Skip to main content

Return to Earn Internship Program: Reflections & Accomplishments

The Four County Community Foundation’s Return to Earn Internship Program launched earlier this year and provided internships at local small businesses and municipalities for college-age students in their hometown and surrounding rural communities with the goal of enticing students to return to the region for work.

College student on their computer.

The Four County Community Foundation (4CCF) has been engaged in addressing challenges in attracting and retaining talent across Southeast Michigan through its Return to Earn Internship Program that launched earlier this year.  

After its first year of implementation, 4CCF is sharing its evaluation of the program, offering insights into the success and future directions of the program.

As CMF reported, the goal of the program was to entice students to “return to earn” and to also connect them with higher-wage jobs in their home community. The program also worked to address “brain drain” in the community, which occurs when talent leaves their home community to work and live elsewhere. 

The program provided paid on-site internships at local small businesses and municipalities for 10 college-age or early-career individuals. Each intern worked full-time over 8 weeks and participated in virtual cohort meeting hosted by Kathy Dickens, executive director of 4CCF.

“In addition to our traditional scholarships, we want to support our students after they enter college. Our internship program provides up to $2,000 towards a local business or industry hiring college students who graduated from a high school in our service area. The other half comes from the employer,” Dickens said.

According to the evaluation report, internship placements were targeted to address critical needs in the regional workforce, such as STEM, agriculture and municipal government.

The evaluation highlights the impact and satisfaction of the program from the perspective of the interns and employers and the impact on targeted indicators of local economic development.

Individual interviews were conducted with each of the 10 interns and with individuals who served as their organization’s point person and intern supervisor.

Evaluation findings include:

  • 71% of the respondents agreed that the internships created future employment opportunities.
  • Several interns shared that the program exposed them to the various opportunities that existed in their local communities that they did not know before. Employers highlighted that this served as a great opportunity to promote their municipality or small business as a desirable place of employment.
  • 100% of the interns stated that they would recommend the 4CCF Return to Earn Internship Program to a peer and that the program informed their career planning and job-setting expectations.
  • The interns expressed a positive impact on their organizational, interpersonal and leadership skills.
  • The interns reported high levels of satisfaction with key aspects of the program, particularly with the coordination Dickens provided and the duration of the program.
  • The program was effective in promoting an appreciation for local municipalities and small businesses. Two employers shared that the interns benefitted from gaining a better understanding of what a local municipality provides for its constituents and learning more about the work in overcoming multi-faceted problems in local settings.

According to Dickens, one intern was hired at the end of their internship and other interns reported as a result of the internships they would consider returning "home" to work in their chosen field.

In its first year of implementation, the program was widely viewed by interns and employers to be a successful and valuable program.

The report highlights that moving forward, clear expectations for interns and employers and resources dedicated to recruiting a diverse pool of interns and a variety of internship placements are key to sustaining the 4CCF Return to Earn Internship Program.

Want more?

Read more about the Return to Earn Internship Program.