Everyone pursues a career in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for a different reason. Danielle Perkins, Department of the Army apprentice at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Alaska District, followed the footsteps of her dad and grandpas into that sector.
“Believe it or not, my freshman year of college I was a chemistry major so I could be a pharmacist,” Perkins said.
After a year of classes, she decided the field was not for her and withdrew from further studies.
“I moved home to Sitka and ended working for the state of Alaska as a field inspector,” she said. “I enjoyed being in the field and seeing the process of things being built – roads, runways, bridges – and that pushed me to go back to school. My dad told me to try engineering from the beginning. Now he says, ‘I told you so’ all the time.”
After graduating from the University of Alaska Anchorage with a bachelor’s degree in 2019, Perkins joined the district through the Department of the Army Apprenticeship Program at the end of 2020. The two years of training provides her with exposure to different offices within the organization to foster a greater understanding of the district, cultivate strong working relationships and build sound institutional knowledge.
“It sounded like a good opportunity to see as much as I wanted before settling down into a position,” she said.
Through the experience, Perkins has worked her way through assignments in cost engineering to civil and sanitary engineering to geotechnical engineering to construction, where she currently is working.
“My favorite part of the position I am in is that I get to rotate over the next few years and see how the process as a whole works,” Perkins said. “When I end up back in cost engineering as my permanent position, I will understand the process and know who to reach out to in other sections for help.”
In her future role as a cost engineer, she will be involved with projects from concept to completion. The job will require her to develop cost estimates for projects that includes the cost of design, construction and potential changes during construction.
Perkins sees the STEM field as multifaceted with the potential to go into a diverse set of occupations such as aerospace engineering, astronomy, robotics, computer engineering and more.
“Something they all have in common is that they are helping to push our understanding of the universe and build our future,” she said.
Reflecting on her decision to join the STEM field, Perkins is excited to put her skills to use and fulfill her dreams of making a positive difference in the world.
“I was the kid that asked why, and I became an engineer for that very reason,” she said.
Each year on Nov. 8, National STEM Day celebrates the value of an education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The Army is the largest employer of STEM professionals in the U.S. government and the Alaska District currently employs seven recent graduates through the Army Apprenticeship Program.
“We encourage young people to pursue their interest in STEM by earning a degree and seeking a job in their chosen field,” said Mark DeRocchi, chief of the Alaska District’s Engineering, Construction and Operations Division. “We are always recruiting to fill critical positions in the STEM disciplines and can offer a rewarding career for candidates with the right skillset.”
To learn more about entry-level civilian career opportunities with the DoD, check out: https://www.dodstem.us/
To learn about recent graduate programs with USACE: https://www.usace.army.mil/Careers/Internships/