On-the-job Learning: MKEC Interns Get Real-world Experience

July 19, 2023

For many college students, summer is a time to relax and recuperate from the grind of the school year, but MKEC’s summer interns are using this summer to gain valuable engineering experience in a real-world setting to take back to their studies this fall.

“Overall, your intern experience is probably the most valuable thing you can have,” said Carly Overacker, a senior at Wichita State University and civil engineering intern. “Employers are always going to be looking at if you’ve done this before. It’s a great place to start. It gives you a leg up over other folks who may not have the experience yet, and it gives you a good opportunity to figure out where you want to go with your degree.”

Part of the team

MKEC interns are full members of our team, and they hit the ground running from day one.

“I walked in on the first day and got two or three projects assigned to me,” said Kale Hilburn, a senior at Oklahoma State University and structural intern. “The first little while was kind of overwhelming. I think the first week I had no clue what I was doing. It was a little humbling. This is a whole lot different than what we’re doing in school.”

But Kale soon found his footing and began to enjoy the work.

“We have like 10 projects that we’re shifting back and forth between. I’m an energetic person, and it makes my mind happier to have a lot of things on my plate because it gets my mind thinking in different ways. You never get bored.”

“We have like 10 projects that we’re shifting back and forth between… You never get bored.”

Kale Hilburn, structural engineering intern

MKEC has interns working in all departments and all three offices. Each year we hire 10-12 interns for the summer because we are committed to educating and mentoring the next generation of engineers.

The variety of projects MKEC works on gives our interns the opportunity to see how engineering applies to everything from how roads are built to a building renovation to making improvements at a refinery. 

Reece Courson, a senior at Wichita State University and electrical intern, had a previous internship with a different company.

“My previous internship was actually really different,” Courson said. “The previous one was focused more on arc-flash analysis. This one has more variety. I’ve worked on a wide variety of projects, and that’s been kind of fun.”

Applied learning

While classroom learning is an important foundation for engineers, working on real projects gives interns a chance to practically apply what they are learning and practice some of the soft skills that aren’t taught in school like project management and how to work with clients.

“It has been cool to see that what I’ve learned in school is applicable here,” Hilburn said. “You get to interact with clients and learn how to think through a problem that’s not typical. You get thrown into the deep end. You take an attempt at it, then you talk to an experienced engineer about how to solve it. School sets the foundation for that.”

In some cases, an MKEC internship lets students see a different side of engineering than what they have experienced in the classroom.

“Being here is really, really good for me because it’s very applicable to what I’ll be doing in the future.”

Carly Overacker, civil engineering intern

Gaining new skills

In addition to applying what they already know, interns get a chance to pick up some new skills that aren’t taught at school.

“I got CAD experience, for one thing,” Overacker said. “That is incredibly valuable for the future. I learned more about the water resources side of engineering, all the permitting and the process of getting that approved.”

Courson agrees. “Here, I’ve learned a lot about AutoCAD, and that’s definitely very useful. I’ve also learned about the industrial process through the as-built projects I’ve worked on.”

In addition to AutoCAD skills, Hilburn said one of the important skills he has learned is project management.

“I think the biggest takeaway is the process of projects,” he said. “Seeing how you manage it from start to finish, learning a lot about how to think through engineering projects. The biggest thing is watching a project start and the phases you go through in the project.”

Getting out of the office

While our interns have plenty to do in the office, some of them also get to visit the sites of our projects, providing a valuable opportunity to see how what they create on a computer screen translates into the live project.

“I’ve gone up to the industrial plant in McPherson twice with Colton my lead engineer,” Hilburn said. “It’s fun to get out in the field. You have to wear fireproofing, a hard hat, and glasses. It breaks up the office days a little bit. It’s nice to go see the stuff we’re working on.”

We also make sure our interns get out to have a bit of fun. It is summer, after all. Outings to places like Top Golf and Chicken N Pickle give the interns a chance to interact with each other in a fun environment.

Overall, Hilburn, Overacker, and Courson said they think their experience at MKEC has been a fun and beneficial one.

“It’s been a pretty fun place to work, I’ve learned a ton.”

Reece Courson, electrical engineering intern

We are grateful and appreciative of all of our interns this summer. They are immersed into our team and our projects and contribute greatly to the team while gaining knowledge and developing their skills.

Kisan Patel, Carly Overacker, Chandler Hamman, Matthew Rodriguez, Reece Courson, Grant Eichman, Garrett Mortensen, Madelyn Salmonowicz, Drew Holliday, Kale Hilburn