High school students from across the Bay Area’s nine counties gathered at the Bay Area Metro Center in San Francisco on August 11 to conclude their summer transportation internships. Over pastries, coffee and upbeat music, the 30 students laughed and caught up with their friends from all over the region as a slide show showed off pictures of their orientation and summer work. The highlight of the event was a student showcase, in which the interns teamed up into groups to develop presentations about their summer experiences.
Ann Macaulay, MTC’s internship program coordinator, began the proceedings with a warm welcome and told the students how much the program means to MTC and all the Bay Area transportation agencies who take on interns for the summer. “You learned things about yourselves this summer,” Macaulay told them, “and we really want to know what your experiences were like.” Alix Bockelman, MTC deputy executive director of policy, then gave a short history of the internship program, explaining that it was created in 2000 by MTC’s Minority Citizens Advisory Council to expose students who otherwise may not think about transportation careers to the diverse opportunities available in this field.
MTC internship positions are now highly sought-after, with up to 400 applicants each year vying for the program’s 35 available openings. “You were the best and the brightest” of this year’s large pool, Bockelman said. She stressed the importance of strong presentations and teamwork, explaining that “people want information that packs a strong punch” in the modern world, and that presentations are an important part of nearly all professional jobs.
The students then presented their work in teams sorted by geographical region. The SOLdiers from Solano County kicked off the presentations, followed by the Real Silicon Valley team from the South Bay, the Orange Line team from the East Bay, the Contra Costa and San Francisco teams from their respective counties, and finally the North Bay Agencies (aka the other NBA). The students collaborated on the presentations for several weeks leading up to the event, and their hard work showed. Their presentations showed creativity and skill beyond the students’ years, and they incorporated humor and energy into their delivery as they talked about their summers.
The students’ work showcased the variety of professional opportunities available in transportation, from the technical to the public-facing to the administrative. Their job titles included engineering and environmental planning intern, transportation data intern, civil engineering and infrastructure intern, planning and public outreach intern, project delivery intern, administrative and marketing intern, and many more. They worked with CAD and GIS software programs, learned graphic design, mapped drones, set up public meetings, and shadowed their mentors in the field. Other workplace tools they mentioned included organizational charts, Google Earth, radar guns, work orders, grants, transit rider surveys, annual reports, CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) documents, Excel formulas, and social media sites. Workplace etiquette, professional ethics and time management emerged as major themes of the presentations, and the students spoke of increased confidence, motivation, diligence and overall personal development.
After the presentations and a networking lunch, MTC Deputy Executive Director Bradford Paul praised the students’ creativity and shared some workplace wisdom. “These are skills you’re going to use for the rest of your life,” he told them, adding the sound advice to “be listening all the time. Be open to new ideas and new fields.” The students each received a certificate for completing the program and posed for a picture with Paul, and the presentation judges delivered feedback on the five groups’ presentations. The Orange Line team from the East Bay took home the top prize of Amazon gift cards for their thorough and well-designed presentation.
“You’ve taken home a paycheck, but we hope you got a whole lot more,” Paul told all the students. Echoing the sentiments of many of the agency mentors and MTC staff in the room, he added, “You’ve given me some hope for the future.”