Olsson Offers Students Engineering Immersion

Joe Duggan, Communications

August 09, 2021

Roughly six out of 10 college graduates say they would change their majors if given the chance at a do-over, according to a survey commissioned by BestColleges.com. More and better job opportunities and wanting to pursue their passions were the top reasons respondents wished they had chosen a different field of study.

Tyler Warner, a 2021 graduate of Liberty High School in Liberty, Missouri, turned to Olsson to help avoid what could be called “major regret.”

Tyler has a strong interest in engineering and wanted to gain a clearer picture of the profession before starting college, which led him to a high school internship at Olsson through the Northland Center for Advanced Professional Studies (NCAPS) in Kansas City. Tyler, who will attend Missouri University of Science and Technology, sought out the experience upon the advice of his stepfather.

“My stepdad is an engineer and he told me there’s no better way to figure out what you don’t want to do than to be completely immersed in it,” Tyler said. “I would definitely recommend Olsson to other students. Everyone wants to help you learn. You’re immersed in the engineering field and you’re a stone’s throw away from a professional who can help you and give you real-life examples of projects.”

The NCAPS program seeks to provide students in the Northland region of Kansas City with innovative educational experiences related to high-demand, highly skilled careers. The year-long program provides one semester of hands-on instruction in workplace skills such as project management, critical thinking, business ethics, teamwork, and time management. During the second semester, students complete unpaid internships with a community business partner in an industry or profession of their interest.

Olsson has partnered with NCAPS for five years with the goal of giving students broad exposure to general civil, water/wastewater, structural, mechanical, and electrical engineering. Experienced engineers from Olsson’s Kansas City offices volunteer to work with the students, who spend two-hours of regular class time at Olsson four days per week during the spring semester. We provide internship opportunities for two to four students per year.

“We structure it so they get a taste of a few different disciplines – and CAD (computer assisted design) and the design side as well – so they can see if they’re more interested in one area over another,” said Bridget Gray, assistant engineer with our Water/Wastewater team who coordinates Olsson’s NCAPS involvement at our office in North Kansas City.

The NCAPS internships provide the additional benefit of helping students learn how to carry themselves in a professional office setting. Our staff provides the students with assignments that give them the chance to use the skills and tools they would employ as engineers.

At the end of the semester, each student makes a presentation to a gathering of our employees, which provides yet another practical learning opportunity.

Kyle Griffith, who completed an NCAPS internship at Liberty High School last spring, said the experience gave him the “real-life” professional insights his high school classes aren’t designed to provide. And he came to regard the Olsson staff he worked with as mentors.

“Mentors truly shape kids’ lives,” Kyle said. “They influence them, they are role models. And if they’re open with the kids, they kids will start putting themselves out there, too.”

The NCAPS program introduced Allison Walker to Olsson several years ago, which affirmed her plans to pursue a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She has since returned to the firm, where she holds a paid college internship with our Power Delivery team in Kansas City.

“Now I have been able to intern with a company I had my first internship with and work on something I love to do,” Allison said. “It’s been amazing!”

The opportunity to teach and mentor students through the NCAPS program also rewards our staff, who enjoy sharing their experience and expertise with young people who are eager to learn.

“It shows we care about our community,” Bridget said. “We care about volunteerism and mentorship. It’s also taught me a lot about how to teach and how to provide guidance, and that’s helped me communicate better with other members of our team.”

LaVonna Palmer, engineering and advanced manufacturing instructor for NCAPS, said she consistently hears students say their Olsson internship made them feel a part of the team and gave them a clearer understanding of consulting engineering.

“Business partner involvement is really a huge part of what makes the NCAPS student associates’ experience so invaluable,” LaVonna said. “I encourage all businesses to get involved like Olsson so we can continue growing our local economy and scaffolding kids’ dreams.”