Chase Radue, a field engineer for Wells Concrete in Wells, MN., shared with us how the PCI Foundation program he participated in at Minnesota State at Mankato prepared him for his first job.
Did you ever consider a career at a precast plant before you were introduced to Wells during the course at the MS Mankato? If no, what made you look at a career in the precast industry?
I first got introduced and interested in prestressed when I was a Junior from being involved in the Big Beam competition sponsored by PCI and Sika. The studio classes weren’t available until my Senior year, although those even further reinforced my decision to pursue a career in the precast industry. Before being involved with Big Beam I knew I wanted a career in structures, primarily vertical ones. But neither conventional steel or reinforced concrete design really peaked my interest, so when I learned about prestressed and how it drew on the advantages from both steel and concrete I was immediately hooked. Getting to work with the design and production staff from Wells throughout Big Beam showed how prestressed is not only a superior structural system, but also a superior construction method and material. By the time I was finished with the studio class where, thanks to Wells, I got to see even more aspects of the process and I was convinced that prestressed concrete is all around the best solution for a vertical structure, and I wanted to play a role in providing that solution.
How did the class prepare you for your current role at Wells?
=The class at Minnesota State Mankato was a design focused class and my role right now is a Field Engineer. Usually that would mean there’s not much correlation between the two, but since each component is an engineered system in itself is was definitely a huge benefit to have the design class under my belt when I started with Wells. Probably the biggest advantage I’ve noticed from taking the class is knowing what considerations go into the design so I can make educated judgement calls in the field. Another result of the class was that it further familiarized me with the staff and workflow at Wells Concrete, which made the transition from college to career much easier.
Was there anyone (teacher or from the industry) who helped you learn more about the industry and precast products?
Oh man. Definitely. Gregg Jacobson, Jim Thofson, Dustin Jones, and Ben Dalsing, all with Wells Concrete, come to mind. Gregg primarily, since he is a great example of someone who has been in the industry for a while and done it all with Wells. The enthusiasm he still has about the work Wells does really assured me that this isn’t a line of work that you will get tired of as long as you’re looking for ways to make things bigger and better.
What advice would you give another student one of the PCI Foundation sponsored programs about working for the industry?
Definitely go for it. Not only will you get to work with some amazing products and people, but it’s such an easy industry to take pride in. Precast products our entrusted to be the structural system of for data centers, hospitals, schools, pretty much anything really important. Along with that, as the precast industry grows so will the communities its involved in.
Where do you see yourself working in the future?
hope to still be working in the precast industry, and hopefully still with Wells, playing my part in helping push the boundaries and markets of precast concrete. I’m extremely grateful that I have a job I love with a company that holds their standards at such a high level.
What surprised you about precast concrete when you first started learning about it?
I was mostly surprised by how many buildings aren’t precast. With how schedule driven projects are these days and the positive impact precast concrete can have on a construction schedule, and the superior end product you end up with, I would’ve thought a larger number of buildings would go the precast route. But PCI and precast companies are making good progress on changing that.
What would you like to tell people about your experience at Minnesota State Mankato or at Wells Concrete?
The civil engineering program at Minnesota State Mankato may not be big, but it provides big time opportunities thanks to the support from companies like Wells Concrete and organizations such as PCI. I feel extremely lucky to have been provided a solid general civil engineering education while still having the freedom to focus on areas that interested me. Without this education or my time at Minnesota State Mankato, I don’t know if I would have ended up working at Wells Concrete. Which would have been a shame, since I can’t imagine another company that would be a better fit for me.