In a rapidly changing industry like precast concrete construction, the value of on-the-job experience can quickly outpace classroom learning. Curriculum can’t always keep up with the innovations and adaptations constantly happening in the precast, prestressed sector. So, getting in and getting your hands dirty — metaphorically or literally — is one of the best ways to learn about this growing subset of construction and whether it’s the right fit for you.
And Tindall is the best place to get that experience. Take it from two of our most recent participants, Tindall’s co-op program offers the right balance of collaborative learning and independence, grounded in real-world projects. Our co-ops spend time with a variety of Tindall teams, gaining insight from experts in each department and discovering how Tindall’s commitment to service, performance, innovation, and expertise shape the day-to-day workings of the company.
Read on for more details about Stephen Godwin’s and Emily Shand’s experiences with the Tindall co-op program.
What university do you attend?
Stephen Godwin: North Carolina State University
Emily Shand: Mississippi State University
What’s you major & how long have you been at college?
Stephen: I am working towards a B.S. in Industrial and Systems Engineering and I started at NC State August of 2019.
Emily: I am a junior in Industrial and Systems Engineering.
When did you start with Tindall?
Stephen: I did my first rotation with Tindall in January of 2022 and my second rotation during the fall of 2022.
Emily: I was at Tindall from August to December 2022.
What’s your favorite part of the co-op experience so far?
Stephen: My favorite part of this experience was getting a glimpse into a real-life manufacturing plant. It was a really great experience to be trusted and given the freedom I had to get my work done. I also really enjoyed being able to meet a lot of new people and create meaningful relationships with the production workers.
Emily: My favorite part of my co-op experience was the freedom and responsibility I was given here at Tindall. Having flexibility with scheduling/accomplishing my projects gave me the opportunity to work at my own pace, choose the hours that were best suited for my project, and travel on the weekends. And the responsibility of holding myself accountable for my deadlines gave me a real taste of life as a full-time industrial engineer.
What have you learned that most interested you?
Stephen: What I learned that interested me the most was the amount of data and work that goes into making the product. It is really crazy how many different aspects there are in this business when it comes to getting the right information to each department. Making sure that the carpentry shop, steel shop, warehouse, and many other departments and people know what they need to make and when they need to get it done was very interesting to me.
Emily: Learning about the process of creating precast and prestressed concrete was very interesting. Before Tindall, I never would have guessed just how much goes into a concrete wall panel or column. Seeing the full process – from welding plates and building wooden headers to finishing the member in sandblast – and getting to help streamline and improve the many processes that go into it was incredibly rewarding.
What projects have you worked on so far? What did you contribute?
Stephen: I was tasked with a lot of different projects during my time at Tindall. The main ones were designing and beginning to implement a new reusable and adjustable blockout, finding more 5s friendly storage, creating new standard procedures documenting processes from production, and updating and coming up with new entries for our routings to each department. In all of these projects, I was trusted with a lot of freedom as I had been placed in charge.
Emily: During my time at Tindall, I had the opportunity to conduct time studies in Dry Finish, perform a work sampling in the Steel Shop, and study multiple processes to find ways to improve them. I worked with a crew producing a new type of product and helped them create and implement the most efficient process. This involved weeks of observing and documenting the current process, conducting interviews and root cause analysis to pinpoint the problems, and then using that information to streamline the current process into something more efficient and create a plan to implement this new process. I also worked on a project with our Loading crew to help them increase productivity as we entered an especially busy time for shipping.
How is learning as a co-op different than learning at school? Do you find the different context beneficial?
Stephen: The aspect of learning from a co-op compared to school is a lot different. School focuses on strict due dates on certain topics you learn in class, while the co-op still has due dates but focuses more on projects where you can collaborate and use any support if you need help. With the projects you work on as a co-op, the due dates can vary because some of them are projects where you are trying to improve a process versus one that might be a fix to an existing process which would be more time sensitive. Another big difference is just how hands-on a co-op can be; since the work is done at a manufacturing plant, there is a lot of work that is done on your feet compared to sitting at a desk, listening to a lecture. Even though classroom learning is very important, getting hands-on real work experience is extremely beneficial as well.
Emily: Being on co-op has given me the opportunity to put skills that I have learned in the classroom to use in the real world. In class, we are taught using hypothetical examples set in ideal situations; however, many of the co-op projects I have worked on have not always been set in ideal situations, and there have been many variables that needed to be considered. I believe that this real-world experience is very important and beneficial to me as a student and future professional. I look forward to returning to school and putting the knowledge I gained at Tindall to good use in my classes.
What advice would you give a student interested in being a co-op, either at Tindall or elsewhere?
Stephen: Take the risk, it can be very scary moving away from all your friends for a semester to a place you have never been to before, but without risk, there is no reward. The work experience you gain is not comparable to just a normal summer internship since you have such little time to gain experience and knowledge about the workforce. When I was interviewing for positions in Fall 2021, I asked someone that I was interviewing with for a summer internship their opinions on a co-op. An employer for a different company encouraged me to do the co-op because he knew how important and amazing they can be for one’s personal and work growth.
One other good point is to make sure that you are aligning the co-op with your interests and goals. A co-op allows you to find out if you really enjoy a certain field and if that is something you would want to begin your professional career in. It can be a great sneak peek into real-life work.
Emily: Ask questions! I am really bad at admitting when I’m confused or need help, but I have had to learn that it is okay to use your resources and lean on your peers – that’s what they’re there for. Also, have an open mind when looking for and interviewing for co-ops. I never would have thought that I would end up working for a concrete company (in fact, I was very against it for a while), but the people I met when I interviewed with Tindall completely changed my mind on that. Finally, don’t think that you are underqualified to apply for a co-op – the whole point is to use it to learn more about your major and the industry as a whole; I started at Tindall after taking only one IE class (my intro class), but I have still been able to use knowledge from my gen ed classes and have gained knowledge that I can now take back to school as I enter my upper-level IE courses.
Tindall wants to invest in the next generation of precast, prestressed concrete industry leaders. Work with and learn from our expert in-house engineers, manufacturing specialists, plant managers, and robust research and development teams in any of our six facilities across the Mid-Atlantic and South-Central U.S. Find out whether you have what it takes to excel in an evolving industry that is continuing to expand.
If you or a student you know is ready for a challenge, connect with us during a job fair at your college or university, or check out our CAREERS PAGE, where we post open positions for all our locations at the beginning of each semester.