There is no typical day on the job site for Construction Management student Jake Garr, and that’s what he loves about his summer internship with Knutson Construction. “You’re definitely not filing papers,” he says, laughing. “You’re getting your hands dirty and trying out your management skills. You’re going to mess up, but that’s what you’re doing the internship for. You learn from it.”
Garr is completing his internship requirement for his Construction Management major, essentially playing the role of assistant to the project manager for Knutson, focusing on various projects happening across the U of M campus. He is busy applying what he’s learned in the classroom to the real world, and that provides him with valuable experience.
Meet Jake Garr
This Construction Management degree will not be Garr’s first undergraduate credential. Before enrolling in this program, he earned an undergraduate degree in kinesthesiology. However, he ran into trouble finding work post-graduation in that field. To make money as he waded through job search engines, Garr continued to do construction—the work he’d been doing during summers throughout high school and college. He labored at road construction, including asphalt patching. He also built site layouts for playgrounds.
“Since I was young, I’ve always been fascinated with construction, and I like be outside a lot,” Garr says. “Being able to work with my hands and seeing how things get put together is really cool to me.”
Garr’s friends knew that he was doing construction work after college, and one of those friends suggested that Garr consider getting an education in construction management, since he seemed to have no trouble keeping busy with it. That’s when Garr found out about the Construction Management degree at the U of M. He enrolled shortly after.
An Education and an Internship
“This program is 100 times better for me because I’m more of a hands-on kind of person. I like learning by doing, not just sitting in the classroom listening,” Garr says.
“Traditional college was like that, but with the Construction Management classes, we get practical skills we can use on the job site as project managers.”
Garr emphasizes the value of learning public speaking and clear communication in the program—soft skills that he uses daily at his current internship. “That’s what half of the industry is,” he says. “You have to be able to communicate with people and get your point across.”
It was at the Fall Built Environment Career Fair that Garr met a representative from Knutson, and soon after he submitted his application for a summer internship. He was hired and asked how soon he could start: projects were underway. Garr started in early April. His projects so far have included working on the veterinary medical surgery center on the Saint Paul campus, managing the replacement of windows and renovation of the HVAC system. He’s also assisting in the development of the new Shepherd Lab Robotics facility on the East Bank.
“Every day is literally different for me. There is no average day, and that’s what’s fun about this. It’s fast-paced and keeps you on your toes.”
“They’re really exposing me to a lot of stuff, and that’s what I wanted,” Garr says.
On any given day, Garr works closely with superintendents on the job site. He divides his time between doing work in the onsite trailer and going onto the job site to conduct “field verifications": measuring and taking pictures to document and ensure that components of the project are happening according to plan. Garr also writes requests for information (RFIs), reviews submittals for equipment that will be used for a project, and helps to facilitate design team meetings. For all of these tasks, Garr has been prepared by his applied coursework.
“Every day is literally different for me. There is no average day, and that’s what’s fun about this,” Garr says. “It’s fast-paced and keeps you on your toes.”
Garr will give a presentation about his internship to his peers, and he already has plenty to talk about. One thing he’ll be sure to mention is the troubleshooting: a necessary tool in every student’s toolkit. “Nothing ever goes according to plan; that’s construction for you,” Garr says with a laugh. “You converse with your team and problem solve. That’s the fun part.”
He says that he is really enjoying his internship doing commercial construction, but attests that he is interested in construction within every realm—from civil construction to residential.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow because I know it’s going to be new compared to today,” he says.
Jake Garr is a recipient of the Hilger Leadership Award.