Organizations offer internships in the ginning industry
By Lynette Wilson
Two agricultural organizations are actively searching for the next generation of ginners in Texas. Texas Cotton Ginners Association (TCGA) and Texas Agricultural Cooperative Council (TACC), both headquartered in Austin, Texas, now sponsor internships for college students who aspire to manage a cotton gin in the future.
Although the two internship curriculums differ slightly, the goal of each program is the same Ð to give students who are interested in gin management an advantage by providing them with the information and hands-on skills they need to enter the field after graduation.
TCGA is one of the oldest cotton organizations in the United States and represents gins that process a majority of the state’s cotton crop each year. The organization represents ginning interests at the Texas Capitol, at numerous national and state meetings, and through membership in other organizations that share mutual goals for the industry. TCGA is deeply involved in helping its membership address safety and environmental issues and provides a vital communication link among the membership and with other agricultural interests.
In 2008, through a partnership between the organization, member gins, and Texas A&M University, TCGA became the first Texas organization to create a ginning internship program.
“The Ag Systems Management program in Texas A&M’s Ag Engineering Department features a curriculum that could prepare a student for a career in gin management,” said TCGA Communications Manager and Special Projects Coordinator Aaron Nelsen. “We hope to develop an interest in the cotton industry that will lead to a career,” he said.
After students submit an application and go through an interview process, Nelsen chooses two candidates for the internship program. Each intern is matched with gins in the West Texas area during the first part of the summer. They are given the chance to observe all facets of a gin operation during that time, including the marketing of cotton, financial decisions, gin safety, and management of employees. During the second part of the summer, they move to South Texas where they work in a gin that is actively processing cotton. In addition, TCGA pays travel expenses for the interns to attend the association’s annual meeting and trade show in Lubbock, Texas.
“Interest in the internship has grown exponentially each year,” Nelsen said. “We’ve gone from just two to more than 12 applicants in just four years. It’s good to see that a growing number of students are interested in entering the cotton industry.”
In 2010, TACC began its internship program. An association that serves as a voluntary, statewide organization created by Texas cooperatives, TACC’s primary mission is to “promote, support, and advance the interests, understanding, and viability of agricultural, utility and credit cooperatives and their members through legislative and regulatory efforts, education and public relations.”
TACC believes it is knowledge that provides the solid foundation that success is built upon; therefore, creating an internship was a natural step for the organization. In the inaugural year, interns were selected from Texas Tech University and Texas A&M. One worked primarily at a grain and farm supply cooperative and the other at a cotton gin.
“These students will not come out of the intern program, graduate from college, and automatically expect to land a position as a coop general manager,” explained Charley Triplett, PCCA’s Director of Marketing Communications and a member of the TACC Leadership Subcommittee. “The intent of the program is for students to gain valuable practical experience so they will be qualified to begin at an entry level position and work their way up. The knowledge they obtain from one summer working in the industry really gives them a leg up,” he said.
Originally from New Home, Texas, Ryan Wied was an Ag Leadership major and a senior in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University when he became an intern in the inaugural year of TACC’s internship program.
“I wanted to complete an internship in the agriculture industry and this one really peaked my interest,” Wied explained.
After he graduated in December 2010, Weid accepted a position with Ecodrip and moved back to West Texas. He is grateful for the experience provided by TACC and says the knowledge he gained was invaluable.
“I learned a lot from Jimmy Roppolo in El Campo and I would seriously consider a career as a gin maganer if the opportunity came up and the timing was right,” he said.
Jimmy Roppolo, General Manager at Farmers Cooperative of El Campo, has taken part in training students from both the TACC and the TCGA internship programs. Roppolo believes introducing young people to agriculture and allowing them to work in the industry before graduation is a great way for students to decide if that is where their future career may lie.
“I enjoy being a teacher and a mentor,” Roppolo said. “Both programs are tremendous because they offer young students with a passion for the industry the opportunity to pursue a career, and it gives the industry a chance to find the next generation of ginners in Texas.”