Companies provide ‘just-in-time’ education

A dozen Fortune 500 companies are teaching business skills to their workers, writes Christopher Connell in the Hechinger Report. Often employees can earn college credits as well as promotions, starting them on the path to a degree.

Mark Allen, a Pepperdine University business professor and author of “The Next Generation of Corporate Universities,” likens it to the kind of efficient, just-in-time logistics that keep costly inventories low until they’re needed. It’s also a reflection of companies’ impatience with the pace at which conventional higher education adapts to workplace needs.

“What companies like is just-in-time learning that gives somebody a skill they need at the time they need it,” Allen says. “What traditional universities do to a large extent is just-in-case learning.”

Starbucks workers earn credits from City University of Seattle for “Barista Basics” and “Barista 101” and higher-level management courses.

Jiffy Lube University teaches the company’s standards and culture to franchisees. The University of Farmers also imparts corporate values and culture to Farmers Insurance Company’s agents.

McDonald’s sends 5,000 managers and prospective managers each year to the chain’s Hamburger University for a week of business training.

“Selling hamburgers is what we do. But it’s the business philosophy and leadership that creates success,” says Shelly Hicks, who first came through Hamburger University’s doors when she was a restaurant manager in Nashville and now is one of the 16 “professors” at Oak Brook (Illinois).

McDonald’s store managers can earn up to 23 credits toward associate’s or bachelor’s degrees for the courses they take at Hamburger U, and higher-ups can earn as many as 27 credits; Hicks used hers toward a business degree and went on to get a master’s degree in adult education that helps her in her training role.

Indiana’s Ivy Tech Community College counts 18 McDonald’s training credits toward associate’s degrees. Some Hamburger U students get their transcripts approved by the American Council on Education so they can use the credits toward degrees at accredited universities.

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