Industry partnership provides student internship and growth experiences

Tobie Plett

During the summer, as many students enjoyed the break from classes and formal learning, Tobie Plett jumped head first into a business-focused internship with Harper (Kan.) Industries.

Having just finished his first year as a business major at Hesston College, Plett passed on an opportunity to spend his summer at home in East St. Paul, Manitoba, Canada, and instead focus on his career aspirations.

Harper Industries manufactures equipment for agriculture, hydraulics, landscaping and sports turf management, including the brand names DewEze and Harper Turf Equipment, and Plett took on various roles at the company, primarily in production administration and accounting.

“My regular work day usually consisted of processing inventory change in the company’s database and processing completed orders,” said Plett. “In accounting I handled checks and invoices. I also prepared received invoices to be paid by the accounts payable department.”

Student internships and other practical learning opportunities have been part of Hesston College’s promise to students for decades. While many internships are sought to fit students’ particular interest, the college is grateful to have maintained an internship partnership with Harper Industries for nearly 20 years.

“We have had Hesston College summer interns for most of the 20 years we have had a relationship with Hesston College,” said Harper Industries CEO Tim Penner. “Our intent is to give practical experience to students who are studying business, sales, marketing, accounting and engineering. Hesston has sent us extremely qualified students, and this program has been beneficial to both Harper and the interns.”

“The diverse work environments I was set in allowed for a better understanding of the agro-manufacturing business,” said Plett. “I got to witness Harper’s day-to-day business operations from making a sale to having an order fulfilled. I also got the opportunity to network and learn from a lot of different people who taught me about my work, the industry and my future goals.”

In the ever changing landscape of higher education, Hesston College administrators have noted partnerships with industry organizations as an important aspect for future success. Students want opportunities to build their skills and knowledge in practical ways, and employers are looking to hire highly competent and highly capable individuals.

“If the fit is right, we look to eventually hire interns,” said Penner. “The internship is a great training ground and it gives both the student and Harper a great way to get to know each other, and give the student an understanding of where they might best work in a business.”

As Hesston continues to expand academic offerings through bachelor degree programs, it hopes to build more relationships like the one with Harper Industries.

“As I’m settling into year two of the business program at Hesston, I’m looking to take my studies to the next level,” said Plett. “Working for Harper Industries has allowed me to do just that with field experience in an industry that I previously knew very little about. In the future, I hope to get even more hands-on experience, possibly in sales and finance.”

“Overall, Harper tested and expanded my education, and helped me develop quality life skills, connections and spiritual growth,” Plett said. “I am grateful for the relationship Harper Industries and Hesston College have had for many years, and for the investments they both make with students’ and business education.”