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High-Speed Rail, High-Quality Jobs: Career Trek Shows Students Opportunities

May 23, 2024
UC Merced students look at high-speed rail tracks during a site visit.
About 25 students took part in the Career Trek.

California high-speed rail, a multibillion-dollar project designed to connect the Central Valley to Los Angeles and the Bay Area, promises swift transportation, the protection of agricultural land and contributions to a cleaner environment.

It's also providing a lot of jobs - from design to construction to, eventually, operation.

UC Merced engineering students recently got the chance to see what opportunities might be available to them. Roughly 25 students took part in a Career Trek to visit the California High-Speed Rail Central Valley Regional Office in Fresno, as well as the Hanford and Cedar viaducts.

Career Treks are offered by the university's Student Career Center. Students are taken on industry-specific recruiting trips to regions within California, hearing from employers about their professional journeys and the pathways they followed to career success.

Manny Machado, engineering career specialist in UC Merced's Student Career Center, coordinated the March visit with help from two colleagues, employer services manager Magali Torres and internship and employer services coordinator Xue Lee.

"A Career Trek is when students have the chance to visit a nearby organization to hear more about their recruitment efforts, and to learn more about the work that they do," Machado said. "During these trips, students get the opportunity to tour facilities, hear about job and internship opportunities they can get involved with, network with employees of that organization and hear more about professional pathways at said organization.

"These Career Treks are also a good way to expose scholars to different career industries while also giving them a chance to showcase their skillsets."

Students met with engineering professionals at the rail project's regional office.

"These professionals gave insight to their professional journeys, gave advice on how students can be proactive in their career development and talked about how the different engineering disciplines are needed on a large-scale project like this," Machado said.

Final designs for the high-speed rail project call for about 500 miles of track stretching from Southern California to San Francisco. The first segment, in various stages of construction since 2015, is a 170-mile stretch from Merced to Bakersfield.

At the project's Hanford Viaduct, students learned about environmental considerations for construction sites, toured the top of the structure, heard how the structure will become earthquake proof and learned more about the professional experiences of the construction site managers. Students learned more about these issues at the Cedar Viaduct; because it's further along in construction, they could compare the sites' development.

Students also learned about the different engineering disciplines required for this work. As the project continues to develop, there will be different roles needed at different times. For example, once construction is further developed, electrical engineers will be vital in incorporating components needed for the stations and tracks. Other opportunities soon to be available include internships with partner organizations such as Stantec and Caltrans. And once work begins on the rail's Merced station, there likely will be more chances for UC Merced students to be involved.

For this particular Career Trek, participating students had a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Once construction gets further along and trains start to run stations, the tours currently being hosted will no longer be offered to the public.

Students interested in learning more about Career Treks get can look at Instagram and view the events calendar through Handshake or go to the Career Center website

The Student Career Center typically offers one or two Career Treks during the academic year. Previous destinations include Gallo and LinkedIn.