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Increasing Opportunity, Supporting the Education Journey

“Committed to being America's best first job®,” McDonald's® partners with the education community to provide Archways to Opportunity®, a comprehensive education strategy with multiple programs that give people an opportunity to grow and learn.

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Our commitment to education reinforces our ongoing support of the people who play a crucial role in our journey to build a better McDonald’s. By offering restaurant employees more opportunities to further their education and pursue their career aspirations, we are helping them find their full potential, whether that’s at McDonald’s or elsewhere.

1 in 4

young people are not employed or in education

The Challenge

Around the world, too many young people are finding that, through no fault of their own, there are barriers to entry into the workplace. Almost 1 in 4 young people are not in employment, education, or training, dramatically impacting skills development, earning capacity, long-term employability, and well being.

With 64 million young people unemployed worldwide, the youth employment challenge is vast. In the U.S., our workforce is facing a seismic shift – one that requires all business owners to take a fresh look at employee training and development. Employers, especially those often providing someone with their first work experience, play a critical role in training and preparing young people for a successful future.

The Solution

McDonald’s and its franchisees understand that upskilling employees will not only support their own business needs but it also helps provide every generation with the opportunity for long-term career success. Archways to Opportunity, which began in 2015, gives employees at participating U.S. restaurants an opportunity to earn a high school diploma, receive upfront college tuition assistance, access free education advising services, and learn English as a second language.

This program, though partnerships with accredited colleges and training programs, has awarded over $42 million in high school and college tuition assistance to more than 22,000 employees, and in total has increased access to education for more than 33,000 people.

Access to Education is Paramount

McDonald’s understands the importance of an employer supporting the education journey of its employees, no matter where they are in that journey, or where that journey may take them.

They also recognize the important role that they – and their independent franchisees – play as a first-job employer. As such, they adopt the responsibility to provide significant value to those restaurant employees by helping them prepare for future opportunities, which they know may mean leaving the McDonald’s family.

Their approach is to meet employees where they are, with a flexible program that offers the options restaurant employees are looking for to continue their individualized path to achievement.

About the Program

Any McDonald’s restaurant employee who shows interest in the program across the U.S. can access the Archways to Opportunity benefits. For the tuition reimbursement part of the program, individuals who have worked in a restaurant for at least 90 days at an average of 15 hours per week can now earn up to $2,500 (for crew) and $3,000 (for managers) in tuition assistance each year with no lifetime cap. McDonald’s has established partnerships with colleges to ensure finding the right school isn’t hard either.

Another track is English Under the Arches®, a program available to both crew and managers. To participate, an individual must be a non-native English speaker and selected by their Franchisee as someone who would benefit from stronger English communication skills. Courses are delivered using a blended method of face-to-face and virtual classes and McDonald’s covers the full cost of tuition.

A third track, Career Online High School, is an 18-month program that provides eligible employees with the flexibility to balance work and school and earn a high school diploma at their own pace, gaining real-world career skills with adult-focused class content, supported by academic advisers, all free of charge.

over 33,000

people now with a greater access to education

over 6,500

graduates from the english under the arches program

more than 425

Graduates of the career online high school program

Overcoming Challenges

With restaurants all across the country, McDonald’s biggest challenge was raising awareness about the opportunity.

As many employers involved in a franchise model can understand, spreading awareness about new opportunities to all corners of the community can be challenging and takes time. With locations in 101 countries, and more than 36,000 restaurants around the world serving 69 million people every day, it has been a journey for the company to communicate the availability of Archways to Opportunity as an added benefit to Franchisees and restaurant employees.

Though it can be a challenge, McDonald’s knows that the effort is well worth it. Take Sal Napoli, a McDonald’s franchise owner/operator from the Northeast, who recently wrote to tell McDonald’s Corporation how much he values the Archways to Opportunity program. He shared that the program is helping him to both recruit and retain exceptional talent in his 56 McDonald’s restaurants and that 46% of his employees participating in the program this year are repeat participants.

Trusted Education Partners

DePaul, Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America, Colorado Technical University, Excelsior College, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, the Career Online High School

Evolution & a Repeatable Model

McDonald’s approached its development of this upskilling education model by first gaining a thorough understanding of the needs of those who work at McDonald’s restaurants to ensure that the program they were developing directly aligned to education and career goals of those attending the programs.

Second, they relied on postsecondary education expert partners to help shape the program, including nonprofits, service providers, think tanks, academics, and partner colleges and universities.

Third, they continued to evolve the program based on feedback they received from Franchisees and employees. One of the major changes to the program was decreasing the time needed to qualify for eligibility. 

When the program first began, restaurant employees became eligible after 12 months of employment. Over time, that number shrunk to nine months, and most recently McDonald’s announced that employees can now become eligible after only 90 days of service.

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