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Construction site internship helps high school student build pathway for college and career success

Gilbert, SC - Gilbert High School student Aaron Berry had a free block in his senior year schedule and an interest in construction. He also had access to a Lexington County School District One career specialist who helped arrange an internship at an M. B. Kahn construction site located five minutes from the high school. After earning work experience on the Centerville Elementary jobsite, Aaron cemented his desire to pursue construction as a career. Late last year, he received notice of an early acceptance to the Clemson University Construction Science & Management degree program.

“I was always interested in making things,” Aaron said. “I spent two summers in high school helping at my friend’s dad’s house-building company and really enjoyed that experience. Seeing the progress your hands can make from morning to afternoon – it is cool to see the end result and say, I did this. Someone can live here now.”

As much as he enjoyed residential construction work, Aaron knew that he wanted to learn more about commercial construction and its immense variety – everything from restaurants to skyscrapers and hospitals to schools. Luckily, Gilbert High School Career Specialist Candice Parsley found an answer for Aaron just five minutes down the street – the M. B. Kahn jobsite for the new 128,000 square foot Centerville Elementary School.

“This opportunity with M. B. Kahn was a great match for Aaron,” Candice said. “The jobsite is close to the school, so the internship fit his schedule. And he is helping to build a school that will serve the community.”

Aaron visited the jobsite to interview with Superintendent Kenny Moorer. Kenny, a 44-year construction veteran with M. B. Kahn, has won 11 President’s Safety Awards on projects such as the Columbia Museum of Art. He runs safe jobsites that stay on schedule, and expects the best from his workers. Aaron was up to the task.

“We have Aaron for one and a half hours a day, and I wish we could have him for more,” Kenny said. “He is dependable, smart, and efficient. I told him during the interview that we work in all temperatures and conditions, and that has never stopped him. If he finishes a task, he doesn’t stand around and wait for you to find him – he will come and find you for more to do. He is not afraid of work and will be a good asset for a construction employer because he knows what construction looks like and feels like.”

When Centerville Elementary School K-5 students enter their classrooms for the first time, they will walk through one of the many doorways that Aaron has helped to frame – the school will have over 200 door frames. And while he is gaining a thorough understanding of the hands-on aspect of construction, his internship has also allowed him to explore the planning, marketing, and design sides of the profession as well.

“I visited the M. B. Kahn corporate office in Columbia and sat down with the pre-construction teams to talk about the detailed planning that goes into every project,” Aaron said. “I learned to connect what I saw in a set of plans with what I was doing in the field.”

“This experience has truly solidified my career path,” Aaron continued. “I applied to the Construction Science & Management program at Clemson University the third day that applications were open last year, and I received an early acceptance over Thanksgiving. I am staying with M. B. Kahn through May 2020, and then I plan to pursue my degree in construction.”

Meanwhile, Aaron is receiving credit for a class for his hard work on the jobsite. He also learned a lot by going through the same hiring procedures as any other prospective M. B. Kahn employee. Since he is 18 years old, Aaron meets the M. B. Kahn’s standard for work, but is guarded and mentored by M. B. Kahn senior staff members.

No other member of Aaron’s family has a construction background, but parents Alysan and James Berry, as well as his brother Tyler, are huge supporters of his work and excited to hear about his accomplishments at the end of each day. They are also thrilled that Aaron will be a Clemson Tiger.

“We hope Aaron will come back home to M. B. Kahn once he graduates,” said Hayley Bowers, who oversees student internships for M. B. Kahn.

Lexington County School District One Superintendent Dr. Greg Little is enthusiastic about the District’s ability to provide the support that turns students’ dreams about their future into reality. Dr. Little commented, “Internships bring learning to life. We are thrilled to be able to partner with M. B. Kahn to create this amazing experience for students like Aaron.”

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