It’s refreshing to see the Four County Community Foundation create a new strategy to address the “brain drain” so many small communities wrestle with. Their plan is to partner with local businesses to arrange eight week, full-time paid summer internships for college students who graduated from high schools in the foundation’s service area and that includes Almont, Capac, Dryden and Imlay City. The foundation and companies will each cover half the cost of the internships with students able to earn up to $4,000. The hope is that the program will serve as a catalyst for encouraging alums to return to their hometowns to live work after they finish their college degrees.

With friends and classmates going in different directions, returning home after graduation, even just for a few months in the summer, can make home feel very different for young adults. If they’re already questioning if they’d like to return to their hometowns, and lack connections other than family, paving the way for them to put down roots with a future employer makes a lot of sense.

Putting a financial backing to this program is smart too. Many college students rely on a regular paycheck so not having to give up a summer income to gain crucial work experience is very important. Likewise, offering a match to companies to cover the internship cost will hopefully attract a variety of businesses to participate, particularly fledgling start ups who might not have a lot of extra cash.

The statistics show that our communities are in need of growing our population numbers and it’s apparent that employers are very much in need of skilled and well educated employees. Lapeer County gained just 300 new residents in the last 10 years and St. Clair grew by 2,657 according to the last Census. Both counties are older than the state’s average median age too—44 for Lapeer County, 43.8 for St. Clair County and 39.7 for the state. Both have a much lower average of higher education than elsewhere in Michigan. Residents 25 years and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher comprise 18.3 percent of Lapeer’s population, 18.6 percent of St. Clair’s population and 29.1 percent of all of Michigan.

Business owners would be prudent to take part in the program; parents and educators should encourage recent high school graduates to consider signing up and anyone with a passion for helping the next generation of workers find success should consider donating to Four County Community Foundation’s very worthy cause.