Susana married her high school sweetheart who joined the Coast Guard. A baby came and they moved around. She always wanted to go to college, but it was hard to make the commitment. Working as a Starbucks barista, Susana heard about the College Achievement Plan and signed up the day it was announced. “It’s my ticket to go back to school,” she said.
Part of a growing trend, Susana works for a company that provides education as an employee benefit. It’s primarily a talent development strategy. In some cases, it’s retention strategy. More broadly, it’s a corporate social responsibility strategy.
Guild Education in Denver supports the education as a benefit programs for Lyft, Walmart, Taco Bell, Discover, and Chipotle. Founder Rachel Carlson trademarked the term education as a benefit and is “glad to see it catching on.”
Following is a quick look at this emerging landscape.
Starbucks College Achievement Plan
Full and part-time U.S. partners (employees) at Starbucks enrolling in ASU Online are eligible for full tuition coverage toward a bachelor’s degree. Partners receive support from coaches and advisors, 24/7 tutoring on a variety of subjects, and a choice of more than 60 undergraduate degrees. The Starbucks reimbursement covers tuition cost beyond any aid provided by ASU or the federal government.
A year ago Arizona State University added a Pathway to Admission program which offers access to up to 10 freshman-level courses tuition-free.
ASU Online (@asuonline) serves 33,000 students and extends access to the nation’s most innovative university. As ASU proclaims, the partnership with Starbucks raises the bar for the role a public company can play in support of its employees’ life goals.
Amazon Career Choice
Though Amazon Career Choice the online giant pays up to 95% of tuition and fees (up to a yearly maximum) towards a certificate or diploma in qualified fields of study, leading to in-demand jobs. Some classes are held at Amazon facilities. More than 10,000 employees have participated.
The American Hotel and Lodging Association, the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Foundation and Pearson have recently partnered to launch a new pilot program to offer women and men in the hospitality industry a cost-free degree.
Thanks to this critical investment, AHLA member companies that invest in tuition-assistance programs, employees from 10 hotel brands, and management companies representing 1,500 hotel properties will have the opportunity to advance career and economic prospects through higher education – free from the barriers that traditionally stand in the way, such as costs, time commitments and complexity. It is a win-win scenario in its truest form.
Nearly half of the industry’s general managers started their careers in entry-level positions, while many C-Suite executives began their professional journeys as dishwashers, bellmen or front desk agents.
Brinkers Best You Edu
In January, Brinker International, owner of Chili’s and Maggiano’s, announced a no-cost partnership with Pearson, Best You EDU. Open to all Team Members (employees) who work at least 24 hours per week with a minimum tenure of 90 days, the program includes three components:
- No cost Foundational Program: Provides language, skills development and bilingual coaching in a mobile-first environment.
- No cost GED Program: Provides online GED prep curriculum, bilingual advisory support and unlimited test-pass GED credential guarantees.
- No cost associate degree: Provides an online pathway to an associate degree in business or general studies through a regionally accredited college, including all courses, text and study materials, advising and coaching support.
“I’m proud of these,” said Nathan Martin from Pearson, “particularly because it’s at no cost to employee and is tied to regionally accredited diplomas and certificates.”
Learning Together at Boeing
Through the Learning Together Program, Boeing reimburses college tuition, books and fees for degree and professional certificate programs and individual courses at high-quality schools.
McDonald’s Archways to Opportunity
Last month, McDonalds expanded access to tuition reimbursement through the Archways to Opportunity education program. They lowered eligibility requirements from nine months to 90 days of employment and dropped weekly shift minimums to 15 hours. Crew members (employees) are eligible for up to $2,500 per year, managers get $3,000 per year.
Online learning platforms developed in the last six years offer courses, stackable credentials (a series of units or courses that add up to an industry recognized mini-degree), and full degrees. Some, like Coursera, rely on university developed courses. Others, like Udacity offer courses co-authored by business partners.
Udacity nanodegrees are available to the public on a fee basis and offered free to employees at companies including Accenture, AT&T, General Electric, Google, IBM, and NVIDIA.
Contributing to Student Loans
Another strategy (one that’s more aimed at retention than advancement) is helping employees wipe out their student loans. Student Loan Genius built a platform for employers to help their employees pay their student loans. Their customers include financial giants New York Life, Prudential Financial, John Hancock, and Mastercard.
Employees Look to Employers for Retraining
With the rise of artificial intelligence, almost every job has been augmented with smart machines. Many tasks are being automated and some jobs are going away. Last fall, Gallup surveyed Americans about their preferred learning source if they lost their jobs to new technology. Nearly half say they would look to on-the-job training or other training offered by an employer. About one in five workers say they would prefer traditional programs at a college or university. Only 16% said they’d look to online programs.
The employer bias was stronger among blue-collar workers–about six in 10 compared to four in 10 white collar workers.
Given the American workers’ preference to look to employers for training, Gallup suggests, “Colleges and universities may want to partner with employers to provide workers with the skills they and the companies they work for require.”
Employers supporting degree completion develop their organizations while building community. But it’s important to recognize that proactive employers are just one part of a healthy regional learning ecosystem, we call them Smart Cities. Effective community elementary and secondary schools and accessible and responsive postsecondary institutions will play a critical role in supporting lifelong learning in the automation economy.
For more see:
- Attacking Complexity with Confidence
- Now That We’re Augmented, What Should We Learn?
- How ASU is Building the Capability and Character of Educators
- Ask About AI: The Future of Learning and Work
This post was originally published on Forbes.
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