North Carolina’s rural counties — which include some of the most economically distressed areas in the state — are losing bright young minds to larger, more urban centers at a fast rate. This “brain drain” hampers population and economic growth. But those rural counties can expect a boost from NC State’s new Rural Works! program, which is designed to address the significant opportunities and challenges in these areas. The Rural Works! internship program offers experiential education for students working with employers in rural counties.
Rural Works! started in 2018 through a partnership between the Division of Academic and Student Affairs, the Office of Outreach and Engagement, and NC State Extension. The program supports NC State’s commitment to social, economic and technological development across North Carolina.
“Nearly half of North Carolina’s counties are losing their population, and that includes young people, who leave for college and don’t return,” said Rebekah Dunstan, rural outreach coordinator with the Division of Academic and Student Affairs. “Rural Works! will support the workforce in these counties by showing students that these places hold promise for a career and a future.”
Students apply for the paid internship program through NC State’s ePack portal and go through an interview process for a government entity, nonprofit or private business. The internship includes a service component to expose students to the challenges many shrinking rural communities face, including food insecurity and lack of transportation. Through Rural Works!, students use their NC State education to find solutions to these issues.