May 22, 2017 - by Haley Carwile

Authored by Rob Lauber, Chief Learning Officer at McDonald’s Corporation
Original publish date, May 18th, 2017, LinkedIn

The world is changing. Educating the public is no longer only a concern for educators and government agencies. It’s become a responsibility for all of us, and perhaps most meaningfully, business leaders. More than ever before, businesses need to invest in ongoing education, training and career advancement for employees. Why? Education is the true game changer in helping employees succeed in the workplace and beyond.

The importance of education might seem obvious to many, but research shows a lack of access to educational opportunities in today’s society:

· Nearly 30 million working American adults do not have a high school diploma.

· Ninety-two percent of business leaders think that U.S. workers are not as skilled as they need to be

· By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the economy will require post secondary education and training beyond high school

2020 is around the corner, and a national problem is looming that impacts businesses, local communities and the overall economy. There isn’t a single right answer, but one thing we can be sure of is that U.S. businesses – particularly the very large businesses like McDonald’s – can play a huge and unique role in removing barriers to education.

Over the last several years, many companies including McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, and Hilton have committed themselves to offering more educational opportunities to employees. Not only does it help provide a path to a more prosperous future for employees, it’s also just good business. It helps with employee morale and retention and enhances their overall skill set, which in return delivers a better experience for customers. In order to be a leader in the industry going forward, you must play a proactive role in ensuring you have a well-trained and educated workforce.

I joined McDonald’s as the Global Chief Learning Officer in 2014. We launched the Archways to Opportunity® program in April 2015, which provides eligible U.S. employees at participating restaurants an opportunity to earn a high school diploma, receive upfront college tuition assistance, access free education advising services and take English as a Second Language courses.

This was an exciting time for the company because it was a way for us to directly help restaurant employees reach their career goals. Restaurant employees told us that one of the reasons they work in a restaurant is because the experience at McDonald’s can help them build their future. Given our size and scale in the U.S., McDonald’s and its independent franchisees believe we have a responsibility to advance the next generation of workers and give back to the communities in which they live and work. With approximately 850,000 restaurant employees in the U.S. alone, we have a huge opportunity to help thousands of individuals reach their life goals, whether that is with McDonald’s or elsewhere.

Two years later, McDonald’s Archways to Opportunity® program is still going strong. We recently announced that participation in the program has more than doubled in year two, with a 238 percent increase in enrollment. As we approach graduation season, just a few weeks ago the program also celebrated its first 100 high school diploma graduates from Career Online High School program through Cengage. In the next few days, that number will be 125. This quick and strong progress shows that there is a clear interest from restaurant employees to focus on the future – and that our flexible program is meeting them where they are on their journey. The program is just one of the many ways we are committed to being America’s best first job for restaurant employees.

We’re committed to keeping this vibrant and effective program going, but we can’t do it alone. More than half of adults in the labor force say it will be essential for them to get training and develop new skills throughout their work life in order to keep up. Supporting the learning process of employees and breaking down barriers to education is something the entire business community can do on a vast scale.

It’s a huge opportunity.

I invite you join us in the conversation and the journey.

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