McDonald’s makes a big pledge to help young workers

The company plans to invest $2 million in workforce training in Chicago and pledges to reduce employment barriers for 2 million young people.
Photograph courtesy of McDonald's Corp.

McDonald’s Corp. on Wednesday said it would invest $2 million in workforce grants and other assistance in its Chicago hometown as part of an effort to reduce barriers to employment for 2 million people by 2025.

The Youth Opportunity initiative also includes a pledge to offer 43,000 apprenticeships in Europe by 2025 as part of the effort.

McDonald’s, which has been working feverishly in recent years to improve its image, said it is joining the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, which is led by the United Nations’ International Labour Organization (ILO).

The company’s $2 million in investments will include $1 million in grants to local community organizations in Chicago to help with job readiness training.

It also includes another $1 million in grants to Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, a nonprofit training program that will develop a new apprenticeship with City Colleges of Chicago.

“With 64 million young people unemployed worldwide, the youth employment challenge is vast and affects all countries,” Sukti Dasgupta, chief of employment and labor market policies with the ILO, said in a statement. She said McDonald’s initiative “has the potential to support many young women and men, especially in disadvantaged areas, with relevant skills for employability.”

The move comes as McDonald’s, along with numerous other restaurant chains and employers, deals with a mounting labor shortage in the U.S., which is driving up wages and hurting profits. The unemployment rate was 3.9% in July.

But it is considerably higher among young people. The unemployment rate for people 16 to 19 years old was 13.1%. For African-Americans in that age range, the unemployment rate was 19.9%.

Young people are a frequent source of labor for restaurant chains, and particularly fast-food concepts that need a steady supply of unskilled employees.

“Too many young people are finding that, through no fault of their own, there are barriers to entry into the workplace,” McDonald’s Chief People Officer David Fairhurst said in a statement. He said that McDonald’s and participating franchisees “are expanding our world-class workplace training and education programs to go beyond those that we hire.”

As part of its effort, McDonald’s will work with local community organizations and the International Youth Foundation (IYF) to offer pre-employment work-readiness and a “soft skills” training program.

Such programs are designed to help young people develop the competencies employers are looking for in entry-level workers. McDonald’s is piloting the effort in Chicago, with plans to help 4,000 people, before it rolls the program out to other cities in the U.S. next year.

In Latin America, giant McDonald’s franchisee Arcos Dorados plans to reach 180,000 young people with pre-employment training programs.

The company is also bringing together four community organizations—After School Matters, Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, Phalanx Family Services and Central States SER—to pair skills training programs with a curriculum IYF developed with McDonald’s.

The effort helps with soft skills such as communication skills, problem solving, conflict management and “self-awareness and management.” Graduates will be considered for jobs at McDonald’s, but they will also have the opportunity to pursue other jobs in numerous other industries such as health care, supply chain and information technology.

The apprenticeship program being developed with City Colleges of Chicago starts this fall and will enable 40 students to earn an associate degree in business while working toward a restaurant management role. The grant will provide scholarships to pay for time spent in class by any student who is an employee of a McDonald’s franchisee.

“There continues to be a disconnect between employers struggling to find qualified candidates and young adults looking for jobs,” Marie Trzupek Lynch, founding president and CEO of Skills for Chicagoland’s Future. She said McDonald’s effort sends “a clear signal that they are investing in young people and their career pathways.”

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