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Cultivating industry-ready feed and grain professionals

Traineeship program innovates education beyond classroom boundaries.

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With summer in full swing, college students across the country are participating in internship programs. Quality internships are invaluable for students, offering real-world experiences not found in classrooms. Yet, experiences can vary widely, leaving some students responsible for menial tasks instead of meaningful assignments. Enter traineeships, a promising alternative focusing on developing broad employability skills.

Iowa State University (ISU) is pioneering this approach with its new traineeship program at the Kent Feed Mill and Grain Science Complex. Dr. Dirk E. Maier, spearheading the initiative, recognized a critical shortage of technical talent in the U.S. feed industry. The complex, opened in 2023, features cutting-edge facilities to provide hands-on experience in feed manufacturing.

This venture aligns with ISU's broader mission to enhance teaching programs, support research and foster industry partnerships. The complex also introduces a feed technology minor, attracting students from diverse majors to explore careers in feed manufacturing.

The traineeship program complements these efforts by offering students long-term engagement opportunities within the facility. Unlike traditional internships, the program spans several years, allowing participants to rotate through different departments, gaining comprehensive experience and responsibility.

What sets this program apart is its inclusivity. It doesn't prioritize academic achievements but rather students' genuine interest and commitment. By removing GPA requirements, it opens doors for passionate individuals, irrespective of their academic standing.

Funded by industry sponsors through The ISU Foundation, the program ensures financial support for participating students. This financial backing, coupled with the program's immersive nature, provides a unique opportunity for students to develop into industry-ready professionals.

Its first trainee, Marianne Nebelsick, graduated in December 2023 with a degree in animal science. Nebelsick began working as a trainee in January 2023 and took a summer internship on a farm operation before working a semester in the traineeship as a lead student employee. The experience gained helped her obtain a role at Gold Eagle Co-op in Iowa.

ISU's traineeship program signals a significant step toward bridging the skills gap in the feed industry. Graduates will emerge equipped with degrees and practical experience, poised to lead the industry into the future.

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