As August comes to a close and September opens the offices and floors around the Waterfield Building become a little more vacant, a little less youthful.
That’s because about half of the 22 Pathways students, who trained under the expertise of District employees, are returning to their respective universities and leaving their summer jobs behind.
“I had one of the best internship experiences here with the Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and I would love to come back to work [here],” said Simone Johnson, a Virginia State University student who worked in the District’s regulatory office.
The Pathways program offers three types of internship opportunities to individuals who are just starting out in their potential federal careers: the Internship Program, Recent Graduates Program and Presidential Management Fellows Program.
This year’s crop of students mainly fell into the Internship and Recent Graduates programs.
“It is a great program for building the bench and recruiting top talent from colleges and universities,” said Keith Lockwood, a pathways advocate and chief of Project Management’s Interagency and International Support Section. “The students and recent graduates gain valuable experience with the federal service, with the ultimate goal of a career in civil service.”
According to Lockwood, this year’s group of summer hires spanned multiple jobs throughout the district.
“It is one of the most diverse groups of students the District has ever had, with students from nearly every discipline the Corps of Engineers employs,” Lockwood said.
The students got their hands dirty looking at wetlands to assist in making jurisdictional determinations, created map overlays with ARC-GIS software, designed items in Autocad, researched case law and felt they were an added part to the Norfolk District team.
In addition to their everyday positions, they were tasked with forming a Project Delivery Team to investigate the potential of a sustainability project at the District’s Craney Island Field Office in Portsmouth, Virginia.
“The team recommended a solar photovoltaic array to cover 50% of the energy used by the field office, which was well received by leadership,” Lockwood said.
“Although we were only interns this past summer, we were out working on permitting projects within the first week of starting,” said Carly Golden, a Brandeis University graduate student working in the District’s Regulatory Office. “Because we almost immediately began working on our own permitting projects, we were able to instill a confident and rigorous work ethic that not only made the experience more rewarding, but also assured that we made the right choice to come work for the Corps.
For many of the interns, they found the experience invaluable.
“I had a very positive experience,” said Rachel Martin, an Old Dominion University student who will be continuing to work for the district throughout the school year. “I had multiple opportunities to expand my knowledge of engineering and the government sphere.”
According to many of the interns, others interested in the Pathways program can expect to learn a lot in their discipline of study as well as other disciplines, and they will learn how to work on teams with people from many different branches towards a common goal.
The students say their positive experience at the district is fueling a desire to return.
“I enjoyed coming to work and meeting someone/learning something new every day,” said Christopher Tolson, a student at the University of Florida who worked in the District’s Operations Branch Design Section. “Because of my great time here, I am interested in coming back and continuing to work for the Norfolk District.”
A second annual Federal Pathways Open House is tentatively scheduled for January 2017 to aid in awareness and recruiting of FY17 Pathways Program applicants. In the meantime, students interested in the Pathways program can find out more about it and apply for positions at https://www.usajobs.gov/StudentsAndGrads