STEM Forward program offers funds, seeks Michigan employers to host paid STEM internships

Ann Arbor SPARK is seeking interested employers for a new paid STEM internship match program. The program, titled Michigan STEM Forward, represents a collaboration between SPARK and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). 

An expansion of SPARK’s initial Ann Arbor-based internship matching program, STEM Forward brings together Michigan-based businesses with students attending Michigan colleges and universities. 

“It can really make a big impact in two ways,” says SPARK Vice President of Entrepreneurial Services Bill Mayer. “First to retain more students here in the state after they graduate, but then also to provide material assistance to our companies.”

Since initiating the program, SPARK has seen a flood of interest from students across the state, says STEM Forward Program Manager Ben Ernst. 

“It's pretty impressive how many students we've had who've proactively sought us out to add their names to our list so that they can get connected with these companies,” Ernst says. “... I also continually get a lot of anecdotes from companies that are just blown away by the quality of the interns that they found."

Some of the program’s participants include Rhombus Energy Solutions, Stabilux Biosciences, Wacker Chemical Corp., Yerbba, and DIG Solutions.

In addition to making the initial connections, STEM Forward will also handle all onboarding paperwork for participating companies and pay 50% of an intern’s wages up to $6,000 for a full-time intern and $3,000 for a part-time one. 

Though the internships must be STEM-focused, Ernst and Mayer say that doesn’t mean the companies or the students need to come from traditional STEM backgrounds. 

“Companies across the broad spectrum can apply and qualify so long as the job description itself is very STEM-oriented,” Ernst says. 

“We try and encourage the students to think a little bigger too,” Mayer adds. “You may not perceive yourself as being relevant to a tech company, but you very well might be. … Students that are artists — they could do front-end design work, graphic design work, and other types of digital mediums.”

Interested companies and internship candidates can find more information about applying to the Michigan STEM Forward program here.

Sabine Bickford Brown is a freelance writer and editor based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She can be reached at
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