A Window Into the Mechanical Contracting Industry
Gaining the necessary skills and expertise isn’t the only requirement for successful career preparation. Also important are networking opportunities and the chance to learn more about how one's chosen field operates in the real world.
For four members of UMD’s Mechanical Contractors’ Association of Metropolitan Washington (MCAMW) student chapter, this year’s Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) Great Futures Forum, held from September 29 through October 1, provided many such opportunities.
MCAMW Chapter President Amaya Caggino, Vice President Gabriel Assan, and chapter members Dejuan Tinsley and Christopher Nwoke traveled to Boston for the event, which included keynote speeches, a job fair, a tour of Massachusetts-based contractor T.G. Gallagher, and the official launch of this year’s national MCAA student competition, which challenges participants to submit fully worked-out proposals for a contracting project–just as companies submit bids in real life.
Explains Caggino: “Each year’s competition is based on a construction project that’s already been done in real life. MCAA provides us with the information we need to draw up a proposal, including engineering drawings, material costs, and labor rates, and then we submit a bid, just as though we were going to actually complete the project. That means covering every detail, from cost to the number of personnel needed on-site. We also have to create safety, quality assurance, and maintenance programs.”
“As students, we may have a conceptual understanding of the field, but actually seeing it in real life is a different matter. You’re able to see more clearly whether the field is a good fit, if it’s what you want to do after graduation.”
While the UMD students found all aspects of the Great Futures conference valuable, including the chance to brainstorm recruitment and fundraising ideas with other MCAA chapters, they were particularly enthusiastic about the opportunity to tour T.G. Gallagher, which specializes in plumbing, HVAC, and sprinkler systems. The tour, they said, provided a useful glimpse into actual day-to-day operations in the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) field.
“As students, we may have a conceptual understanding of the field, but actually seeing it in real life is a different matter,” said Assan. “You’re able to see more clearly whether the field is a good fit, if it’s what you want to do after graduation.”
The tour changed his perceptions in key ways, Assan said “I had come in thinking of MEP as being mainly about going into a building to fix things, such as pipes or sprinklers. But there’s much more to it than that. A firm like T.G. Gallager is also involved in designing these systems. Much of their work involves project teams that collaborate on these designs. I found that very exciting.”
Aside from the conference, participation in MCAMW has proved fruitful for both students, helping them land opportunities they might otherwise not have access to. For Assan, a junior at UMD, MCAMW networking resulted in a project engineering internship for Assan at Maryland-based Boland; Caggino, a senior, likewise completed two summer internships in project management at Poole and Kent.
UMD’s MCAMW chapter was named Chapter of the Year in 2021 in recognition of its continued achievement and overall focus on offering career opportunities in mechanical contracting to its student membership. In addition, Caggino was named the first-ever recipient of the $5000 Thomas J. Wanner Scholarship, which aims to provide support and recognition to students who are seeking employment in the field.
Published November 1, 2022