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You want fries with that apprenticeship?

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Hot on the tail of National Apprenticeship week, we take a look at how modern apprenticeships are being played out in the largest, global fast food retailer.

MacDonald's has certainly worked magic on its image as an employer in recent years - what was once thought of as a dead-end job with zero prospects for no-hopers, these days with its degrees, diplomas and fast-tracking career option, the golden arches are offering its staff golden opportunities - super-sized!

Since McDonald's became one of the largest apprenticeship providers in January 2009, it has signed up a phenomenal 5,000 employees to its apprenticeship scheme. Many who have benefitted have been those worst hit by the financial crisis - the long-term unemployed and 16-24s.

Shaking up skills

A great example is eighteen-year-old Samuel Bennet from Bristol who started working for McDonald's when he was 16 in late 2008. After starting on the McDonald's apprenticeship scheme he achieved the equivalent of five GCSEs and other academic skills and is now set to become a shift running manager in the next few weeks.

Samuel is delighted with how far the apprenticeship scheme has taken him: "It's become my job to act as a trainer – passing on my knowledge and understanding of working at McDonald's has really shown me just how much I've learnt in such a short space of time," he says.

He added: "With so much more on the horizon I believe that I'll be more than capable to run my own company one day – a career prospect that I hadn't considered before working at McDonald's."

Last April, mother of four, Jodie O'Neil went on a three-week work trial at McDonald's in Manchester as part of a nationwide scheme with job centres to help the long-term unemployed back to work. After successfully completing the programme she became a full-time employee and apprentice and has now been fast-tracked for the management programme.

David Fairhurst, senior VP, chief people officer, McDonald's UK & Northern Europe, is the first to laud Jodie's achievements: "We're very excited about her future with us. Apprenticeships give people the confidence and pride to do their jobs well. A year ago, we announced ambitious plans to become one of the UK's biggest apprenticeship providers. Within this short timeframe, apprenticeships are delivering both for our people and our business," he explains.

A side-order of qualifications

However, it is not just the unemployed or 16-25 year olds who've finished school who wish to join McDonald's renowned scheme. Nineteen-year-old Jamie Debenham joined McDonald's to initially help fund his college studies; however, he was won over by the opportunities the company offered and is now working towards his level two apprenticeship in multi-skilled hospitality; equivalent of five GCSEs.

Some of the qualifications McDonald's offer employees:

  • 'Skills for Life' in literacy and numeracy (maths and English GCSE equivalents)
  • A Level 2 National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in multi-skilled hospitality
  • 'Key Skills' (generic, transferable workplace skills in communication and application of number)   
  • Nationally-recognised GCSE-equivalent qualifications in Maths and English, delivered through its dedicated employee website, with exams sat in exam-centre restaurants
  • A Level-equivalent Diploma in shift management
  • Management development programmes that enable employees to keep progressing beyond this

A common concern within organisations who wish to create apprenticeships is that they will invest the appropriate money but not get enough from their employees in the long run; however, people are willing to engage as David points out: "It's been exciting to see that our people clearly have such a strong appetite to learn. Look at employees like Jodie O'Neil, and you immediately see the value of apprenticeships."

McDonald's successful apprenticeship scheme has hopefully begun to pave the way for other organisations. In times such as the present economic crisis, their scheme cannot be more vital and sought after; boosting the morale of thousands of employees as well as providing exceptional experience and qualifications.

David recognises the positive impact of the programme and what it has done for so many people who thought they wouldn't succeed in their jobs, and implies it is up to businesses to do their part in aiding economic struggles.

He concludes: "UK businesses have a vital role to play in helping the economy to recover. Apprenticeships have taken on a renewed importance in these tough times and employers' investment in their people can only be good news for the wider economy."

Have you got any apprenticeship success stories? If so we'd love to hear them. Email [email protected] or add your comments to this thread.

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