How Riley’s Internship Program is Cultivating Construction Leaders

It’s no secret that a skilled labor shortage continues to be a major challenge for the construction industry. According to the Associated Builders & Contractors, an additional 545,000 workers are needed this year to meet expected demand. That’s why it’s never been more vital to introduce young people to construction careers.

Riley Construction has made this a priority with their long-standing internship program. They have introduced high school and college students to the field, as well as to the skills and values that lead to a successful position in construction which ranks in the top percentile as a high-earning career. Riley Construction is built upon a foundation of HIFI values – humility, integrity, flexibility, and initiative – that have shaped its culture and work ethic over the past 65 years. The company’s strategy of investing in interns has led to a number of former interns rising through the ranks into leadership roles at the company.

Erik Dillon, Vice President at Riley Construction is a prime example. Dillon started as an intern in 2006 and rose through the project management ranks to Vice President in 2022. He holds a B.S. in construction management from Western Illinois University and first started his internship as a requirement for graduation. He recalls shadowing a senior project manager back in 2006.

“I was very green and had a lot to learn. Before my internship, I had no idea what I was getting into. It was very eye-opening to see exactly what project managers do, and I quickly learned that I really was attracted to that as a career choice. It was very influential for me,” said Dillon.

Exploring all aspects of the industry

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Interns use a Robotic Total Station to layout a mockup of a room using current field technology.

Chad Parker is a Riley Project Executive who started as an intern in 2009. Today he enjoys mentoring current interns and has seen the internship program evolve from more of a job shadowing opportunity to more hands-on involvement. Now interns are introduced to many aspects of the business, so they can determine which is best suited to their talents and personality, according to Parker.

“My internship definitely steered me in the direction of a project management career based on my love of working with people and problem-solving,” said Parker. He notes that it’s rewarding to see current interns explore different departments and see that ‘ah ha’ moment when they find an area that clicks.

This is true for current intern Caitlyn Getzloff, who started as a youth apprentice at Riley a year ago while in high school. She worked on the technology side of the business with Kevin Kendellen, Riley’s Construction Technology manager.

Intern Jack Schmidt, who is on year two at Riley, transitioned from doing daily tasks, like setting up team meetings for industrial project teams in his first year, to focusing more on the technical side of a healthcare renovation this year. “I’ve learned five times more being in the field and seeing how things actually work than sitting in a classroom,” Schmidt notes.

The art of communication

Interns and seasoned Riley Construction employees both agree communication and asking questions are keys to success in the internship and beyond. Konnor Kamm was recently hired as a Field Safety Specialist at Riley after interning with them for three years. His advice to potential future interns: don’t be concerned about asking lots of questions.

“You can’t be afraid; you have to ask questions and try things for the first time because that’s the only way you can learn,” said Kamm. Riley is a place where questions are welcomed and encouraged.

More than just a number

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Interns gathering to learn new construction technology methods and software.

Both seasoned employees and interns also agree that the company feels like family. Dillon and Parker said strong culture and the people they work with are the reasons they’ve stayed with Riley over the course of their careers. Getzloff and Schmidt are quick to laud the culture as well. Getzloff is impressed by how willing the employees at Riley are to help and support one another, and Schmidt says he feels appreciated.

“Riley really provides a family atmosphere and great culture. I really feel like a valued team member vs. just a number,” said Schmidt.

It’s never too early to learn more

Riley Construction offers internships to high school- and college-aged students, and there is another opportunity for younger students too. Every summer in July, Riley hosts the Building Trade Careers Summer Camp  for students 7-9th grade in partnership with the Kenosha Unified School District. It’s a unique chance for young adults to get hands-on exposure to careers in masonry, concrete and carpentry.

To learn more about the internship opportunities at Riley Construction or the Building Trade Career Summer Camp, please reach out to The Riley team is happy to provide further information and answer any questions.