Bechtel offers real-world experience to college students

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Bechtel National Inc.’s radioactive waste treatment plant project has provided more than 330 internship opportunities for college students seeking real-world experience in their fields of study since 2006.

From engineering, construction, procurement, environmental, safety, and information technology, to the human resources and public communications departments, interns receive unique opportunities to directly contribute and assist in completing project objectives under the mentorship of full-time professionals.

Katie Henckel, a former 2015 waste treatment plant intern now working full-time in the Environmental, Safety and Health Department at Bechtel, called the experience rewarding.

“Bechtel puts a lot of trust in their interns and treats them with the same respect as full-time employees. Our work was valued,” she said.

Katie Henckel, right, environmental permitting engineer with the Bechtel Environmental Safety & Health department, discusses Hanford’s vitrification plant features with summer interns Maggie Schappell and Nathan Sargent. (Courtesy Bechtel National)
Katie Henckel, right, environmental permitting engineer with the Bechtel Environmental Safety & Health department, discusses Hanford’s vitrification plant features with summer interns Maggie Schappell and Nathan Sargent. (Courtesy Bechtel National)

In 2001, Bechtel began construction on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hanford Tank Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant.

Once complete, the vitrification plant, or vit plant, as it’s known, will “process and stabilize millions of gallons of radioactive and chemical waste currently stored at the Hanford site,” said George R. Rangel, a Bechtel spokesman at the plant.

The facility is scheduled to begin treating waste as early as 2022 as the world’s largest radioactive waste treatment operation, Rangel said.

Though an international company offering internship opportunities worldwide, Lisa Armstrong, Bechtel’s human resources manager for the plant, said a third of the site’s interns are from Tri-Cities who are enrolled in regional colleges and universities.

Armstrong reports this is thanks to successful partnering with local institutions, active recruitment efforts and presence at career day and job fair events.

“We seek a diverse skill set (in applicants) that we look to promote,” Armstrong said.

“We look forward every year to engaging with our interns, and have a pretty aggressive process that we go through to make sure they have opportunities to be involved in the Bechtel community and interact with all levels of management, other interns and recent college hires.

“We are very engaged, not only in career and work environment conditions, but also ensuring that they have housing and transport. We want interns to not only be successful at work, but be totally equipped,” she said.

Bechtel worked with 22 interns this past summer.

“The most valuable aspect of our program is our interns truly contribute to the success of this project. They have meaningful work that they can connect to their academic studies,” Armstrong said.

Nathan Sargent, a Richland High School graduate and junior in business management at WSU in Pullman, completed his first internship this summer in Bechtel’s Procurement Subcontracts Department.

He worked at the construction site and gained hands-on experience writing field subcontracts and participated in all three stages of the contract process: formation, facilitation and close-out.

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