. Not long after, BELL senior project manager Sam Hand recommended BELL and helped her obtain an internship with the company.

“Sam had worked at BELL for many years and spoke highly about the company,” Gallagher says. “I was extremely interested and decided to try it out the summer before my senior year.”

Now a project engineer in the company’s building division, Gallagher manages numerous elements of every project, including planning, budgeting, personnel and more. “My interest in the industry started on the residential side of construction,” she says. “I have always been interested in the sequence of events that leads to a completed construction project and the beauty that comes along with it.”

Gallagher cites the collaborative environment, connections and mentorship provided by BELL team members as the reason she chose to accept a full-time position with the company. “During my internship, I had supervisors and coworkers that went the extra mile to help me succeed,” she says. “They took the time to sit down and train me, which is what ultimately led me to join BELL full-time.”

Through academic and professional leadership, Gallagher took the leap into an internship that resulted in a career thanks to her ingenuity and dedication to her craft. When asked what advice she has for other young professionals, Gallagher shared, “Learn to say yes to the events, lunches and outings. These are the places where you’ll build relationships and see how your company makes an impact on the community.”

BUILDING ON HISTORY

Some of the best career advice Wilson Hays, project manager and former BELL intern, received is to learn from the experiences of others in the field. “There are so many things you can’t learn in school,” says Hays, an Auburn University graduate and project manager on the building division team. “Take time to walk with superintendents and understand their thinking, because there’s so much you can learn from leaders and mentors from their many years on the job.”

Hays spent his early years working for his father’s construction company, where he gained interest in the industry. He developed a passion for seeing projects go from groundbreaking to final completion and being involved in shaping the community in which he still lives today.

“Working as an intern in the field allowed me to see how everything comes together,” Hays says. “The experience helped me better understand the requirements to complete various tasks in my role as project manager.”

As a participant in the co-op program, Hays completed three semesters of his college career as an intern with BELL. Now, as a member of the Building Division team and full-time team member for over five years, Hays works on a diverse range of projects in the same community where he was raised and first realized his passion for construction.

BUILDING NEW PATHS

Evan Rankin is a project manager on the building division team and winner of the 2023 AGC of Middle Tennessee’s Emerging Professional of the Year Award. But before his numerous promotions and awards, Rankin started as an intern when he attended the University of Tennessee in pursuit of his civil engineering degree. Now, more than eight years later, Rankin credits the mentorship and training he received from BELL’s leadership in establishing his growth and passion for helping other young professionals grow.

“I have strong mentors on our leadership team, and I’m soaking their knowledge in as much as possible,” says Rankin, who shares that he has had incredible mentors at the company since his intern days. “I’d like to move into a project executive role eventually and help solve new problems. Regardless of my future job title, I hope to develop and mentor others, setting them up to be successful just like my mentors have done for me.”

Rankin’s experience from intern through various promotions and into a project manager role almost a decade later is a testament to how BELL invests in its people and supports their career growth if they’re interested in learning and gaining experience. “We have so many incredible professionals in the same position that I hold who have the opportunity to be future leaders at BELL,” Rankin says. “I hope this encourages them to keep at it and know they can achieve great things.”

Construction internships and apprenticeships are essential to supporting the growth of the next generation. Programs like the one at BELL not only enhance practical skills but also foster a deeper understanding of industry dynamics. As interns and apprentices navigate real-life challenges, they gain valuable insights that contribute to their professional development.

Beyond imparting technical expertise and offering relevant experiences, BELL’s internship and apprenticeship program cultivates a dedication to the profession and nurtures committed professionals who positively impact the ever-changing industry. Each of these team members continues to advance BELL’s mission of building better, one relationship at a time.

by Alexzondra Fleetwood
Alexzondra Fleetwood is BELL Construction’s human resources director and supports the success of the company’s internship and apprenticeship program in Tennessee. She can be contacted at afleetwood@bellconstructioncompany.com.

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