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Learning by doing: A practical path to the future with PORR

An interview with our student on a dual-study programme in the Building Construction department at PORR’s north German branch

Jim Bela Zukowsky, dual student at PORR building construction north in Hamburg.

Intelligent building needs creative talent. One person who possesses such talent is Jim Bela Zukowsky (21), a student on a dual-study programme in the Building Construction department at PORR’s north German branch. He joined the Building Construction team in Hamburg in 2020 for an initial one-year internship, working on a single construction site from start to finish. Zukowsky then enrolled on a dual-study programme to become a construction engineer. It was like becoming part of a little family – at least, that’s how the young PORRian describes working with his team. We asked him why he opted for a dual-study programme and what he enjoys most about working at PORR.

Why did you decide to enrol on a dual-study programme to become a construction engineer? What is it that interests you?

I’m fascinated by how building are planned and constructed. My first encounters with the construction industry came through my father, who worked as a technical draughtsman, and in an internship as a technical systems planner. These insights allowed me to familiarise myself with the construction industry a little. With my interest in organisation and planning, I came across the role of construction engineers and the study programme in construction engineering. It can lead you towards becoming a site supervisor or project manager in future.

My interests remained the same over the years, so I decided on a dual-study programme in construction engineering and started in the winter semester of 2021.

When you were looking for a study programme, how did you come across PORR?

I looked at which companies had offices in the Hamburg region. I was already aware of PORR. Then, by looking at information provided by the university and on the PORR website, I saw that they offer a dual-study programme here in Hamburg. So, I applied.

But you didn’t start your dual-study programme at PORR right away. Why was that?

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to register as a student in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. So, PORR offered me an internship to tide me over until my course started.

This meant I made good use of the year, gathering insights into the construction process and expanding my knowledge. The cool thing was that it gave me the chance to try out lots of activities myself, such as erecting formwork and bricklaying. I think it’s a big advantage to have done certain tasks with your own hands before looking at things from a construction management perspective. That’s another reason why PORR recommended that I take the opportunity of an internship: to gain hands-on, practical experience in certain areas. 

What roles did you carry out during your internship? Which tasks did you enjoy most?

I worked on the “Job centre in Bad Segeberg” project and had the immense good fortune to accompany the project all the way from shell construction through to fit-out. In the shell construction phase, I supported the engineer on site with his work. This meant getting to grips with erecting formwork, helping with concreting, and bricklaying.

I also supported the foremen in the shell construction phase, such as when they needed to determine dimensions or inspect encased walls. Tidying the construction site was another one of my tasks – that’s part of the job.

As the project continued, I was able to see how the construction site progresses and assisted the PORR foremen with their work. This included preparing daily construction reports. I also took the lead on the Photo2Project app and made sure that building work was always documented.

Around halfway through my internship, the crane was dismantled and I had the chance to drive the Manitou, a construction telehandler. That was obviously a great opportunity and a lot of fun.

Aside from driving the Manitou, was there anything else you enjoyed? Or were there perhaps things you think might help you in your current studies?

In truth, I enjoyed a lot of things and I felt it was a major advantage that the construction period more or less corresponded to the length of my internship. It was really varied and I was able to familiarise myself with lots of different areas.

Of course, there were some bits that weren’t so great, especially in the shell construction phase. For example, there were some days in winter when the temperatures hit zero and it was raining, too. But these days still pass and, in the end, they make it all the more enjoyable and pleasant to work outdoors in summer.

I’m realising now that it’s helping me a lot in many aspects of my dual-study programme. Once you’ve seen things in practice or even done them yourself, it makes it easier to understand and get to grips with the underlying theory.

I’m finding the course easier than some of my classmates because I’m already familiar with certain processes and procedures thanks to my internship. This means I’m better able to consolidate my knowledge.

After your year-long internship, what do you particularly enjoy about working at PORR?

PORR is a large company, which means it offers a wide range of development opportunities. When I’ve spoken with my classmates, I’ve realised that they get acquainted with far fewer areas on their dual-study programmes than I do at PORR.

On the Bad Segeberg construction site, I learned to appreciate the good relationships between employees. It’s like being part of a small family in which everyone helps each other and works together in pursuit of a shared goal.

At the branch office and at the start of my dual-study programme, I noticed the wide range of fields I can learn about. I started in cost estimation and construction planning before being assigned to a construction site again. At some companies, that simply isn’t possible because they just don’t cover that many areas.

Which parts of your internship strengthened your resolve to start your dual-study programme?

During my internship, the time I spent on the construction site taught me what site supervisors do. Towards the end, I was involved in and able to assist with key tasks and procedures. Over the course of my year-long internship, I gained motivation and figured out that this is what interests me, this what I want to do in future. It gave me a useful, deeper insight into the profession.

Where would you rather be: at university, on the construction site or in the office?

I have to say, being on a construction site is great. When you come out of the portacabin and can walk into the structure and see what you’ve just been looking at on the plans standing in front of you or currently being built, that’s pretty cool.

But I just can’t decide between uni, the office and a construction site container. Each area and each phase has its advantages – and it’s the blend of all three on my study programme that makes it special for me. When I finish a phase at uni, I look forward to getting back to work at the company, but then I also look forward to starting the next phase of theory at uni.  

Working in the office is exciting because you’re actively involved in projects. We don’t just do exercises like at uni: the work you do is incorporated directly into the project.

Then again, at uni there are some really interesting lectures. When you learn about theory, you often learn about what is actually possible, how certain things work and why they work the way they do. And then sometimes, when you’re working on a task in practice, you realise that you’ve just covered it at university and can apply your knowledge right away.

For me, the dual-study programme is the perfect combination.

What would you say to school pupils considering a dual-study programme in future?

After my first six months on a dual-study programme at PORR, I would recommend it to them. Above all for people who want a normal study programme but also enjoy hands-on learning: find out more about dual-study programmes!

Of course, a dual-study programme is more time-intensive than a normal degree. In the theory phases, you might have lectures from morning ’til evening or need to work on projects. And, in the practical phases, you’ll be working a 40-hour week at a company. There’s no holidays between semesters or anything like that, but you can take annual leave during the practical phase. And one major advantage of a dual-study programme is that you receive your salary every month.

Everything is packed in more tightly but, in return, after three years you graduate with a Bachelor’s degree and practical experience to your name. You don’t just spend years studying before entering the working world later on; instead, you work at a company from the very start of your studies and, in most cases, that company will take you on afterwards as well. So, you don’t have a bedding-in phase at the company at the end of your studies, which is when most graduates first start work.

Thank you!



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