In a year full of disarray, disappointment, and discouragement for many, one local company has kept a different word at the forefront of its mission:
Drive. Both literally and figuratively.
According to TMC Transportation’s official website, the trucking company’s mission “is to be recognized as the standard-bearer of quality performance in flatbed transportation.” The company also prides itself on training its workers in the “fundamentals of quality” and empowering all members of its team “to develop innovative techniques focused on customer satisfaction.”
How has TMC’s Student Training Center in Ames continued this mission despite the challenges 2020 has brought? For one, by expanding the opportunities available for a large segment of students enrolled at Iowa State University.
Per General Manager Kenneth Kyle, the Ames office moved locations within ISU Research Park this summer to accommodate a greater number of student interns. “We’ve now got space that is far more usable,” he explained. “We have allowed a total growth of around 35 percent. We were previously sitting at around 45 usable desks at our old office in Building 6. Now we’re up to 63 usable desks [in Building 3]. And this all has given us about a 25 percent growth in internships.”
Regardless of department, Kyle emphasized the importance TMC places on hiring students that are eager to go the extra mile to please its clients. “The biggest thing for students is they want to feel like they are making a difference,” he noted. “Our two biggest majors that we used to work with were MIS [Management Information Systems], which would typically bring students into our IT Department and our developers, and then also Supply Chain Management. However, as we expanded our Logistics division, we also found that Marketing and Sales were also a good fit for what we were doing. And this generally brought out people who were more outgoing. They’re not afraid to pick up the phone and talk to people. And really our whole job is relationship-building and working with the phone.”
TMC’s ability to attract quality interns in recent time has been enhanced by the Student Learning Center’s expansion into a new space in Research Park. Still, such positive developments began years prior when the company set up shop in Ames for the first time, according to Kyle. “When we were based in Des Moines, people would do their summer internship and then that would be it. They couldn’t work for us during the school year because it was a one-hour drive to the office and then another hour coming home. Now, by having our office in Research Park, people can be here in the morning and then go to class in the afternoon. Some are even able to come back after their classes in the afternoon. That just made a huge difference as far as interest in our internships goes.”
The original Ames office, located in Building 6, was first opened three years ago, thereafter leading to an explosion of student intrigue into opportunities with TMC. “In 2017, we did a little experiment by opening a very small office here [in Ames],” Kyle said. “It held eight people. However, as soon as we opened it, we had a huge increase in interest for internships. So, of course we had to expand it a couple of times, because it just became so popular.”
As the company continued to take up more and more space in Building 6, management continued to work hard at crafting the real art behind designing a worthwhile on-the-job learning experience. “The next step was to build up the quality of the internship,” Kyle noted. “It’s all fine and dandy to have something convenient for interns, but if you are not giving them a quality internship, then you’re not doing yourself any favors, and you’re not doing them any favors. So, we’ve been working on that for three years.”
Kyle expressed how vital it is that management maintain an open dialogue with each semester’s interns. As suggestions are made, TMC can continue to move forward and improve. “We always ask for feedback from our interns with an anonymous survey,” he explained. “They score everyone who trains them here in the office, including myself, in a bunch of different categories. All of those categories entail knowledge of the industry, knowledge of the job, how are we giving good feedback to them, making them feel valued, and basically giving them an opportunity to show that they can make a difference to the company. The interns are also asked to write up something weekly about what they’ve learned, and what they have liked or haven’t like.”
According to Kyle, some of his professional career’s brightest success stories have stemmed from his time overseeing TMC’s intern program. One such experience highlighted the inspiration such a journey can provide. “We had a particular gentleman who was voted the “Most Distracted Intern” in the office,” Kyle said. “Basically, he was constantly on his phone and just didn’t seem interested in his job at all. We were not going to renew his internship for the next semester. We had a conversation with him, and I told him that I thought he should change departments.”
How did the team’s “Most Distracted Intern” process the constructive criticism? “He agreed to change departments, and we gave him another shot,” Kyle related. “He turned it around completely. He was named “Intern of the Month” within about three months. He was then offered a fulltime position, which he accepted. Today, he remains a highly successful logistics broker.”
Kyle went on to talk about the power of such a turnaround. He also relayed the impressive number of interns that he has had the privilege of personally working with over the past three years at the local center. “In all, 90 different interns have been through the various departments in the Ames office,” Kyle said. “In three years, we’ve hired on 27 of our interns. Some of them have stayed here, and some of them have moved on. We’ve had success stories that have ended up in Texas, Wisconsin, Arizona, and even here locally, staying in our Ames office.”
Now, with its new and improved office space, he expects the Student Training Center to continue to flourish. Despite the pandemic, Kyle reiterated the fact that there still remain increased opportunities for ISU students. “We’ve been able to stay open and working,” Kyle concluded. “We’re pretty much open all the time. We tend to get more people interested around career fair time. But we have various people that come to us at different times of the year.”
If you are an Iowa State University student looking for a supplementary learning experience in the area, TMC Transportation in Ames may be the right fit for you. To apply for an internship, contact the local office directly at 800-800-1700, and ask to speak with Kenneth Kyle. Students may also contact Human Resources Recruiter Mandi Youngberg at 800-247-2460, extension 4194, or you may apply online at www.TMCtrans.com.
As an ISU grad in the TransLog program, this is fantastic! What a great story…and what a great company too!