The American fast food chain Chick-fil-A recently announced that it was awarding $14.5 million in scholarships to over 5,700 of its employees across the country this year:
The investment in this year’s program marks a $5.7 million increase since 2017 and is the one of the highest unrestricted per-employee scholarship investments in the industry. Team Members who are beginning or continuing their higher education will be awarded scholarships in the amount of $2,500 or $25,000.
Chick-fil-A’s “Remarkable Futures” education initiative allows students employed by the company’s local franchise Operators to receive up to $25,000 in scholarships that can be applied for any area of study at any accredited institution of their choice, including any two- or four-year colleges and universities, online programs or technical/vocational schools. There is no requirement of hours worked or length of service to qualify. In addition to $14.5 million in scholarships, all of Chick-fil-A’s 120,000 Team Members also have access to tuition discounts and other educational benefits at 100 colleges and universities nationwide.
Chick-fil-A, which has been awarding college scholarships since the 1970s, has provided more than $60.5 million in education funding for nearly 46,700 employees over the years. The company launched the Remarkable Futures program in 2016 to expand this initiative considerably, more than doubling the amount of funding it would provide for employees’ educations.
Other fast food employers in the US have also moved recently to introduce new education benefits or expand existing benefit programs for their employees. McDonald’s announced an expansion of its Archways to Opportunity program last month, reducing the amount of time a worker has to be employed there before becoming eligible for assistance. Taco Bell rolled out a new benefit in March after piloting it at 700 of its restaurants, which will provide workers access to more than 2,000 classes and programs through Guild Education (also a partner in Chipotle’s education benefit program). KFC also offers a range of education benefits, to which it recently added personal finance coaching.
While fast food is traditionally thought of as a high-turnover industry in which companies have little incentive to invest in their frontline employees’ long-term growth, labor market conditions in the US today have changed that calculation. With employers facing a tight labor market even in low-skill roles, it has become economical for them to offer these benefits as a means of retaining and developing these employees. Education benefits are seen as particularly effective retention tools, as they give employees an incentive to stay with the company long enough to become eligible for them and take advantage of them.