By Amy Ellis

Global construction giant Obrascon Huarte Lain (OHL) has signed an agreement with FIU for the university’s first international internship program, to be based at the company’s headquarters in Madrid.

The announcement comes just a year after the company made a donation to the OHL School of Construction, making it the first named school in the history of the FIU College of Engineering and Computing.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for the OHL School of Construction and for FIU,’’ said Amir Mirmiran, dean of the College of Engineering and Computing. “FIU is already recognized as a center of excellence in construction management. This partnership will further enable FIU to prepare future generations of highly skilled and experienced construction management professionals.”


FIU and OHL officials meet in Madrid. From left to right: Susan Jay, senior director of development for the College of Engineering and Computing; Juan-Miguel Villar Mir, chairman of the OHL Group; Irma Becerra-Fernandez, vice president of the Office of Engagement; Irtishad Ahmad, director of the OHL School of Construction; Amir Mirmiran, dean of the College of Engineering and Computing; and Juan Lorenzo Martin Fernandez, director of human resources for the OHL Group.

The partnership also highlights FIU’s commitment to preparing its students to excel in a global economy, said Irma Becerra-Fernandez, vice president for the Office of Engagement, who co-signed the partnership agreement with OHL and the School of Construction.

“We are looking at the first two student interns as ambassadors for FIU,’’ said Becerra-Fernandez, who traveled with Mirmiran, Irtishad Ahmad, director of the OHL School of Construction, and Susan Jay, the director of development for the College of Engineering and Computing, to Madrid to meet with OHL officials.

“This is not only our first international internship program, it is also an innovative partnership by which we can expand our students’ horizons, as well as the university’s profile on an international level,’’ Becerra-Fernandez said. “This international internship is defining a new model that will benefit our students, our university and OHL.’’

For 10 weeks beginning in June, OHL will employ two FIU students, Alejandro Falgons and Felipe Martinez, both juniors in construction management. They will work primarily at the company’s headquarters in Madrid but could also receive assignments to OHL projects throughout the world.

With nearly $7 billion in annual sales and more than 19,000 employees, OHL is one of the world’s largest construction companies with projects in more than 28 countries. The firm specializes in major infrastructure projects, including those funded by public-private partnerships, an emerging financing mechanism for projects in the United States.

“These students will get to work on some of the most innovative and exciting construction management projects happening in the world today,’’ said Ahmad. “They will get to experience real-life challenges and situations on the highest level.’’

The firm’s portfolio includes both vertical and horizontal construction, from hospitals and office buildings to railways, bridges, ports and roads. OHL manages significant corporate holdings in Latin America and the Caribbean. In Miami, OHL built the Orange Line of the Metrorail, the first railway construction project by a Spanish company in the United States.

On the FIU campus, OHL subsidiary Arellano Construction is overseeing the $26.8 million construction of the Management and New Growth Opportunities (MANGO) Building, scheduled to open in November.

“This internship program is a natural evolution of the excellent partnership we have with FIU,’’ said Francisco Marin, president and CEO of OHL. “The OHL School of Construction is one of the top programs of its kind in the U.S. and abroad. We are committed to supporting its efforts to educate the next generation of leaders in construction who understand and can best formulate innovative solutions to global issues.”

Established in 1973, the construction management program at FIU is a leading local and national supplier of construction management executives, having educated more than 1,500 professionals who are employed by all major construction companies in the region.

Becerra-Fernandez said the internship program with OHL is expected to expand and could eventually include classes for the interns at the Universidad Polytecnica de Madrid (UPM), the top technical university in Spain.

“We are starting with construction management but this could grow to include architecture and many other disciplines,’’ she said. “There are all kinds of possibilities.’’

For Martinez, who will be starting his first internship with OHL, those possibilities include one day owning an international construction company of his own.

A former architecture student who has traveled the world to study beautiful buildings, Martinez said he is looking forward to learning from some of the top construction managers in the world.

“This internship will allow me to apply the knowledge attained in my academic career into real-life situations,’’ he said. “At the same time, it will allow me to grow as a professional in ways that books cannot teach.’’