The Need

It all started when Rob Tudor, now director of IT Partnerships at Nashville State Community College, left his IT job at Tractor Supply Company in the spring of 2018 to come to Nashville State. Around the end of that same year, Rob started having serious conversations with directors at Tractor Supply and Nashville State about how the two could build a working public-private partnership. Rob wanted to find a way to get his graduating IT students funneled into Tractor Supply’s present and growing need for IT talent. It was in these meetings that the two entities sought to find a way to bring Tractor Supply’s internship work to the students at Nashville State and have the resources and workspace at the school, since eliminating transportation barriers for the future student workers was a big priority. It was from here that the Tractor Supply Learn and Earn Internship Program on the campus of Nashville State came to fruition.

The Partnership

The Tractor Supply Learn and Earn Program on Nashville State Community College’s campus is a semester-long internship for Nashville State students located on the school’s campus but providing real tech solutions to Tractor Supply and their retail stores across the country. The program launched in the summer of 2019 with a cohort of 5 student interns. The program is unique in that it provides students the opportunity to work and be paid in an internship for a reputable company while continuing to be on campus and take classes towards their degrees. The students have then been able to provide extremely valuable networking and programming work to meet Tractor Supply’s IT needs.

What They Do

The timeline for the students to complete the body of work laid out by Tractor Supply coincides with Nashville State’s school semesters. The students first apply to the program as you would to any internship, and then move through an interview process with Tractor Supply. The pilot program and the subsequent cohorts have all ended up having between four and five students. The project focus of the pilot program was networking with the subsequent two cohorts focusing more on programming with a focus on automation. After the students have been selected, they have a one-week orientation with the Tractor Supply supervisors in their workspace on campus, which typically follows with a six-week training course to prepare students for the work they will focus on completing for the rest of the semester. Students also can do a day-in-the-life at Tractor Supply’s corporate offices in Brentwood, Tennessee. Here they have the chance to meet with company leadership and present the work they are doing back at Nashville State. In the most recent cohort, students also had the chance to experience a day-in-the-life at a Tractor Supply retail store and see firsthand what the IT support systems they are building look like in action. At the end of the semester, some students continue to work for Tractor Supply if their schedule allows, while others return to taking full course loads, but with new invaluable work experience and knowledge.

How They Did It

To initially build out the program, Nashville State made a capital investment in building an on-campus working space for the students and their Tractor Supply supervisor. The funding was sought and approved by the school’s president and Tennessee Board of Regents. From here Nashville State converted an old classroom into a mini IT office space complete with cubicles and co-working spaces, with specific IT cabling and enhanced WIFI capabilities. Tractor Supply then brought in all the necessary technology (laptops, monitors, etc.) for the interns to carry out their work. From there Tractor Supply planned and laid out the body of work for the students to finish in their 15-week semester with a presentation at the end to demonstrate the results of their assigned projects.

Benefits

The benefits for the students of Nashville State are that students can work on campus while continuing to earn their degrees. The program addresses transportation barriers for work and school. Students gain hands-on technical knowledge from Tractor Supply supervisors and corporate real-world experience through special program days on-site at Tractor Supply offices and retail stores. Finally, students can receive a Capstone credit for their internship, something that is necessary for graduation.