The overall objective is to bring engineering students to Michigan and show them that there are fulfilling and impactful career opportunities for them in the state.
The program starts with a kickoff gathering in Detroit that welcomes all the interns for the summer and includes representatives from engineering firms and other partners, like the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials. After that, the interns go to work in several cities across the state. At the end of the summer, they gather again for a recap of the program and to show off their work.
Taylor-Hendrix and Tatem both stressed the urgent need for programs like this to encourage Black students to pursue transportation and engineering careers. In 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that of the 482,000 civil engineers in the U.S., only 6,500 identify as Black or African American.
In general, most of the students participating in the MDOT program are civil engineering majors. Some are in construction or urban planning, and others are working towards mechanical engineering degrees. In addition to that, the students themselves are from states all over the country.
So far, 138 transportation engineering majors from 14 accredited HBCUs have participated in the program, which provides students the opportunity to develop professional competence, long-range career goals, and the ability to integrate work experiences with academic knowledge.
“On top of that, participants are also able to build a professional network and earn income that can assist with college expenses,” Taylor-Hendrix said. “Students work alongside internal staff and other MDOT-sponsored on-the-job training program participants.”
The interns also work with external professionals who provide engineering, inspection, project management, and project management services for state road and bridge projects.