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Washington Township students to intern at construction, architecture firms for workforce development program

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Washington Township buildings have been under construction since 2017 and will be until about 2026. Over these 10 years, about $470 million will be spent on projects such as knocking down two elementary schools, building two new schools and making technological upgrades across the township.

Now, some of the township’s students will be able to work for and earn money from the construction crews working on their campus.

After the 2016 and 2020 referendums for the construction projects were passed, Washington Township leaders wanted some of that money to go directly to students, school board chair Bill Turner said. So, the township, in partnership with the Winston/Terrell Group and the construction companies involved in referendum-related projects, created a workforce development program.

In this program, Washington Township juniors, seniors and recent graduates can apply for an internship at one of six companies working on referendum construction projects. The companies involved are Smoot Construction, Shiel Sexton, Powers & Sons Construction, Skillman Corporation, CSO Architects and Schmidt Associates.

“It’s a career investigation tool,” Turner said. “It’s a good way for them to get their feet wet and see if it’s something they really want to do.”

Students interested in the program first need to contact the Winston/Terrell Group, President Robin Winston said. Then, the group will connect the student to either a construction or architecture firm where they will interview for a paid internship.

The length and start date of the internships and the role the intern will have are determined by each company. Shiel Sexton plans to have one intern for one year, said Adrian Russell, the company’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion/procurement. During their time at the company, the intern will try multiple jobs and look at different departments, such as accounting, scheduling and building information modeling, he said.

“It would give them numerous opportunities to … see how vast a company like Shiel Sexton is and furthermore how vast the world of construction is,” Russell said.

Shiel Sexton’s intern will also have a mentor who will answer the intern’s questions and help them figure out what construction careers they are interested in.

For the internships that extend into the school year, North Central High School administration will attempt to award school credit for participating in this workforce development program and possibly allow students to spend part of their school day at their internship, said Jim Boots, Washington Township capital projects manager.

Boots said the school also plans to assemble a support system to provide financial assistance to students who need to purchase supplies related to the internship, such as steel-toed boots.

While the current focus of the program is the student internships, the program is expected to expand in the fall to include construction education in some Washington Township classrooms, Turner said.

Chrystal Stowe, Smoot Construction director of business development, said the company plans to present lessons about working in construction to elementary schools and possibly allow field trips to construction sites. This will allow them to see the benefits of a construction career early on, she said.

Some of the benefits of pursuing a construction job are the ability to go to school while working and the opportunities for advancement, said David Yancey, assistant account executive for the Skillman Corporation. People can start as a laborer and work their way up the ladder to be a project manager or even an owner of a company, he said.

“There’s no ceilings,” he said. “The opportunity for growth is always there in construction.”

Contact staff writer Madison Smalstig at 317-924-5143. Follow her on Twitter @madi_smals.

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