A large part of who we are and what we do at Burns & McDonnell centers on inspiring and educating the next generation of STEM professionals. To maintain that mission while keeping safety top of mind during these unusual circumstances, the firm’s summer internship program is going online.

As is the case with most of our workforce, this year’s internship program will be based out of home offices, equipped with work computers and an abundance of information on who we are and what to expect of a virtual internship experience. Fortunately, most college students already are pros at navigating a virtual environment.

But how will this work? The college recruitment team has worked closely with managers and mentors across the company to outline program specifics, set schedules and identify workflows. Utilizing Microsoft Teams, each of the 305 interns will become virtually acquainted with their fellow interns, co-workers, managers, mentors and project teams. Though the format is completely different, the overall goal remains the same: to establish personal and professional relationships and deliver real-world experiences to further careers within the architecture, engineering and construction space.

Through a combination of live video presentations, online trainings and on-demand content, interns will learn about Burns & McDonnell culture, business groups and service offerings, and current projects they’ll be assigned to work on. With guidance from mentors and team members, interns will see new faces and “meet” new people on a weekly basis — some of whom they might never have met in the office — and discover new skill sets beyond their specialties.

The virtual interaction doesn’t stop there. Assignments and workload aside, interns will have the option to join online groups — focused on baking, music, gaming or classic cars, for instance — to get to know like-minded interns across the country. At the end of the program, group members will showcase the activities they did together (such as highlighting the winner of a bake-off contest perhaps?). Instead of ballgames and bowling, there will be online escape rooms, bingo and game nights, and more providing after-hours experiences and networking opportunities available throughout the summer.

To keep interns engaged throughout the workweek, the college recruiting team will be posting a poll of the day — favorite vacation spot or best burger joint? — to encourage daily interactions and conversations. Photo challenges, such as dressing up as a favorite movie character, are on the agenda, too. Outside of the workplace, interns can connect on social media platforms, including Instagram to TikTok, for additional avenues that foster social interaction and relationship-building.

The intern Team also will include various channels with educational information, videos, and tips and tricks submitted by fellow interns, encouraging them to ask questions and become knowledge sources for each other.

Another major component of the internship program is offering interns opportunities to interact with and inspire a younger generation. Similarly, this aspect required a bit of creativity this year. Partnering with the K-12 Outreach Program and Burns & McDonnell Foundation, interns will be interviewed about their preferred career choice — and passion for STEM — as well as asked to record and share their own stories and journeys. These videos will be posted on social channels and live on in educational materials used to garner interest in the STEM field.

My role has always been to provide a consistent internship program across all office locations that offers first-hand experience and exposure to Burns & McDonnell. The thing I’m excited about most with this year’s virtual program — and for the first time ever — is that we are able to break down office and location barriers and promote interoffice mixing and networking across the board.

The hope and intent of the overall program is that interns walk away feeling confident in their internship choices, having learned more about their areas of education and gaining valuable life experiences that will benefit their future careers. This year, everyone is going above and beyond to create personal experiences and leave participants with newfound knowledge — and memories — they can’t wait to share.


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Julie Hoch oversees the nationwide Burns & McDonnell internship program and is responsible for the development, implementation and successful execution of this year’s virtual program. With more than 13 years of experience in the recruiting world, she has recruited numerous interns and new graduates to the firm, helping them establish relationships with employee-owners throughout the company.