From education to employment

Exclusive with McDonalds Jez Langhorn

Our people were telling us they wanted externally recognised qualifications to be on offer, which is where the idea came from. We have 67,000 employees working different shifts, and the only effective way to reach them all was the internet. We had to come up with innovative ways of getting people what they wanted.

To develop the course, we worked with partner company Cambridge Training and Development and worked closely with the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) with the support of the Department for Education and Skills (DFES). It’s taken about nine months to bring it to market. The qualifications are called Skills for Life, which is already a pre-existing national qualification – what’s new is the way of accessing the information.

We”re expecting people to work from home or an internet café, wherever they are online, although the majority work from home. All stores have at least one internet-connected PC. So far, 22 people have signed up and are working through the learning programme, and we”re expecting around 1,000 people to sign up a year. Staff feedback has been very good so far, universally very positive.

One of the real benefits is that students can take their time as it suits them. The timetable is up to you, and each person has an online tutor which supports them. If there’s no activity for a while, we send people an email to remind them. On average, a person takes about 35-40 hours to finish the course, working in their own time or on their breaks. How long it takes depends on your skill level. The course is very flexible and can fit in around your lifestyle.

When students log on, there’s first a Screener, which is a selection of multiple choice questions. These check skills and give people an introduction. Then there’s a thorough skills assessment in English or Maths, which assesses what the opportunities for learning are. The software will generate a learning plan tailored to the individual’s needs, with online modules.

Students have the support of an online tutor at level 1 or 2 and work through those. Once done, there are mock exams, with tips to help people prepare. Learners have to pass two mocks successfully before the final exams which are sat at accredited exam centres. People book a slot online and take the exam in a restaurant.

We”ve so far identified 200 centres, and there will be training invigilators in the restaurants. We”ll allocate a quiet working office, or suitable office area for the exams, which take about 1 1/4 hours. We”re offering qualifications in Maths and English but we”d like to offer further qualifications online.

The qualification applies to young people who”ve left school and more mature workers. We have several hundred employees over 55, who might find it useful to brush up their English and Maths skills.

Jez Langhorn, Reputation Manager, McDonald’s UK.

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