McDonald’s is to offer 10-days work experience as part of a GCSE-equivalent qualification for the first time ever, the fast food giant will reveal today.
Teenagers will have to apply online and attend a formal interview to get onto the work placement programme, which will lead to a BTEC Level 2 in hospitality, accredited externally by Edexcel – the equivalent of a GSCE grade B-C.
HR chief David Fairhurst told Personnel Today the McDonald’s 10-day scheme would cover 80% of the work required for the qualification – totalling 80 hours’ work – while the remaining 20% would be taught in schools.
Teachers would need to fill in workbooks with students outlining what they expected to achieve before their placement, which McDonald’s has helped design, in a bid to help teenagers and employers take work experience seriously.
Fairhurst said: “When lots of people are struggling to find employment, improving employability is really important, so we’re making a big step change to enhance the work experience we’re providing and become the first employer to provide a qualification in work skills.”
The chief people officer added that the qualification would give the pupils “an edge at job interview” as it proved the candidate had obtained worthwhile job skills rather than just making cups of tea or photocopying.
During the 10-day stint based within restaurants, 14- to 19-year-olds will work the tills and practise customer service and team-working skills with the help of a mentor. They will also learn about food preparation and waste recycling.
The ‘work experience GCSE’ comes as a poll of 2,000 teenagers, commissioned by the high-street chain and published today, found that half (51%) believed there were not enough quality placements and one-fifth (22%) felt their host employers had not planned the work experience well enough in advance.
In January 2008, McDonald’s began accrediting its own GCSE and A-level qualifications. Critics immediately attacked the move, warning that ‘Mc A-levels’ would dumb down the education system and would not be recognised by other employers.
Fairhurst admitted that the move caused “a big debate about the role of learning in the workplace” but claimed those same critics have now realised the potential – McDonald’s has awarded 3,000 A-levels and 3,000 maths and English GCSEs each year since self-accreditation began.
“When we became an awarding body that did shake the institution, because it was new, different and people had to think differently about how education and employers worked together. I would ask people to judge us on what we’re delivering,” he said.
He insisted that the vocational-style qualification, expected to launch later this year, would be as tough as any traditional GSCE gained in the classroom over two years.
“Eighty hours on any programme in a school is worth a few terms of work, so it’s actually quite a significant amount of academic time. There is an expectation that students take this very seriously.”
Teachers can also encourage students to try out their new skills in recycling or food hygiene by giving them special projects back at school, he said. Parents would also have access to a guide to help them teach children the importance of work placements.
Thousands of people could apply for and be accepted onto the scheme, Fairhurst said. But store managers would be responsible for hiring individuals in their areas, so central HR teams would not be burdened, he claimed.
Flybe and Network Rail are among the other employers that can award their own qualifications in-house, but the McDonald’s work experience qualification is thought to be the first of its kind.
Fairhurst said he hoped other employers would follow suit. With record numbers of young people unemployed, it was the “right thing to do” to prepare them for work, he said.
He will launch the work experience qualification at the Institute for Education Business Excellence conference in Birmingham today, where he will call on more than 300 teachers and headteachers for their support.