Columbia State, Tractor Supply partner to offer students "hands-on" learning experience


Columbia State, Tractor Supply partner to offer students "hands-on" learning experience

Columbia State’s Jarod Teague is one of two students participating in a pilot capstone program at Tractor Supply this summer. // Photo courtesy of Tractor Supply

By RUSSELL VANNOZZI

Tractor Supply Company is continuing its investment in workforce development with a newly-formed partnership with Columbia State Community College’s Williamson County campus.

Two students from the school’s computer science program are currently participating in a capstone program at Tractor Supply’s headquarters in Brentwood, where they are working with emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the internet of things, among others.

Glenn Allison, Tractor Supply’s Vice President of Enterprise Architecture, said that the program is part of the company’s push “to develop the workforce needed for the future.”

“Workforce development is a key priority for TSC,” Allison said. “We are investing in technology as part of our OneTractor strategy, which is requires us to have access to experienced technical talent.”

The capstone program, which is a for-credit course at Columbia State, has been part of the school’s computer/information technology curriculum for several years. This summer’s capstone program at Tractor Supply is the pilot for what will be a larger program in the future.

“It’s been an outstanding relationship,” Columbia State Vice President for Williamson County and External Services Dearl Lampley said of the school’s partnership with Tractor Supply. “As a community college, I couldn’t ask for a better industry partner.”

The program began on June 4, and the two students are already making headway on their first assignment.

“(The students) are installing soil sensors to gather real-time data regarding soil temperature, moisture and data analytics,” Allison said. “That type of technology can help customers efficiently manage their land and save water.”

The students will complete various projects at the Tractor Supply headquarters, where they have also been paired with a mentor for the duration of the program. The students will finish the capstone with a final presentation to Tractor Supply leadership later this summer.

Deepa Janakiraman, assistant professor of Computer Information Systems at Columbia State, said she is thrilled that her students are getting to take what they’ve learned in the classroom one step further.

“A lot of these (technologies) we don’t even teach in community college yet, so this will be a great addition to the (their) portfolios,” Janakiraman said. “They are getting hands-on experience and building rapport with (the Tractor Supply) employees.”

Allison said the initial pilot program will help Tractor Supply make tweaks to the experience before offering the course on a larger scale.

“We’re starting up with a smaller group to keep it focused,” Allison said. “We’re investing the resources to make sure they have a great experience. We’re going to take the (lessons) learned from the pilot and apply them in the fall semester.”

Janakiraman said the early feedback from the students has been positive, and she is hopeful that the experience will help the students continue their education and make them more employable in the future.

“I’ve sent students that are doing really well and have good GPA’s,” she said. “I told them, ‘you never know where this could lead you.’”

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