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A Hands-On Summer: San Francisco School District Interns Get to Work

Richard Bermack | November 7, 2011 | SF Building & Construction Trade Council

Now in its third year, the San Francisco Unified School District summer intern program is hitting its stride. “Our placements are really starting to gel and become solid,” said Gus Amador, the program instructor and field supervisor. “We’ve learned from our past years, and the placements this year were of much more value to the interns, the contractors and the union.”

When Organized Labor interviewed Amador last year, he stated that his goal for summer 2011 would be to concentrate on the quality of the placements rather than numbers. Last year the program had 20 interns. This year there were fewer interns, but he felt better about each of the placements. Now that he knows the formula for a good placement, he intends to advertise the program broadly next year, opening it up to more students. It is a paid internship.

This year he recruited primarily from the engineering and construction programs. Next year he will recruit from the math and science departments. One particular success this year was that, with the help of Michael Theriault and the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council, Amador was able to place students with Building Trades unions such as IBEW and the Ironworkers. He hopes to continue this next year.

Organized Labor visited interns at Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Middle School, working on a project by Cal Pacific; the Transbay Terminal, working with USR Corporation; and the offices of HerreroBoldt, planning the proposed construction of the California Pacific Medical Center on Van Ness and Geary.

Darren Easterling

Intern, URS Corporation, Transbay Terminal

I want to become a chemical engineer, but I think being around any discipline of engineering will help me get there. I’m getting a lot of information out of this internship. I’m learning how to deal with other contractors. I go to meetings where there are about 13 other contractors, and they all have to agree on work schedules and who works where.

It’s a tough job getting everybody on the same page. You have to be patient. I went to one meeting where the people were disagreeing and we had to stay an extra 30 minutes until we got consensus on what was going to happen.

URS is a major contracting firm that works with a lot of architects and engineers. Right now they are working on the Transbay Terminal and the high-speed rail system.

I went to one meeting where these guys were proposing a bike station where you can rent bikes and go all around the city. I didn’t realize everything that was involved in getting something like that going. There were a couple meetings where I got confused, but my co-worker explained everything to me.

I had no idea there would be so much personal interaction. I thought it would all be through e-mail. I think it’s really cool. I’m a guy who likes interacting with other people. There’s less confusion in person.

Klas Berghede

Production Planner, HerreroBoldt, CPMC

Working with all these interns helps me stay on task. They are very motivated and have a lot of ambition and drive. When you’ve been working on the same thing for a long time, it’s good to get a fresh perspective. The way they ask questions, you’re forced to re-examine what you are doing, and it gives you a new perspective.

Sometimes they can be challenging. You give them a task that you think will take them a day, and they’re done in a half hour wanting to know what’s next.

My role is in production planning, making sure we have all the permits. San Francisco is a very complex setting, and a lot of preparation work needs to happen. There is a process for everything, and you have to find out what it is and where you can secure the different permits to make it happen.

Kyle is helping me with setting up the on-boarding process that we need to have in place prior to beginning construction. When we hire someone, there are a lot of steps, such as insurance, before someone can come on board and start working. We had Kyle put together all the steps in the process for interns. It helps us because we didn’t know the step by step, and it helped him learn to develop a standard process. He was fun to work with and eager to learn.

Broderick Pryor

Intern, HerreroBoldt, CPMC

We go to a lot of meetings and get insight into the construction and engineering fields. It’s really helpful. I learned a lot that will help me in the future. I plan to be a mechanical engineer and want to design roller coasters for theme parks. Roller coasters bring smiles to people, and I think that’s a good thing.

The internship has given me a chance to look at a lot of the sketches, learn how to read them and pronounce all the terms. It’s a really valuable experience. One time I went through the door plans for the building, counting the number of doors to prepare a report for approval by the fire marshals.

The other day they took us on a tour of Autodesk. I’ve used AutoCAD at school and really like it, so that was fun. Then we got to tour the technology museum.

Santiago Bliss

Intern, Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Middle School

The best part is getting the experience of working on a job site. You don’t get that hands-on experience in a classroom. Here you get to see it really being done.

I’ve been working on the building plans and going around the job site doing a man count to see how many people are working here and from which companies and what machinery they are using.

It surprises me how much planning goes into school restoration. I never knew how much planning it would take until I got this internship.

Eventually I plan on going to college and studying quantum physics.

Felix Guzman

Project Manager

Santiago is working on the as-built drawings. On every job we have to produce a drawing recording all the changes and modifications. Part of the job requires walking around and counting all our subs. It’s a big help having the intern. I want to make sure that the experience helps prepare him for his future.

Justin Wong

Intern, HerreroBoldt, CPMC

When I was a kid I was always interested in technology and thought engineering would be very useful. Engineers are needed everywhere.

I get to work with some really friendly co-workers. I’ve been using AutoCAD myself for 3-D modeling, but so far here I’ve mainly been using 2-D for making signs. But they have taught me a lot of things about the program. In the future I want to design robots.

The hardest things for me are the meetings. We go to meetings almost every day. There are usually 20 or 30 people in the meeting. Trying to keep track of everything that is going on from one meeting to another sometimes kind of hurts my brain. There’s lot of information they discuss and a lot of things going on. But I’m getting used to it.

Kyle Lee

Intern, HerreroBoldt, CPMC

I’m interested in aeronautics. My plans are to become an electrical engineer. I took a class at City College in electrical engineering and that was very interesting. I could also do mechanical engineering. I like working on engines, especially car engines. What I like about engineering is that you get to make stuff.

Everyone working here is very nice. You get to see all these different companies joining together to work on one project, building a hospital. You get to see the architects and engineers and a lot of other people working together. Gus Amador is a great teacher.

The hardest part is waking up in the morning; the best part is getting paid. In the summer you don’t think about going to sleep early until you wake up the next morning.

Page updated on 11/07/11