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Pro-Tech Business Alumni Insider
Dordt has entered its second year of the professional-technical program, Pro-Tech. Pro-Tech is a two year associate’s degree in either Agriculture Operations and Management or Manufacturing Technology. Students spend three days a week in class, and the other two at a paid internship where they receive hands-on experience. We got a chance to learn more about how the internship works, with insight given by Dordt alumnus, Jared Terpstra, the feed division manager for Farmer’s Co-Op Society (FCS).
What were your thoughts on Dordt’s Pro-Tech program?
We had approached Dordt probably four or five years ago, that there was a real need in our industry and our business for individuals coming out of college that want to be feed mill operators or managers. The feed milling business is becoming more and more technically advanced. Almost everything we do in the feed mill is on a computer. In fact, you have a computer issue and today it pretty much shuts down your manufacturing. A lot of kids go to college and don’t think about coming in and working in or running a feed mill.
We really wanted to get the word out that there are a lot of good paying jobs for individuals that are college educated, and the way I always like to put it, is individuals that can come out of college and be able to put a pair of khakis on and put together a presentation for a board of directors one day, and the next day they’ve got jeans and a greasy t-shirt and they are tearing into a machine. Those are really the type of candidates we are looking for. Someone who is able to work in a manufacturing setting, but also be able to manage people and get cleaned up and speak or get your project across to a wider audience. That was what we were really looking at, and a lot of that would involve on the job training where the individual is getting some really hands-on experience, but also in the classroom their still having to write papers or maybe put together presentations.
What does a student’s internship experience look like?
Their internship is a progression. The first week, they are going to be shadowing somebody. But then they may get assigned cleaning, sweeping, bagging feed to go into the warehouse, or helping customers load bag feed onto their pick-up in the warehouse. So they might start at the bottom, getting a feel for all the ins and outs. Then they might get worked up into working with the system loading feed trucks and do that for a week. Then they might progress into the drug room, where they are weighing out different drugs or feed additives, following standard operating procedures and working through some of that. They might spend a week with the maintenance team, changing bearings, greasing the machines, and general maintenance in the feed mill. Then they might work up into the control room, batching feed and putting together feed orders. They may also spend a week with a truck driver, and maybe even send them out with a load on their own—and see how they handle scenarios through that. Then we ask them what area they’d like to learn more about and dive into.
What was handy, was after Christmas they had been here and been through it, so we used them a lot when people were out on vacation or when people would be out sick, and we could entrust them to load trucks that day or work in the drug room.
How did you see your interns grow?
The only thing on their resume when they came in that I could use right away, was they both had CDL’s.
The other thing I really looked at, was the individuals I hired stood out because of their personalities. They were able to interact and talk, they had some real experience working with their hands on the farm, or in their dad’s operation, or some of the jobs that they had. It may have had nothing to do with feed manufacturing, but I could just see their willingness to work. I would’ve hired either of them at the end of their internship. One did two semesters in feed, and the summer in agronomy, so he had a well-rounded experience, and if he wanted to come back he could get into grain.