Nurturing Potomac Possibilities Innovation Article

The world’s greatest innovations don’t happen by accident. They take shape at the intersection where inspiration meets ideas. Howard University students were given the opportunity to explore that intersection at an architecture and engineering tour at the Potomac Job Corps site, guided by leaders from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Division of Facilities and Asset Management, and Parsons (the Engineering Support Contractor (ESC) for DOL).

Howard University

The primary purpose of the visit was to expose Howard University students to a Job Corps Facility and Job Corps Programs while engaging with the students at the Potomac Job Corps Center who are preparing to enter Architectural and Engineering (A/E), Construction, and Project Management roles associated with A/E design and construction. The students from both programs are approximately the same age and their education and training, while different, are closely related.

One of our Program Managers Brett Crozier’s innovative thinking sparked the idea for the tour, and he pitched the idea to the DOL. With their buy-in, a schedule of events was developed and Parsons’ ESC professionals, Director of Design and Construction Chris Garrett, Senior Project Manager Hoyt King, Regional Project Manager Darioush Danaei, and Project Manager Edwin Tarverdian volunteered to lead students on the day’s educational journey.

Potomac Job Corps Center Director Carl Hilliard welcomed the DOL, Howard University students, and Parsons. Hilliard explained the Job Corps mission and shared how we are assisting in transforfming the center in a short period of time by addressing issues that have significant impact to the overall quality of life. It should be noted that lunch was prepared by the Potomac Job Corps Center Culinary Arts students and the lunch demonstrated the excellence and the pride of the center’s students and staff. 

The campus tour was conducted by Garrett, Danaei, and Tarverdian. Garrett addressed the architecture and historical components of the campus focusing on original historic buildings and the design and construction of the newer buildings, the overall vicinity history, site location significance and site design, and environmental concerns. Tarverdian addressed the current and future projects slated for the Center, the geo-thermal well and mechanical system supporting the newer buildings and orchestrated the walk-thru to each of the respective buildings. Both Tarverdian and Garrett explained the respective architectural and engineering components of each building to the center and Howard University students. Darioush, the former project manager for the center, identified work previously completed, what the problems were, and the solutions used to successfully solve the problems. The final building tour concluded with and explanation of the major renovation of a dormitory building that was severely damaged by water.

The students weren’t the only attendees of the Job Corps event who left inspired, according to Crozier. The subject-matter experts got a first-hand introduction to the next generation of American innovators. “Despite being an educational opportunity for students, the mentors left the event equally energized for the future,” he said.

In addition to providing hands-on educational experiences to students, the event also served as a conduit to connect the Job Corps Center to Howard University for mentoring, potentially educational opportunities, and paves the way for our team to host similar events in the future, with Howard University or other colleges and universities.

The tour benefits Parsons and the DOL by exposing students to internships and career options at each respective entity. It also built relationships with the university to help us recruit talented Howard students.”

Brett Crozier, Program Manager

The tour was open to Howard University students majoring in architecture and engineering, along with participating Potomac students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

King, who is a Howard University graduate, took the opportunity to get to know one Howard University Computer Science major during lunch.

“I sat with a student who majored in computer science and was particularly interested in his feedback on the tour. I was initially concerned that he might not have found the facility and site review as engaging as some of the architecture and engineering students whose disciplines were the primary focus of the morning’s activities,” said Hoyt. “He gave a thoughtful pause and replied appreciatively that he was surprised to see so much thought went into designing and constructing buildings. After the tour the student had a much better understanding of the tremendous planning that is undertaken to build these types of facilities and was even able to relate that understanding to how he approaches learning design software.”

The conversation with the student during lunch gave Hoyt an inspirational thought of his own. “It impressed upon me the value that Parsons can play by not only providing opportunities to students within their discipline, but also by providing opportunities to experience projects that cross disciplines.”

The event was a success by all measures, and for two Howard University architecture students it yielded an internship with the Parsons DOL program for the summer, one supported by the DOL and one supported by Parsons. Additionally, Crozier and his team plan to network with Job Corps trades programs to explore the potential for additional employment opportunities with Parsons.

Other praise for the event came from Antoinette Griffin, Howard University Student Development Specialist who said, “This was one of the best experiential learning endeavors our students have participated in thus far.”

Other key contributors to this event were Bruce Davis, technical staff manager and Peter Hinds, recruiting director. They met with Howard University College of Engineering and Architecture staff months before the event to plant the seeds for potential student visits to undetermined Parsons’ offices or job sites along with other relationship building and recruiting activities. Furthermore, Hinds gave the students an overview of Parsons on the bus ride from Howard University to the Job Corps site.

Job Corps is the largest free residential education and job training program for young adults ages 16-24. Parsons has been DOL’s engineering support contractor providing support to Job Corps facilities nationwide since 2013.

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