A thriving business that relies on innovation and technology and a growing STEM (science, technology, math and engineering) university would seem like a perfect match, and that’s certainly the case with Saddle Creek Logistics Services and Florida Polytechnic University.
In addition to its financial impact on Florida Poly– which totals more than $1 million and continues to grow – the company provides critical support through meaningful student projects and internships. Now, more than four years into their commitment, Saddle Creek Logistics Services is seeing the benefit of hiring Florida Poly graduates.
Aaron Payne is the first of two alumni to accept full-time jobs at the company. Payne, who graduated in 2017 with a degree in science and technology management, first learned of Saddle Creek Logistics Services as a student when taking part in a group project focused on ways to help drivers find alternate routes around busy interstate construction zones. That experience led to an internship and the position he has now as an associate systems analyst.
“The tools that Florida Poly gives you are vast so you can definitely utilize those and get a big step forward toward your career,” said Payne, who is now taking advantage of Saddle Creek’s tuition reimbursement program to pursue a master’s degree.
Donna Slyster is Saddle Creek’s chief information officer and also serves on the Florida Poly Foundation Board of Directors. She said the partnership brings together senior logistics professionals and young STEM minds.
“Technology changes all of the time. So these students are being exposed to things our associates haven’t. When you put the two together, magical things happen and we come up with solutions we didn’t know about before,” she said.
From a technology perspective, Slyster says Florida Poly is her school of choice when it comes to recruiting students for internships.
“Florida Poly produces high caliber, STEM-type students who have the skill sets we need,” she said. “Our ability to attract and retain solid talent is significantly increased by Florida Poly being here.
“Our partnership is an opportunity for the students to get to know us, us to get to know the students, see what they can really do, throw some challenges at them and then hopefully create a partnership coming out of it and maybe become long-term employees,” said Slyster.
Saddle Creek Logistics Services is based in Lakeland and employs 3,372 nationwide, including 896 in Polk County. The company’s Auburndale distribution center is currently undergoing a 343,000-square-foot expansion, which will add more than 100 new jobs when completed in the fall.
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