Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce

MURFREESBORO — Although LaVergne High School student Mario Giron has been around construction as long as he can remember, he never saw himself going into the field.

“I wanted to be a doctor,” Giron said with a grin, “But then I was able to pursue this field and I think I might want to be in construction after all.”

Mario is one of the 50 Rutherford County high school students who were accepted into the third annual Rutherford Works High School Internship Program, an initiative developed between the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce and Rutherford County Schools. The interns have been placed with various businesses and organizations to work this summer.

Mario along with Jessikah Riley, were both accepted as interns with the School of Concrete and Construction Management at Middle Tennessee State University. Jessikah was once interested in the medical field or engineering, but she applied to be an intern with MTSU’s program because she wants to experiment in different career fields.

“This is something we don’t really learn about in school,” she said, “And this is definitely something I could be interested in pursuing.”

Intern Landon McDearmon, a construction pathway student and rising senior at Oakland High School, recently started his internship with Ole South Construction, where he is gaining real world work experience in his future career field.

“I chose this position because it’s the closest job I want to do when I grow up,” McDearmon said. “This internship may change my mind from being a contractor to a project manager.”

“We consider this program as an investment in our future,” said Roger Case, chief operating officer of Ole South Construction.  “We have to get more young adults interested in our industry in order to sustain the growth in our area.”

The program is equally beneficial for MTSU’s concrete program.

“We had 27 graduate in May and 299 jobs to offer those 27 graduates,” said Dr. Heather Brown, chair and professor with the university’s School of Concrete and Construction Management. “This seems like a great opportunity to dig deeper and start earlier in recruiting students into the field. I can see the interns gaining value that they can take back into their classrooms and their own lives. If one of these students decides to not pursue architecture or construction, they can say exactly why or why not, and I love that too. It’s all about learning.”

And the students are definitely learning.

In just one week on the job, Mario and Jessikah have already taken trips to a plant, mixed two batches of concrete and built a “T-stand” for MTSU’s fermentation program. They were blown away when Brown explained the latest technology in the field, such as the ability to create tiny cement houses using 3D printing.

“A lot of people don’t see concrete or construction as a field they want to go into because there seems to be a stereotype over it. But it’s very innovative and amazing,” Jessikah said.

As part of the internship program, students earn $10 per hour and are placed in businesses across Rutherford County for 16 hours per week throughout the month of June. On Fridays, students gather at the Chamber of Commerce for soft skill development, such as personal branding, post-secondary planning and networking.

“You can read all the books in the world about a topic, but until you do it, you do not have real experience,” said Riley about her experience thus far.  “This experience will allow me to see if I want to pursue this as a major in college or a career in the long term. And, even if not, I value the people I have met and the different fields that I’ve learned about, as well as the communication and people skills I have gained.”

This work is critical to the community’s future, said Beth Duffield, senior vice president of Education & Workforce Development at the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce.

“Tennessee has the ninth lowest labor participation rate in the country. Our students must learn to work early so that we may begin to improve that number and fill the many jobs available in Rutherford County today,” Duffield explained.

Nissan, Bridgestone, Schwan Cosmetics, Rutherford County government, Murfreesboro Electric, City of Murfreesboro, Town of Smyrna, City of Eagleville and Hot Topic are among those who participated in the Rutherford Works High School Internship Program in 2016 and have hired interns again this year.

For more information on the Rutherford Works High School Internship Program, please visit