When most teenagers start flipping burgers at McDonald’s, they probably don’t expect this job to be their ticket to college. But for Vanessa Jimenez, her part-time job helped her find her way to her future.
Jimenez moved to the United States from Michoacán, Mexico at age 13 to live with his aunt, and began working at his local McDonald’s at age 18. She rose through the restaurant ranks to general manager, eventually overseeing five McDonald’s franchises in the Chicago area, earning her GED on the side.
Last May, with the support of the company’s Archways to Opportunity program, which provides career and salary progression for workers as well as tuition coverage, Jimenez earned his associate’s degree in business administration. .
“I always thought of my little brothers and my mother,” said Jimenez, now 31. “I have to be the example. I wanted them to see me and think, ‘Wow, my sister did this.’
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Education advantages like Archways to Opportunity, which is administered by workforce education provider EdAssist Solutions, are a way for companies to equip their employees with additional skills to succeed in the job market. It could also prove to be a key for retention.
Educational advancement is a priority for a growing number of workers. In last month’s EdAssist Education Index report from Bright Horizons, 80% of respondents said they would be more loyal to an employer who financially supported their further education.
Half of respondents said they felt unable to grow professionally because they could not afford student loan debt, and black employees were twice as likely as their white peers to feel burdened by student loans. The opportunities to help employers are clear — and in the ongoing fight to recruit talent, more employers are listening.
In addition to its partnership with McDonald’s, EdAssist serves more than 250 customers, including Verizon, Raytheon and Bank of America, with 400,000 active learners per year. The platform allows each employer to tailor the benefit to the needs of their employees, says Jill Buban, CEO of EdAssist.
“Education is the great equalizer,” she says. “Providing an education benefit to frontline workers at a place like McDonald’s, where the age range could be a 16-year-old with their first job or a 70-year-old grandmother who only works a few shifts work for a little extra pocket money, is truly phenomenal. This is increasingly becoming a differentiator for these larger companies.
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Beyond tuition assistance for employees pursuing post-secondary education, Archways to Opportunity provides English education for McDonald’s employees, as well as the opportunity to earn a high school diploma through a program in accredited line designed for adults of working age. A career navigation app lets restaurant workers see how their job skills translate to career paths within the company and in other industries like healthcare, IT, and finance.
To qualify for the program, employees must work at a participating franchise for at least 90 days and work an average of 15 hours per week. Crew members are eligible for $2,500 in tuition assistance per year, and managers can receive $3,000 per year. Restaurant workers can use their tuition assistance at any accredited institution, including two- and four-year colleges and trade schools.
“Archways was created with the understanding that there is both an education deficit and a skills deficit in this country, and we believe we can be part of the solution to this problem,” says Lisa Schumacker, Director educational strategies at McDonald’s. “For us, investing in workforce training is the shared value proposition that simultaneously advances McDonald’s competitiveness and the economic and social conditions of the communities in which we operate.”
Since the program’s inception, more than 75,000 restaurant workers have taken advantage of the benefit, with McDonald’s providing more than $65 million in tuition assistance. In 2020, an Accenture study found that Archways program participants were 2.5 times more likely than non-participating employees to be promoted, and their retention rates were twice as high.
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“Good talent is extremely hard to come by…and with the kind of talent wars we’re in right now, if you have good talent, you want to retain them,” Buban says. “There’s really been a renaissance around thinking about how to use those benefits [to the advantage] both employee and employer. »
For employees like Jimenez, employer-sponsored education can be crucial to building a better future. With the money she has earned so far at McDonald’s, where she still works as a general manager, she was able to pay for her mother and four brothers to move to the United States and bought her first house. With a degree under her belt, she now aspires to earn her bachelor’s and then a master’s while using the Archways to Opportunity program.
“I believe everything happens for a reason and I have no regrets,” Jimenez says. “[It’s] never too late to go back to school. If I can do it, anyone can do it.