College interns at the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, may be returning to class this week, but that doesn’t mean their time with Huntsville Center is coming to an end.
The students, who were hired here as part of the Pathways Internship Program, are able to work full time during the summer to build real-world skills before completing their college degrees.
Many of these interns continue working here when their summer break ends and, depending on their appointment type, can continue to do so until they reach a year or even until they graduate.
“The idea is to hire them in the summer, and then continue their employment – whether it’s on a permanent appointment or a temporary appointment,” said Christine Moss, Pathways Program coordinator with Human Capital. “The program allows for the students to either work part time, which means they have to work between 16 and 32 hours, or full time.”
“I think it’s a great way for people to get their foot in the door and get to know as many people as you can,” said Cheyenne Christian, a business management major at the University of Alabama who works with Huntsville Center’s Facilities Branch.
While at the Facilities Branch, Christian has learned how to capture business processes for the Facility Repair and Renewal Program, to organize contract modification information and contracting officer directives, and has made time to complete the Comptrollers Accreditation and Fiscal Law Course.
Nevertheless, Christian said her most important on-the-job skill here is more intangible: learning how to work with people in a professional office environment – particularly in a government organization with tight deadlines.
Christian, a junior, said her goal is to work with Huntsville Center at least until she earns her bachelor’s degree. Now that classes have resumed, she – like many of her intern peers – work here while attending classes.
“After I graduate with my undergrad, I want to get my graduate degree in management, unless I find there’s something else that I like better,” Christian said. “I would like to, hopefully after the internship, be able to acquire a permanent position with the Corps. That would be a great opportunity. There are great benefits, and it’s a great environment to be working in.”
Deborah Drake, also a Huntsville Center intern and UAH student, is pursuing her graduate degree in public policy while she works in contracting with the Communication Systems Support Branch. Drake started working for Huntsville Center about a year ago when she was completing her master’s.
“Like most graduate students, I needed an internship to complete my program,” Drake said. “I applied for several internships on USAJobs.gov and around the state, and I was selected for this position last June.”
As part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Information Technology team, Drake said a highlight has been learning how emergency contracts are put in place. In this case, the contracts were in support of recovery efforts in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Harvey.
Like Christian, Drake said the most important thing she’s learned here isn’t easy to measure. That’s flexibility.
“While working in government contracting, there is always more and more work that needs to be done,” Drake said. “Time management is a skill that I learned in grad school, but I was not fully prepared for the daily ‘hot actions’ which would squeeze their way into my perfect schedule. Priorities change and rigidity just isn’t allowed in government contracting.”
According to Moss, the Pathways Internship Program is advantageous for DOD agencies like the Corps because it gives professionals experience in mentoring young professionals and it gives agencies another avenue to hire new talent.
At least three interns have been converted to permanent employees just this year, Moss added, not to mention the number of current permanent employees who started as interns.
Moss said those who are interested must go through the same process as any other candidate for government employment: by applying through USAJobs.gov. To learn more about the Pathways Internship Program, visit www.usace.army.mil/Careers/Internships.aspx.