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Agrimarketing : September 2009
September 2009 Agri Marketing 55 CAREERS PREPARING FOR AN AG CAREER by Jake LeRoy, Bader Rutter & Associates Each year, college students from across the country search far and wide for that perfect summer internship. An internship that will strengthen a resume, provide real- world experience and be a building block to their future. Enter Dow AgroSciences. Acceptance into it's internship pro- gram begins with an intensive five- day training session at the com- pany's headquarters in Indianapolis, IN, and ends with a collection of experiences that prepare the program's participants for suc- cessful careers in agriculture. This year 's intern "class" is made up of 45 college students recruited from across the country selected to represent Dow AgroSciences throughout the summer. Many of the interns bring a solid understanding of agriculture through childhood and adolescent experiences in addition to a bevy of college courses. The company aims to build on that knowledge and combine it with customer interaction skills to help mold the next generation of great industry representatives. "We hire dynamic individuals and provide them with additional skills to make them comfortable in real-world situations," says Drew Ratterman, Market Sell Workforce Leader for Dow AgroSciences. "The hope is that over the course of the summer they'll be able to use these skills and experiences and put them to use in the future." SKILLS TESTED The first few days of the training focus on building product knowl- edge and customer relations skills, and learning how to investigate and diagnose problems in the field. These skill-developing modules and classes prepare interns for mock face-to-face customer interactions. "The role-plays are the crescendo to everything we work," says Bruce Maddy, a Field Scientist for the com- pany and now in his 13th year of leading intern training sessions. "We want to provide them the opportu- nity to develop their interpersonal and problem- solving skills in a real-life environ- ment. If problems occur, the coaches comfortably and tactfully explain how certain situations could be resolved." Program lead- ers travel with interns to farm fields in the cen- tral Indiana area and act as cus- tomers, with the interns playing the role of a sales representative for the company. Stations set up throughout the field demonstrate various insect, weed or herbicide issues. The interns use their knowledge to diagnose the problems and offer solutions. "The role-plays are valuable in preparing me for different scenarios I might encounter," says intern Rachael Herschleb, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "It is a good exercise in encouraging us to think differently about how to approach a situation and deal with various personality types." "Dow AgroSciences is a science- based company so we need our peo- ple to be able to understand what problems are in the field, how they occurred and how we can prevent them in the future," Maddy says. "The interns may not have known the answer at first, but they now have the skills and resources neces- sary to develop a quality diagnosis." LEARNING For relatively inexperienced college students, learning from veteran pro- fessionals can go a long way toward growing into a reliable employee. That's why Dow AgroSciences brought in a multitude of experts from different disciplines throughout the week. "The program leaders from the company were engaged with us throughout the week," says intern Nolan Paxton, a junior at the University of Illinois. "It showed that they cared about our success." Thirty different employees of Dow AgroSciences with more than 500 years of combined experience attended the training, highlighted by a group dinner and roundtable discussion with members of the management staff. Interns are given the opportunity to speak their mind and ask probing questions of numer- ous members of the organization, including Vice President of North America Stan Howell. IMPROVEMENT In an effort to gauge the effectiveness of the program, an exam is adminis- tered both at the beginning and the end of training. The test covered an array of topics that were discussed throughout the week, ranging from weed identification to horticultural products to business services. The interns experienced a dramatic groupwide improvement from the pre-test to the post-test, improving by an average of nearly 34%. "I can say with great confidence that Dow AgroSciences has one of the best training programs in the industry," Zeller says. "The company wants you to have a very successful summer, and its training program is second to none." AM Jeff Cole (r) Sales Representative for Dow AgroSciences, shares his best sales call techniques with a group of interns.
Best of CAMA 2009