Employer Solutions to Higher Education

By: Ben Watson, Intern, Government Relations and Public Affairs

On June 20, 2017, the bipartisan Franchise and Small Business Caucuses hosted a briefing on Employer Solutions to Higher Education. Hosted by Congressman Rodney Davis, the distinguished panel included Joel Simon, VP of Workforce and Economic Development for the Council for Adult & Experiential Learning, Dominique Raymond, Strategy Director for the Lumina Foundation, Lisa Schumacher, Director of Education Strategies for the McDonald’s Corporation, Ashley Welburn, a McDonald’s Franchisee, and John Reynolds, President of the IFA’s Franchise Education and Research Foundation.

Congressman Davis introduced the panel by telling the audience about franchising’s impact in his own life. His father began working at a McDonald’s at the age of sixteen, and worked his way up to eventually owning his own McDonald’s franchise, where Congressman Davis worked from the age of fourteen until he was twenty-three. He cited the franchise as his first introduction to government, as he quickly saw how lawmakers’ decisions affected his parent’s ability to hire and manage their employees. He also explained how his mother, a high school dropout, could have benefitted from education programs like those currently offered by many franchise companies.

Lisa Schumacher began the panel by introducing McDonald’s education strategy, entitled Archways to Opportunity, which meets employees at their point of need on their educational journey. This strategy has four different parts to it; English as a second language, high school completion, college completion, and academic advising. In each of these programs, employees are paid for their time in the classroom. The English language program not only impacts employees’ ability to work in the restaurant, but helps tremendously in their personal life. The high school completion program is an online program designed for working-age adults and allows them to graduate with a high school diploma, not a GED. The college completion program is a result of partnerships, both national and regional, with colleges and universities. McDonald’s offers tuition assistance to both their crew and management, and their management program has credit recommendations of up to 24 credits for college courses. Lastly, McDonald’s academic advising program helps their employees navigate the complex world of college education. Many employees are first generation college students, and this program assists them in everything from time management to FASFA forms. Ms. Schumacher closed by reminding the audience that McDonald’s was just one of many large companies offering similar programs to Archways to Opportunity.

Dominique Raymond followed by discussing the Lumina Foundation and their efforts to improve higher education. The Lumina Foundation is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. She explained that the definition of the “traditional student,” is changing. Students are more likely to work part time to pay for their education, and the Lumina Foundation invests in large scale projects to help students do both. Lumina focuses on not only college education, but other meaningful and marketable credentials beyond a high school diploma. They work to connect these credentials to suitable career paths.

John Reynolds, the President of the IFA’s Franchise Education & Research Foundation, highlighted the role the franchise industry can play in education. “Employers want to advance their employees,” Reynolds stated, “and many of our member businesses have these types of programs to do just that.” He pointed out that the franchise model, in which a franchisee operates a system that a franchisor has perfected, was the perfect place to distribute training and development programs.

Lastly, McDonald’s franchisee Ashley Welburn, owner of 45 McDonald’s franchise locations in the DMV area, showcased her implementation of the Archways to Opportunities programs within her franchise locations. Ashley herself began as a crew member at her father’s McDonald’s franchise, and worked her way to manager, supervisor, and eventually owner. Of her 1,600 employees, 150 have already graduated from one of the four Archways programs. She said she has already seen the confidence grow in her employees who have participated in these programs, and it has improved both their interactions with customers and their daily life. She recently held a graduation ceremony in one of her McDonald’s locations for an employee who initially dropped out of high school because of bullying, but received a diploma through the Archways program. She stressed how proud this employee was to tell his children he was a high school graduate.

The panel did an excellent job informing the audience on the impact franchises can have in secondary education. In an age where student debt is at an all-time high, and access to affordable education is increasingly limited, it is essential for businesses to provide support to its employees. Employing 7.6 million people across the nation, the franchise industry is instrumental in the implementation of secondary education programs.