Co-op leads to full-time job for civil engineering student

Undergraduate student excels in co-op, the classroom and as concrete canoe team leader

As Tanner Alley prepares for graduation this spring, the civil engineering student reflects on the experiences that helped him grow as a student and as an engineer, including co-ops that led to a job offer and leading the concrete canoe team to the national championships. Alley was named Undergraduate Engineer of the Month by the UC College of Engineering and Applied Science.  

Why did you choose UC?

The ultimate reason that I settled on UC was the co-op program. I love Cincinnati and wanted to stay local for college, and there was nowhere else that offered what UC’s co-op program offers. I imagine that is the deciding factor for most engineering students. It really is exceptional what hands-on experience adds to your learning. I also chose UC because I really enjoyed being on campus, and wanted to undertake a program that I knew would challenge me.

Did co-op live up to your expectations? What were your co-op jobs?

Tanner Alley

Tanner Alley. Photo/provided.

My experiences throughout co-op have all built upon each other and led me to find where I best fit in the industry. Not only did my knowledge grow during each one but my responsibility did as well. During my last co-op, I was functioning largely independently, and I felt like I was making a significant contribution to the goals of the company. To me, having enough experience to really add value and contribute to the industry before I have even graduated, is the highlight of co-op.

My first co-op was with LRT Technologies. I worked on their construction crews doing concrete resurfacing and waterproofing. I gained a very good understand of the industry from the ground level there. I also functioned, for a time, as an estimating co-op working on bidding projects.

My second rotation was with Bayer Becker as a land surveying co-op. I worked on their crews doing construction layout and surveying various sites. This is fundamental to all construction and it was beneficial for me to learn.

My final three co-op rotations have been with the civil engineering department at Bayer Becker. I've gained experience on many different projects, mostly working on municipal infrastructure, utility design and stormwater management.

Why did you choose to study civil engineering?

My father was a construction worker and he also built the home that I grew up in. He instilled in me a desire for designing and constructing things, from a table or bookshelf to a barn or a house. As I grew, my fascination with construction expanded to all kinds of buildings or infrastructure projects. I became interested in how the world we live in was developed and connected. My first job in high school was in landscaping. While not necessarily a construction field, this work did get me interested in how the earth and natural landscape can best be utilized to meet our needs. All of this led me to choose civil engineering as my major in college, though I wasn’t yet sure of how the construction industry worked or where I specifically saw myself within the vast number of possibilities in the field. After my co-op experiences and all my coursework, I can say for certain that this is the industry that I belong in.

Already, I have been a part of designing and developing residential, industrial, commercial, educational, and public works projects, among others. I have seen how all these projects come together and how they improve the communities that we live in. I want to continue to be a part of that. I believe I have a strong work ethic and a passion to do things the right way. With these traits and the solid technical foundation that the University of Cincinnati is giving me, I feel that I can impact the construction industry in this area for the better. I believe that I can truly make a difference in the growth and development of Greater Cincinnati.

Outside of co-op and classes, what were some of the most impactful college experiences?

I joined the concrete canoe team as a freshman, not knowing anyone or hardly anything about civil engineering. We are a civil engineering club at UC that is part of the American Society of Civil Engineers. I have learned so much about the industry, gained hands-on technical experience, networked with numerous organizations and professionals, and made exceptionally good friends. By my sophomore year, I had been put in charge of designing the concrete mix for the canoe, which grew my technical knowledge about concrete and design work. 

In my third year, I was elected project manager for the entire concrete canoe project. I led more than 25 team members in the project that lasted over 30 weeks. I coordinated the multi-faceted project and kept everything on schedule throughout the year. This position pushed me to grow and develop as a leader and as a part of a team. The project went very well and, under my leadership, the team made it to the National Concrete Canoe Competition for the first time in 10 years. I continued in the role of project manager throughout my fourth year into 2020 and the team was set to continue our success before it was cut short due to the pandemic. 

What are your plans after you graduate this spring?

It was a goal of mine to have a full-time position lined up before I graduated. I have accepted a full-time offer with Bayer Becker to join their civil engineering department as soon as I graduate. I intend to pursue my professional engineering licensure in Ohio and Kentucky and continue to work in the area.

concrete canoe team

The UC concrete canoe team poses with its creation. The 2018-2019 team competed at the national championship, led by Tanner Alley. Photos/provided.