Michigan Economic Development Corp. is going full ‘STEAM Ahead’ in push to help tech-focused businesses of all sizes hire more interns and expand work experience opportunities for college students

MEDC Communications

Monday, April 15, 2024

MEDC is adding the Arts to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math work experience program and increasing its 1:1 wage match for employers to $4,000 for full-time interns and $2,000 for part-timers

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) is rebranding its successful STEM Forward program to “STEAM Ahead” by incorporating new internship roles that live at the intersection of arts and science, technology, engineering and math careers such as front-end web developers and industrial designers.

At the same time, the MEDC announced today it is offering new incentives through the STEAM Ahead program that are designed to help spur Michigan businesses of all sizes to hire interns, expand work experience opportunities for college students and potentially find long-term, highly skilled hires.

The transition to STEAM Ahead reflects the MEDC’s effort to be more inclusive of careers such as geographic information systems, architectural engineering, CAD design and sound engineering as well as elevate the role “creatives” can play in Michigan’s priority talent industries that are tech-focused, especially EV/mobility, semiconductors and advanced manufacturing.

“Ultimately, our aim is to improve on retaining college graduates in the most critical areas of Michigan’s growing technology and knowledge economy,” said MEDC Executive Vice President, Chief of Talent Solutions and Engagement Officer Kerry Ebersole Singh.

“STEM Forward produced excellent results, and STEAM Ahead is an even more robust talent retention strategy by the MEDC that will better promote key careers, recruit talent and fill in-demand jobs in the state-of-the-art industries that are essential to helping increase Michigan’s population now, and in the future,” Ebersole Singh said.

Benefits of the change to STEAM Ahead include:

  • Increased contributions to employers from MEDC. The program will provide a 1:1 match of up to $4,000 for full-time interns (21-40 hours per week) and $2,000 for part-timers (20 hours or less per week).
  • A new payment model that allows businesses to pay their intern directly and manage their own payroll, then seek reimbursement from MEDC. This was explicitly requested by participating employers.
  • Allowing current college students at any Michigan school or Michiganders attending school out of state as well as recent graduates to participate.
  • Providing more flexibility for interns to be paid higher than $15 per hour. Companies are welcome to set their own wage above that amount with the understanding that, once MEDC’s match has been exhausted, the company is responsible for 100% of the cost.
  • Allowing for internships ranging from 8-12 weeks in length per semester.

Qualifying companies must be Michigan-based or have a strong operational presence in Michigan to be eligible for the STEAM Ahead program. Any size company is eligible — from enterprise organizations to startups — so long as it is a legal entity (e.g., C corporation, S corporation, LLC, LLP, B corporation, nonprofit).

More than 800 interns with over 200 companies have participated in STEM Forward since it was created in 2021. For STEAM Ahead, companies must submit a one-time application to MEDC, and once that is approved, they must submit their internship(s) for approval for the Summer 2024 semester. Requests for funding for summer internships must be completed by June 7, 2024, while internships for Fall 2024 can be submitted starting Aug. 12.

Expanding to the STEAM Ahead model, MEDC leaders predict, will increase participation among both students and employers and build on Michigan’s STEM momentum. Data show Michigan is emerging as a national leader in overcoming the challenge to get more students, including women, into math- and science-heavy programs.

Since 2018, more Michigan graduates at the state’s 15 public universities are earning bachelor’s degrees in science and math fields. Four of the five programs with the biggest increases are in science, technology, engineering and math degrees.

Women and minorities are accounting for a growing share of those degrees. For example, Bridge Michigan reported the number of women getting a computer science degree in Michigan has jumped 50% in five years.

Similar changes have occurred in the growing fields of biomedical sciences, engineering and math and statistics, according to a Bridge Michigan analysis that showed women getting a math degree rose 23% over five years, compared with a 6% increase among men. Black, Hispanic and Asian students and other minorities also now make up an increasing share of graduates in those fields, seeing a 33% increase in degrees earned in the past five years.

“This encouraging trend is helping align more Michigan graduates with the hottest and most lucrative jobs in our state, and we are confident expanding to STEAM Ahead and including arts will further broaden our prospective talent pool,” said Ebersole Singh.

MEDC research shows that internships strongly influence a recent college graduate’s decision on where to work and live. When all things are equal, MEDC findings show, they will choose to stay within a four-hour radius and make their lives near their alma mater or hometown if they can attain a high-wage job, feel that their city or town has much to offer them and feel connected to the place they live.

Among the reasons the Gov. Whitmer-appointed bipartisan Growing Michigan Together Council cited in its 2023 report for Michigan’s college student exodus is a lack of access to internships and opportunities for meaningful on-the-job experience prior to entering the full-time workforce.

In the absence of a clear track for career growth with a Michigan-based company, young talent will continue to seek high-paying jobs with employers in other states and regions with concentrated industries and networks of professionals, exacerbating the state’s existing labor shortage, the council reported.

“We are creating top talent here in Michigan, but that’s not enough,” said MEDC Director of Higher Education Partnerships Ava Attari. “We must also be proactive to retain our young professionals and ensure that experienced talent can continue to thrive in Michigan.”

STEAM Ahead presents a win-win-win scenario, she asserted.

“Michigan wins by promoting job retention in our state. It’s a win for students at Michigan colleges, and Michiganders attending college out of state, to gain real-world, hands-on STEAM workforce training through paid internships. And it’s a win for our state’s innovative companies to develop talent pipelines that are fundamental to their success,” Attari said.

About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy. For more information on the MEDC and our initiatives, visit www.MichiganBusiness.org. For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at www.michigan.org. Join the conversation on: Facebook Instagram LinkedIn, and Twitter.