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Intern Finds New Career Path At PennDOT

September 11, 2023 12:00 AM
By: Olivia Schwab

​Austin Kent had his sights set on a career in engineering while he was still in high school. After graduating from West Middlesex in 2018, Austin went to Youngstown State University to study chemical engineering.

A friend at school told Austin about his experience being a Systematic Technique to Analyze and Manage Pennsylvania's Pavements (STAMPP) intern with PennDOT in District 1. Austin was interested and filled out an application. He liked it, and decided he was going to try it again the next summer.

"I was planning on coming back to do STAMPP, then COVID hit and PennDOT did away with interns," Austin said. "Then I got a call in mid-June or early July from PennDOT, asking if I wanted to join construction. I needed a summer job so I agreed, and here I am in my fourth year of construction."

Austin liked STAMPP, but found he enjoyed working as an Engineering Scientific and Technical Intern (ESTI) even more.

"I've really loved the job since then; it's different every day, and you're not stuck in an office," he said. "I enjoy that I get to see everything. There's a process for how things are done and it's exciting to see a project from start to finish."

He liked it so much that Austin switched his major to civil engineering. Working as an ESTI made him realize how much he enjoyed the job, and civil engineering better suits the duties of what he would like to do in the future. Although switching majors pushed back his graduation date, he decided to stick with what he enjoys.

Austin has gained a wide variety of professional work experience working alongside project manager Nik Tskouris. He said he has learned how to communicate efficiently and develop good relationships with contractors.

Austin's first summer as a construction intern in Mercer County consisted of drainage work and sidewalks with ADA ramps. The following year, his work included inspecting sidewalk updates and the installation of a retaining wall.

Austin worked on a project to replace a box culvert and pave a roadway in 2022. This summer he is assigned to a bridge rehabilitation project on Werner Road (SR 4017) and patching on Interstate 80.

Austin says his favorite part of the job is "developing connections with people in PennDOT and seeing the variety of tasks PennDOT is responsible for." Moving forward he has his sights set on becoming a Public Service Intern (PSI) and beginning Civil Engineer Training (CET) upon graduation in 2025. 

A good work environment, friendly and helpful coworkers, and enjoying the job are some of the factors that Austin said helped him reach the decision to pursue a full-time career with PennDOT.

Outside of work, you can find Austin volunteering as a first responder, firefighter, and EMT at Shenango Township Volunteer Fire Department. If he can find the spare time, he enjoys golfing.

Nik says that returning interns like Austin are very beneficial to the department. They save PennDOT training time and have the ability to contribute a lot more with their experience.

"Having a college degree with no relevant job experience is a bad idea, you need experience before graduation. It's competitive," Nik said "PennDOT allows students to experience a variety of duties and gives them a better chance at being hired full-time. If not, it looks good on a resume, and lots of clients look for people with PennDOT work experience."

Construction interns help with inspections, project management, and receive hands-on experience to prepare them to become full-time employees. Austin recommends students considering becoming an ESTI to "go for it, because you can learn something new every day and it's a good work environment."

Students interested in applying for an Engineering Scientific and Technical Intern position should visit The website provides an option to receive email notifications for job posting alerts tailored to specific job categories.

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