Career Ready Internships


While a college degree offers the opportunity for increased income, it alone does not guarantee students’ entry into the workforce. To facilitate this important transition, the Great Lakes Career Ready Internship Grant program, supported by the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates (“Great Lakes”), is funding career-focused, paid internships for several thousand third- and fourth-year college students. MDRC is conducting an evaluation of the program.

To qualify for the program, students must be in their third or fourth year of college and must have postsecondary financial need. In order to ensure that students’ internship experiences are relevant to their career goals, colleges participating in the program will match students with employers on the basis of students’ professional interests and their field of study. Students receive hourly wages for time spent at the internships. In some instances, the cost of students’ transportation to and from their internships may also be covered. The wages received through the internship, combined with the career-relevant internship experience itself, are intended to help students persist in college and increase their chances of receiving a degree and joining the workforce.

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

The MDRC evaluation of the Great Lakes Career Ready Internship Grant program will include descriptive analyses in four areas of interest:

  1. Student persistence and experience. A primary objective of the program is to help students persist, graduate, and enter the workforce. This evaluation will explore which aspects or features of the program may be helpful in encouraging students to persist, quantify the proportion of program participants who persist, and survey students to better understand their internship experiences in the program.

  2. College-employer relationships. Developing internships will require that the colleges have good relationships with local employers. The evaluation will assess how colleges cultivate and maintain these relationships, and will describe employers’ perceptions of program colleges.

  3. Implementation and expansion. Colleges have flexibility in many aspects of implementing the program, including the targeting and recruitment of students, the structure of the internships, and the acquisition of matching funds in the program’s second and third years of operation. This research will describe common approaches to these aspects of program administration and draw comparisons among them.

  4. Sustainability. The project will explore what steps colleges take towards sustainability during the first few years of program operation.

Design, Sites, and Data Sources

For the evaluation, the research team will conduct descriptive analyses of the students, colleges, and employers participating in the Great Lakes Career Ready Internship Grant program. A total of 33 four-year colleges spread across four states (Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin) are participating in the program and evaluation.

Data sources will include periodic progress reports provided by each program college, as well as quantitative information about the characteristics of the internships (for example, the hourly wages, employing organizations, and total number of hours worked). Additional data sources will include two surveys — one of students and one of employers — that will ask respondents about their experiences participating in the program. Public data sources will also be used, including the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a national postsecondary database administered by the National Center for Education Statistics.