Emerging Leaders: A Q&A with a Preconstruction Co-Op Student

As a professional services firm, we teach our co-op students more than construction. The Emerging Leaders program exposes students to business acumen, accounting, marketing, and business development in addition to all aspects of construction management. Co-op student Rachel Bengert spent her fall semester working in our Preconstruction Services department. A senior civil engineering student at the University of Alabama, Rachel is already a leader—in addition to her busy academic schedule, she serves as the president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, vice president of the Chi Epsilon Civil Engineering Honors Society and secretary of the Women in Construction Club. Continue reading to learn about her experience as an HPM co-op.

Bengert

HPM: Why were you interested in the Emerging Leaders program?

Rachel Bengert: I became interested in HPM’s Co-Op program after working in preconstruction with their sister company, Hoar Construction. When the opportunity for me to switch over to HPM came up, I was immediately interested and excited to see what the construction process would look like given the new perspective of program management. Specifically, I wanted to see how this new experience would differ from the previous.

HPM: What do you do as an HPM co-op? What does a typical day look like?

RB: My days normally alternate between preconstruction and project management. On a typical day in preconstruction I will help prepare estimates for the client by examining construction documents and performing takeoff. Other days I will help with the BJCC Legacy Arena renovation by reviewing invoices, updating change order logs, uploading drawings to Procore, visiting the job site, attending client meetings, and drafting the weekly construction update report.

HPM: What has been your favorite experience so far at HPM?

RB: My favorite experience so far at HPM has been going on site and assisting with the BJCC Legacy Arena renovation project. Before working at HPM, I had never been to a job site. Having the opportunity to go out and see the construction progress in the field has helped me solidify and build on the knowledge I’ve learned on paper.

Rachel with Blake Jefferson, Assistant Project Manager at a job site.

HPM: What have you learned as a co-op that you might not have learned without this experience?

RB: Without the experience of being a co-op I would have never gained the insight into the construction industry that I have now. What you learn from class can only get you so far and throughout my co-op I have been able to see first-hand how architects, engineers, owners, and everyone in between work together to build the world around us.

HPM: What would you say makes the HPM co-op program different than other programs?

RB: HPM’s co-op program has been exceptional and offers an experience that is different from other programs. With HPM I am truly a part of the team. My mentors have high expectations of me which allows me to perform tasks that have a direct and meaningful impact on our projects. The high level of work that I am able to contribute is one of the many reasons I think makes HPM’s co-op program different.

HPM: Why do you think it is important for students to apply for co-op positions and internships?

RB: I think it’s essential for students to apply for a co-op or intern position before they graduate in order to further the material learned in class. My co-op experience has been invaluable to me as I continue to take classes and decide what role I’d like to take on after graduation. Working as a co-op allows you to see what you may like or dislike about different jobs in the industry and helps you to identify other areas you’d like to explore. Being a co-op also provides students with opportunities to make connections and receive career and life advice from mentors and professionals in the field.