2016 Precision Farming Dealer Summit — Roundtable #4

A Precision Farming Dealer Staff Report

The first step to structuring a successful and productive precision farming internship program is to establish what the goals are for both the dealership and the intern. Roundtable moderator Dave Swain of Southern States Co-op in Richmond, Va., says internships need to be focused on educating the intern, not just making money for the dealership. This can help the dealership build good relationships with local colleges and high schools and find potential new precision employees down the road.

Roundtable attendees agreed that internships can be the ideal setting to find a new employee, allowing the dealership to experience how the intern fits in and performs at the dealership before committing to hiring them full-time. One dealer mentioned that his dealership recently had an intern they enjoyed working with so much that they hired him and are now helping him finish school before he begins working full-time.

At the end of an internship, this dealer says he gives interns a review of the work they did and their progress. “We look at what they did well and what they were weak on,” he says. “We also talk about what they can do to improve. I’ve had students change their entire next college semester schedule based on the feedback we give them on the things we think they should be working on.”

Another takeaway from the discussion was that successful intern programs need to assign bigger projects to interns, as opposed to only asking them to help with the busy work for the entire internship. This gives the dealership a better idea of what the intern is capable of and also gives interns a picture of what working in a precision farming department is like.

One dealer says they assign each of their interns a project at the beginning of the internship that they are expected to present to management by the end of the program. Another says, “I like to throw interns straight into the deep end and see what they do. If they can handle it, I know they’re going to make it in the long run.”

To find potential interns, the group discussed working with area high schools and colleges. One dealer is currently working with a high school to help them build more precision farming into their curriculum and to educate students sooner about the opportunities available in precision farming.

Important qualities dealers are looking for in interns are computer skills, work ethic and an understanding of the time commitment required at the dealership. Swain says the group discussed the importance of setting expectations for interns from the beginning. “We don’t always clearly define what our expectations are for interns,” he says. “They need to understand that they’re part of the team and everything they’re doing has a reason behind it.”

Read full coverage of the Precision Farming Dealer Summit presentations, from how to recruit and retain precision employees, to developing a standalone precision business, to managing customers’ data, in the March 2016 issue of Farm Equipment.

Roundtable Discussion Topics

1. Keeping Precision Employees Productive Year Round
2. Troubleshooting Technology: Conquering Compatibility Problems
3. Putting on a Successful Precision Ag Field Day
4. How to Structure Your Precision Internships (currently viewing)
5. Strategies for Selling Used Precision Equipment
6. Making the Most of Online Sales Opportunities
7. Spreading Precision Workflow Across Departments
8. UAVs: Practical Precision Tools or Toys?
9. Tech Support: Where Can Manufacturers Improve?
10. Marketing: Where Will I Get the Most Bang for My Buck?