Corporate "Universities" Offer College Credit to Employees-In-Training

April 19, 2013

Frustrated over the ongoing lack of available skilled workers, a growing number of major corporations -- Starbucks, McDonald's, Jiffy Lube, Wal-Mart and others -- have begun offering training classes themselves, according to The Hechinger Report. Many of these companies have negotiated tuition discounts at the local colleges and universities for their workers, and some of the courses are even eligible for college credit.

"What companies like is just-in-time learning that gives somebody a skill they need at the time they need it," said Mark Allen, a Pepperdine University business professor and author of "The Next Generation of Corporate Universities." "What traditional universities do to a large extent is just-in-case learning."

For training classes to qualify for college credit, they must be approved by the American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service. Employees take their transcripts to ACE, then the individual colleges and universities decide whether to accept the credits. About 2,000 of these educational institutions do so, said Mary Beth Lakin, director of ACE's College and University Partnerships.

The skills trainees learn from these courses include inventory, customer relations, finance, and management and ethics -- all business essentials, PolicyMic noted. For many people, these offerings can help them jump-start an education and/or a career: They can begin their education while working and continue both simultaneously.

In Seattle, Starbucks' courses, Barista Basics and Barista 101, each garner 1.5 credits from City University of Seattle, NewsFix reported. For supervisors, the coffee chain also provides 3-credit, higher-level management courses, such as cash and inventory control.

At its Hamburger University in Oak Park, Ill., McDonald's puts on weeklong training sessions where managers and potential managers hone their business and leadership skills, The Hechinger Report explained. From these sessions alone, workers can earn up to 23 credits, and managers can accrue as many as 27. Each year, about 5,000 individuals pursue this opportunity, which first requires months of online studying and on-site training internally .

Auto maintenance technicians at Jiffy Lube University can obtain college credit for two on-the-job and two online courses. Managers can earn three semester hours for taking classes that pertain to operating a business, such as finance basics.

While to some this approach to education might seem a bit capitalistic and un-Harvard-like -- inferior to a year's worth of learning at a real college -- pay that no mind, PolicyMic's Nastacia Leshchinskaya advised.

"If your goal is to get the degree and put it on your resume, once you graduate, it won't matter how you did it," she argues. "What will matter, if you decide to apply to graduate school, is how well you did, and scoring some credits through job training may lessen your college course load and help keep up your GPA."

Compiled by Doresa Banning


"Jobless and Undereducated? Suck It Up and Go to Hamburger University,", April 17, 2013, Nastacia Leshchinskaya

"Starbucks & Walmart offering college classes,", April 17, 2013

"Tired of waiting, employers provide just-in-time education,", April 15, 2013, Christopher Connell

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