She’s only 14, but after three summers interning at a Coeur d’Alene engineering firm, Jessi Garr-Coles is growing confident in the career path she wants to take.
As an intern at Verdis, the Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy student has job-shadowed civil engineers, construction project managers and landscape architects.
“I really enjoy learning about the landscape architect’s job,” she said. “They are able to work more with plants and setting up what kind of trees should be in an area. I really found it interesting.”
Verdis President Sandy Young said she is happy to provide summer intern opportunities for students wanting to learn more about the construction industry. The company’s summer interns – Garr-Coles and 16-year-old Isabella Magana of Spokane – work with Verdis employees both in the office and in the field.
“We include them in our meetings, presentations, taking field measurements and drafting, giving them every opportunity to test the engineering and constructing waters to see if the industry will be right for them when it’s time to choose a career,” Young said. “For young women, this is especially important.”
As the Northwest’s only 8(a), woman-owned, full-service civil engineering, landscape architecture and construction firm, Young said she wants to encourage more women to join the industry.
“The closest I ever came to interning was as a hospital candy striper at age 14,” Young said. “It was an incredible opportunity and gave me tremendous insight into the medical field – a career path I seriously considered pursuing.”
Magana, a student at East Valley High School, has been taking engineering classes since sixth grade.
“It’s always been interesting to me,” she said. “I went on a field trip to Spokane Community College. It was called ‘Pizza, Pop and Power Tools.’ I got to look at all the different fields.”
Her curiosity was piqued and, for the past couple of years, Magana said she has become more and more interested in engineering. As a Verdis intern, she enjoys looking at civil construction plans and learning more about civil engineering and construction.
“All of it is just interesting,” she said.
Young said she believes there’s no better learning environment than exposure to the office environment and field experience at a young age.
“I love watching our interns communicate with direct eye contact and a handshake, growing in confidence, every time they meet a client or colleague for the first time,” she said.
The students aren’t the only ones who benefit from the intern experience. Young said their enthusiasm and love for learning is refreshing for the entire Verdis team.
Verdis Landscape Architect Rachel Harris said it’s inspiring to see the next generation showing interest in careers like landscape architecture and engineering.
“We have been able to provide them with hands on experience and insight into what we do every day as design professionals, both in the office and in the field,” Harris said. “Hopefully they will come away with a good understanding of the profession and maybe a desire to pursue design as a career.”