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Civil Engineering student flexes problem-solving and design skills in Warehaus co-op

Zach in office setting

Zach Michali helped design a multi-family residential development in Maryland. He took feedback from clients and refined his layouts, making adjustments until the vision was complete and the client was satisfied. The experience was like that of any civil engineer working at Warehaus, an architect and engineering firm based in downtown York, Pennsylvania. The only thing is, Michali hasn’t graduated yet.

The experiences he’s gained as a York College of Pennsylvania student are all part of a co-op that requires students to get out of the classroom and into the field. As he prepares to graduate with the Class of 2021, Michali is finishing up his third internship. It’s one more addition on a résumé already full of noteworthy accomplishments.

Applying classroom experience

Michali admired the Civil Engineering Building and Northside Commons on the York College campus. Both were designed by Warehaus. During a Pizza with Practitioners event on campus—a regular opportunity to eat pizza and hear from experts in the field—Michali met some of the people who had been part of those projects.

He sent a résumé and cover letter to the firm, landing a co-op experience that has shown him what his future career can offer. In his first semester with Warehaus, Michali got to work on that Maryland development. But he also had to learn AutoCAD Civil 3D, a civil engineering program used by most firms.

“It can be a super dense program that can overwhelm a lot of people at first,” Michali says. “Now that I have the experience of using that tool, I can really contribute to projects. It’s more comparable to being a real employee here.”

Michali credits his York College classes for giving him the background needed to stand out in the office. While he works hard to prepare for his Fundamentals of Engineering Exam, he’s also learning to apply his classroom skills to the job site. “The best thing York College can do is set you up to be a good learner,” he says. “When I go out on a co-op, it’s an extension of that.”

Building connections

In each of his internships, Michali has been exposed to different areas of engineering, including construction, land development, and water resources.

His first internship was with Wagman Inc. in their geotechnical construction department during the summer of 2018. During that internship, Michali helped perform quality control tests on micropile (which are basically underground pillars) that now support bridges in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

During the summer of 2019, he had an internship with York Water Company. While there, he performed hydrant flow testing to provide water pressure information to sprinkler system engineers.

His favorite experience has been in land development, and he hopes to pursue that aspect of civil engineering. “Without the co-ops, I wouldn’t have a good understanding of all my options,” he says. “Now, I know what’s out there. I am confident in the path I’m choosing because I’ve been able to try it.”

The connections York College provided to help Michali land his co-op with Warehaus have been invaluable to the student. As he prepares for graduation, he not only has a portfolio of project experiences to showcase, but a network of professional connections who can support him moving forward.

“It’s been very rewarding to contribute to projects here,” he says. “I’m grateful for the experience. It’s influenced me in a lot of ways.”