McDonald’s announced plans last Wednesday to give $2 million to non-profit organizations working to build skills and improve employability among young people in Chicago, where the fast food giant is headquartered, the Chicago Tribune reported last week:
In Chicago, about $1 million for pre-employment training will be split among Phalanx Family Services, based in West Pullman neighborhood; After School Matters, situated in the Loop; Central States SER, a workforce development nonprofit in Little Village; and Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, which began as a career training program through World Business Chicago with support from Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Those nonprofits, vetted and selected by the International Youth Foundation, McDonald’s partner in the initiative, will teach soft skills like communication, problem solving and anger management.
An additional $1 million will go solely to Skills for Chicagoland’s Future to support a new two-year apprenticeship program at City Colleges of Chicago that will allow students to earn associate degrees in business for restaurant management jobs, the company said. That program is intended to build careers for young people, specifically at McDonald’s.
David Fairhurst, McDonald’s executive vice president and chief people officer, told the Tribune that the company was making this investment in an effort “to be a good neighbor.” McDonald’s moved its headquarters to central Chicago’s West Town neighborhood in 2016, trading its original suburban campus in Oak Brook, Illinois for the former site of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios.
The initiative announced last week is not the first investment McDonald’s has made this year in workforce development: In March, it expanded its Archways to Opportunity employee education program, increasing the value of the benefit and making it available to employees after just 90 days on the job. The company has committed $150 million to the program over the coming five years.
Like other corporate social responsibility efforts focused on education and training, last week’s move also has a direct upside for McDonald’s itself in expanding its Chicagoland talent pool for both restaurant and corporate jobs. This is why community training programs are potentially a highly effective CSR investment: They have brand benefits in making a company more attractive to socially conscious customers and candidates, while additionally creating new pipelines for talent with a unique affinity toward their employer.
This blending of social responsibility and self-interested workforce development is something we’ve seen other major US companies engage in this year. In March, Home Depot made a $50 million donation to a decade-long project that aims to train 20,000 new construction workers throughout the US, helping to address a growing shortage in the labor market and provide opportunities to veterans and disadvantaged youth—but also growing the community of tradespeople whose patronage accounts for 40 percent of Home Depot’s revenue. Its main competitor, Lowe’s, launched a new vocational training program in February that will pay for store employees to train in skilled trades like carpentry, plumbing, and appliance repair, and place successful trainees in full-time paid apprenticeships within Lowes’ contractor network.
Big tech companies, which face talent shortages in a variety of skilled roles, have also been making major investments in this arena. Google took its internal IT support training public in January and offered full funding to 10,000 students in the US, regardless of whether they end up working at Google or not. In Europe, Facebook and Apple have been expanding their digital training programs as a mix of community engagement and pipeline-building, while Intel devoted $1 million to training refugees for tech jobs.