Written By Jose Huerta
Internships & apprenticeships can play a crucial role in shaping the career of an individual. Not only are they vital in developing our skills as effective workers, but they also help us develop people skills and build important relationships that could prove vital in the future. I believe they help you learn about yourself and what exactly you want your career path and goals to look like. The way I see it, I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the opportunities that were given to me through these programs.
My experience with intern/apprenticeships began in 2018. Personally, I felt like I was in a rut and was going nowhere with my life. I had just recently graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Business/Entrepreneurship and found it difficult to secure a livable wage in that field. To top it off, I never really had any interest in business. I was working at a grocery store at the time and had a hard time visualizing being able to achieve my salary goals through the job I had. I received a pamphlet from my mother-in-law for the millwright program at Great Basin College. I went through the tour of their shop and what the program was about, but that trade didn’t seem to fit me. Towards the end of that tour, they handed out pamphlets for the other trades available at the school. I read through the Electrical Systems pamphlet and was instantly intrigued. I decided to apply for both the electrical program and the apprenticeship scholarship that the local mining companies were providing. I got into the program and received the opportunity to be an apprentice at a gold mine.
The apprenticeship taught me the importance of safety first. From the very beginning, I learned about the lock out tag out process which is used all around the world. The fundamentals of electrical systems were also taught to me. I learned how to use a multimeter, read voltage, ampacity, resistance, and capacity. I was taught the correct verbiage for the field and signs to look for when systems & equipment weren’t running properly. Troubleshooting was an integral part of my job, and I believe it helped me develop problem-solving skills that I had lacked before. The most important part of the job, however, was the people. The team I worked with ensured I had the knowledge and equipment to carry out whatever job was necessary. This helped me build relationships that carry on to this day.
After the program, and a year of working as a full-time Electrical Technician, I decided to go back to school for Electrical Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno. I had to go back to working in a hardware store once I started since most electrical contractors were looking for full time apprentices and I didn’t have the time to do both school and work. During that time, I struggled with trying to get my work schedules approved for when I needed time off for school. I ended up doing that for a year before getting my first internship with the same gold mining company I had initially worked for, but this time for engineering. During that summer, I worked with the capital project engineers and saw a whole new side of mining. I was introduced to how project management worked and what their responsibilities consisted of both in the office and out in the field. I learned about forecasts, the contractor bidding process for a project, the procurement of materials, how they decided where certain projects were built, and how they decided on timelines for each project. The weekly meetings kept me informed of the progress being made, as well as the usual site visits to these projects and interactions with the contractors. As I explained earlier, I believe internships help you see what it is you want in a career. After the internship, I knew that working as a projects engineer wasn’t something I was interested in, which is something I wouldn’t have known unless I had that experience.
Once that internship ended, I returned to the hardware store job I previously had. I knew I was still early in my schooling, but I didn’t want to keep working where I was. I had been talking to a family member who suggested I reach out to PK Electrical, Inc. for an internship. I did, and thankfully was given the opportunity to work for them. Through the time I’ve been with PK I’ve learned a lot about the way the design process goes. I’ve been a part of helping in pre-proposals, observation reports, punch walks/lists, schematic design, design development, construction documents, and construction administration. I’ve also gained a lot of knowledge when it comes to the software we use, which includes AutoCAD, Revit, Visual Lighting, and SKM to name a few. Earlier I mentioned my old hardware store job wouldn’t work with me through my schooling, but PK is the complete opposite. At PK, I’m encouraged to take time off to focus on my schooling and it is never a problem when I ask. Having that type of flexibility, I believe, is essential in being successful in school. In the time I’ve been with PK I’ve felt very welcome. I know that no matter who I ask for help, they’ll be willing to help me. I also think that’s essential during an internship because it molds you into being the same way your colleagues are. The more motivated and helpful they are, the more it makes you, as an intern, want to be more like them. I’ve noticed during my time with PK that they keep very good relationships with their partners and are continuously successful because of it. I’ve met a few of those professionals and hope to keep those relationships myself to keep progressing in my career.
Thanks to internships and apprenticeships, I believe I’m paving the way to creating the best possible career for myself. The amount of experience and knowledge I’ve gained throughout my time in these programs has been invaluable and I’m forever grateful for the opportunities I’ve received.