Op-Ed: Join Golden LEAF’s Rural Internship Initiative as a host site to grow the rural workforce

Published 10:45 am Saturday, September 9, 2023

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By Scott T. Hamilton

The Golden LEAF Scholarship Program focuses on providing students with strong ties to rural communities with scholarships to attend a four-year college or university in North Carolina. These students communicate an interest in returning to a rural North Carolina county after graduation from college.

Without a job opportunity in a rural community; however, our students may not see rural as an option after college.

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To help build the rural workforce pipeline, Golden LEAF’s Rural Internship Initiative is providing eligible Golden LEAF Scholars with paid, professional work experiences related to their career fields in rural North Carolina communities. While scholars can choose a site in any qualifying county, most of our scholars choose to return to their home community to work.

In the summer of 2022, the Rural Internship Initiative had its first cohort of interns. Twenty students worked in 18 rural counties in various fields including health care, education, law and public safety, and communication sciences.

This summer, the second cohort more than doubled with 49 interns participating in the Rural Internship Initiative working in 27 rural counties in fields such as health care, human services, government, engineering and education.

As the Rural Internship Initiative grows, Golden LEAF is reaching out to North Carolina rural communities to help grow the program. Businesses, nonprofits and governmental entities in qualifying counties interested in becoming an internship site can fill out the Internship Site Interest Survey at scholars.goldenleaf.org/rii/sites/#survey. This list will be shared with scholars in the fall of 2023 as a resource to locate internship sites. Students will be responsible for reaching out to sites from this list.

Internship sites agree to provide the intern with a meaningful project or role that aligns with the student’s college major and future career goals. Intern supervisors also commit to reporting on intern performance and provide the intern with mentoring on the role, professionalism and rural community leadership.

Internships take place over a period of at least eight weeks, between May and August. Interns are paid $15 per hour for their work by the Golden LEAF Foundation through a third-party payroll service.

We are asking for the help of rural businesses and organizations to provide meaningful professional experiences for students dedicated to living and working in rural areas. Consider being a partner in this rural workforce strategy by completing the Internship Site Interest Survey.

Scott T. Hamilton is the president and chief executive officer of Golden LEAF.