In 2015, Focal Pointe instituted a summer internship program to provide students with hands-on learning for careers in the landscape services industry. The program includes a wide range of experiences and is customizable to the intern’s areas of interest. Interns spend approximately one week in each of a variety of disciplines, culminating in a mutually agreed upon self-chosen area of interest.
Below, two of Focal Pointe’s past interns, Elizabeth Fraley (2015) and Derek Reiking (2016) provide an inside perspective on what it’s really like to be an intern at Focal Pointe:
What types of projects did you work on during your internship?
EF: I moved through each department on a weekly basis. I went from flowers/annuals and some pruning with a detail crew to mowing; I also worked with irrigation and plant healthcare. I helped with a lighting and irrigation installation job. I then spent some time with various account managers and gardeners to see a variety of the properties and tasks that the company performs. I assisted with some designs, measured for jobs, and sat in on some internal meetings as well as meetings with clients. The last few weeks of the internship you get to explore what interests you a bit more; during that time, I worked with gardeners and with the designer.
DR: The largest project I worked on during my internship was a new corporate campus. I assisted with installing the bioswale, irrigation, sod, and parking lot island plants.
What did you like most about your internship experience?
EF: I enjoyed getting to see multiple perspectives and jobs that come together to make the company function. Prior to my internship, I had not had any experience with a company of this size in the landscape industry. I also enjoyed working alongside our designer, Dana, since I strive to be a landscape designer.
DR: The part I enjoyed most was getting to work in each department and seeing how everything is put together to make the company work as a whole entity.
What do you think was your most significant accomplishment while you were working?
EF: Being Focal Pointe’s first intern, I was able to go through the program and provide feedback to help refine and improve the program for the next intern. I also earned the respect of my coworkers and became a functioning piece of the Focal Pointe team.
DR: Being complimented on the work I was doing. To me, that is one of the best accomplishments one can receive.
What new skills did you develop as a result of your internship at Focal Pointe?
EF: Initially talking to Matt Kalisiak to set up my internship was like having a mock interview. That helped me develop and adjust my interview practices. I also developed basic skills in each department making me well-rounded as a potential employee. I gained a better understanding of what goes into landscaping and learned that it was a fit for me. It built my confidence and helped me come out of my comfort zone to better build my character as a person and an employee new to the workforce.
DR: The most important skill I took away was how to effectively communicate with and manage others. Spending a short period of time in each department means you work with new people every week or two. It’s your responsibility to quickly and successfully adapt to that new environment. I also learned new skills in irrigation troubleshooting.
Who at Focal Pointe did you learn the most from? Give an example of something this person taught you.
EF: It’s hard to pinpoint just one person that I learned the most from during my internship because I learned so much from so many people. Dana Fritsche taught me about some of the important elements of the company and how we strive to make our customers happy. She introduced me to the design process and expressed how client-focused that process is. She also took me with her to a client meeting, which helped me understand the benefits Focal Pointe offers clients, especially with regard to the high quality of our services.
DR: Roberto! His attitude and the way he treated others really stood out to me. He taught me how to effectively communicate with others on the job site, how to approach certain situations, and how to positively view things in order to complete the job.
What advice do you have for those applying for this year’s internship opportunity?
EF: My advice is to not be afraid to express your interests. Focal Pointe does their best to accommodate your interests so you can better explore them. Also, have an open mind and be willing to try new things. You may discover you like more than just one department. The Focal Pointe team has a lot of knowledge and experience to share – talking with different team members and gaining hands-on experience may help lead your career in the right direction.
DR: Dive in and do everything you can that’s offered to you. The opportunity to get practical experience over such a wide range of subjects will make you a better and more well-rounded individual.
About the Program
The summer internship program includes opportunities to learn and experience various areas of the landscape industry beginning approximately May 15 and concluding August 30.
Focal Pointe offers this as a paid internship with the ability to provide college internship credit in a horticultural or agricultural degree program. This internship is open to all applicants who are college juniors, seniors, or graduate students as of April 2019. Click here to apply for the 2019 program; applications are due April 1.
Pictured: Elizabeth Fraley gets hands-on landscaping experience during her time at Focal Pointe.