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College’s construction contractors bond with student interns
Photos and Story by James Hill
Portland Community College student Dan Bale has never picked up anybody’s dry cleaning or has gone on a donut run. What he has done as an intern with GBD Architects is helped to mold how one of PCC’s bond projects will look like.
“It’s a rich and broad experience,” Bale said of his internship at GBD. “By watching people work on a project, talking together and sharing the 3-D models in the computer, that’s something that is hard to get in a class. Getting a real project that will go someplace and get done was definitely a real positive thing for me as well as experiencing how architecture gets done.”
The Beaverton resident’s opportunity to work at one of Portland’s top architectural firms was made possible by PCC’s Bond Program, created by the voter-approved bond measure to update old equipment and technology, increase classrooms, and provide more opportunities for workforce training. The college is working with its contractors and subcontractors, such as architectural firms, landscape architects, transportation consultants and construction companies, to promote placing its students in professional internships at their firms as they work on college bond projects.
“The effort is one of PCC’s bond program goals – leveraging its contracts to support professional internship opportunities for students,” said Linda Degman, associate director of the PCC Bond Program. “The intern opportunities are not just in the traditional building trades or construction management areas including landscaping design and technology. We want to create opportunities across the college for students to have internships in nontraditional areas as well.”
Degman said other areas where interns could be matched up with employers could include: communications or marketing; multi-media by helping with videos to archive the work going on all campuses; business practices, management and professional development; graphic or interior design; and more. Companies taking part have included GBD and Howard S. Wright, and the PCC bond office uses a student intern for general office duties. SRG Partnership, which is designing the Southeast Center’s projects, and two other general contractors plan to use interns, too.
Architect impressed with PCC student intern
As for GBD, it is working on projects and energy efficiency improvements for the Sylvania Campus (12000 S.W. 49th Ave.). According to Kyle Andersen, principal architect at GBD, Bale has been a good resource on the PCC team and provided 120 hours of work that helped GBD polish design plans using cutting edge computer software, which incorporates 3-dimensional modeling.
“Some of his skills of knowing the software that we were working with made it really easy for him to step in and take on some of the work,” Andersen said. “We had Dan working on updating base drawings for the campus and we eventually got to roll Dan into some of the design work where we were exploring options on campus for the AM Storage Building structure. He did an outstanding job of stepping in and doing the work that an intern right out of a four-year college could do.”
Former auto technician re-careering into architecture design field
Bale, 38, also is redesigning his career. He is in his second year at the Sylvania Campus, studying architectural design and drafting. He heard about the intern opportunity from his instructor Denise Roy and she encouraged him and others in her class to fill out an application. He had been working for an auto dealer in Hillsboro as a technician and parts guy for years when he got laid off by the dealership in 2009 when the economy tanked.
“I’m trying to immerse myself into a career change, but it’s difficult to make a transition like that,” Bale said. “But with the lay off, it forced me to dive in and do it. I wanted to be an architect for a long time. To help design a building that I may walk by one day and see is a pretty big thrill. To see the way (GBD) runs their everyday, day-to-day tasks has been a benefit.”
Andersen said the internships that PCC is brokering with companies gives students opportunities for needed entry-level work, which in turn frees up time for senior employees to focus their time on more important tasks.
“This has been a great experience for us, too,” Andersen added. “This is a resource for the design teams to take advantage of and a great opportunity for students to be exposed to work they would never be exposed to otherwise.”