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At Intel, A Retirement Perk That Can Kick Off A New Career As A Paid Fellow

Gail Dougherty, 61, was a project manager at Intel until she retired in 2016. Now she is working part time at a health center, part of a fellowship paid by Intel as a regular retirement benefit.
Ina Jaffe
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Not everyone who reaches so-called retirement age is ready to retire. But they may be ready for a change. That's one of the reasons that the tech giant Intel pays longtime employees a stipend while they try out new careers at nonprofit organizations.

One of those employees is 61-year-old Gail Dougherty. The former project manager now sits at a desk at the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center in Oregon, poring over a spreadsheet on her computer. She's crunching patient data with input from doctors and nurses to figure out better ways of delivering care to the health center's high number of patients with diabetes.

"Out of my own non-medical, non-health-care ... head, [I] proposed a workflow that seemed like, from what I was hearing might be the most helpful thing for our patients," Dougherty says.

Those patients are migrant workers and others who have no health insurance or who qualify for Medicaid. Dougherty says the skills from her old job fit in with her new one, even though the two jobs couldn't be more different.

"At Intel, deadlines are king," says Dougherty. "You've got a product, you've got to get it out, either first or by the time you promised. Schedules are king." But at the health center? "Not so much," she says, "because what's primary is the patient care."

Dougherty is what's known as an Encore Fellow. She'll work at the health center part time for about a year and receive a stipend of $25,000. This is part of a nationwide program started by that brings retiring corporate workers into mission-driven organizations. [You may have heard sponsorship messages about Encore on NPR and other media outlets.] But Intel is the only company that pays the stipend for its retirees' fellowships as a basic employee benefit. In the past five years, the company has paid for about 1,000 fellowships at a cost of more than $30 million.

"In the scheme of our total labor cost, it's a very small number," says Ogden Reid, Intel's vice president for human resources.

He says it's also a worthwhile expense. "We feel like we're helping our communities," Reid says. "Our retirees give us really positive feedback ... and our workforce that's here see that happening to folks who've had a long career and I think that makes them feel good about the company."

Right now, seven Encore Fellows work at the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center. Gil Munoz, the center's CEO, says they play a crucial role.

"They bring a certain discipline, a certain rigor, to looking at problems and solving them," Munoz says. "Having these Encore Fellows who could help lead a project can be the key to whether it's successful or not."

Jinny Meade, 73, was an Encore fellow at a health center in Oregon a couple of years ago. Now she's a permanent part-time employee.
Ina Jaffe / NPR
The Florida Channel
Jinny Meade, 73, was an Encore fellow at a health center in Oregon a couple of years ago. Now she's a permanent part-time employee.

That may be why Jinny Meade, 73, is still here. She came to the health center a couple of years ago as an Encore Fellow. Now she's a permanent part-time employee, working as a project consultant.

"I'm sort of the nag that helps them stay on track as much as possible," she says, laughing.

It's rewarding to know that her management skills are serving the mission of the health center, but Meade also derives satisfaction from what she gets back in return.

"It's really exciting to be part of something that's ... bigger than ourselves," she says. "Health care for the underserved is a worthy cause." And in Meade's case, it's also a second career.

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Ina Jaffe is a veteran NPR correspondent covering the aging of America. Her stories on Morning Edition and All Things Considered have focused on older adults' involvement in politics and elections, dating and divorce, work and retirement, fashion and sports, as well as issues affecting long term care and end of life choices. In 2015, she was named one of the nation's top "Influencers in Aging" by PBS publication Next Avenue, which wrote "Jaffe has reinvented reporting on aging."