Helping Employees Cross the Stage

September 26, 2018

Today in the United States an estimated 38 million adult Americans do not have a high school diploma, according to Career Online High School. 

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that those without high school diplomas are nearly three times more likely to be unemployed than college graduates. And even when employed, those without high school diplomas annually earn nearly $8,000 less than high school graduates and roughly $26,500 less than college graduates, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education.

As the respective employers of 850,000 restaurant employees in thousands of communities across the U.S., McDonald’s and its franchisees know that a significant number of restaurant employees are among those 38 million without high school diplomas. Through our comprehensive education program, Archways to Opportunity, we are preparing the employees of today for the business of tomorrow. The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce says that by 2020 65% of all jobs will require some college education and training beyond high school.

At McDonald’s, we’re working hard to help restaurant employees get the education and training they need to succeed not just in their restaurants, but in their lives for the long-term. We didn’t just guess about what they need – we asked restaurant employees directly what we could do to help them achieve their life goals. They told us about their ambitions to finish high school then go on to college to earn a degree, advance their careers and determine their own path for success. Restaurant employees come from all walks of life and told us they want programs that offer choice and flexibility. They also shared the primary barriers they face in realizing their educational goals: affordability, access and time.

Our answer – Archways to Opportunity. We designed it in a way that aims to reduce, and in many cases, eliminate those barriers altogether. The opportunities available through Archways provide eligible employees at participating U.S. restaurants the chance to earn their high school diploma, receive upfront college tuition assistance, access free education advising services and learn English as a second language. This summer, our Career Online High School program crossed a milestone – the graduation of the 400th restaurant employee. And by the end of 2018, McDonald’s USA can expect 500 restaurant employees to have earned their high school diplomas through this program.

Just last month, Betty Sanchez, a crew member at a McDonald’s in Schaumburg, Illinois owned by Laura Herrera, received her high school diploma from Career Online High School offered through Archways. 

As a teenager, Betty found herself as a single mom. Trying to juggle raising her children, working and school proved difficult and she made the tough decision to drop out of school. But three years ago, when she began working at her McDonald’s, Betty’s managers told her about the Archways program – opening a new, free and flexible education pathway for her. At first, Betty found the online courses challenging and she missed having a teacher. But the coach provided to her through the program was responsive, helpful and kept her motivated. Even as a newly minted high school graduate, Betty already wants to pursue more education.  

Betty is among the more than 27,300 people who have enrolled in programs through Archways to Opportunity and been awarded more than $26 million in high school and college tuition assistance since its founding in 2015.

At McDonald’s, we’ve seen first-hand how our Archways program is helping people on a pathway to a bigger and better career and helping businesses close the skills gap and offer a competitive advantage in the labor market. 

Sal Napoli, a McDonald’s franchise owner/operator from the Northeast, recently wrote to tell us how much he values the Archways program. He shared that Archways is helping him to both recruit and retain exceptional talent in his 56 McDonald’s restaurants and that 46% of his employees participating in Archways this year are repeat participants.

When it comes to education, McDonald’s is guided by these principles:

  • Education helps people reach their full potential. 
  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution to education. 
  • Programs that work best are ones that meet people where they are. 

We also believe that for Archways to continue being successful in creating upskilling and education attainment pathways, strong partnerships at the local and national level are paramount. We have partnerships with high schools, workforce boards, community colleges, universities and foundations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. These partnerships are critical to bridging the gap between education policy and practice and we welcome leaders from every sector to join us in our effort to expand and extend career pathways for America’s workforce.