Apr 27th 2013 | EAST FINCHLEY
BRITISH universities can be depressing. The dons moan about their pay and students worry they will end up frying burgers—or jobless. Perhaps they should try visiting McDonald’s University in London’s East Finchley.
Students are often “rough and ready”, with poor qualifications and low self-esteem. But ambition-igniting murals display the ladder of opportunity that leads from the grill to the corner office (McDonald’s chief executives have always started at the bottom). A map of the world shows the seven counterpart universities. Cabinets display trophies such as the Sunday Times award for being one of Britain’s best 25 employers.
McDonald’s is one of Britain’s biggest trainers. It gets about 1m applicants a year, accepting only one in 15, and spends £40m ($61m) a year on training. The Finchley campus, opened by Margaret Thatcher, then the local MP, in 1989, is one of the biggest training centres in Europe—many of the classrooms are equipped with booths for interpreters. It is part of a bigger system. An employees’ web-portal, Our Lounge, provides training as well as details about that day’s shifts, and allows employees to compete against each other in work-related video games.
The focus is on practicalities. A retired policeman conducts a fast-paced class on conflict management. He shows a video of a woman driven berserk by the fact that you cannot get chicken McNuggets at breakfast time. He asks the class if they have ever had a difficult customer, and every hand goes up. Students are then urged to share their advice. (“Serve drunks quickly…”).
Self-esteem and self-management are on the syllabus, too. Steven Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” is a popular text. A year-long apprenticeship programme emphasising English and maths leads to a nationally recognised qualification. McDonald’s has paid for almost 100 people to get degrees from Manchester Metropolitan University.
The company professes to be unfazed by the fact that many alumni will end up working elsewhere. It needs to train people who might be managing a business with a £5m turnover by their mid-20s. It also needs to satisfy the company’s appetite for senior managers, one of whom will eventually control the entire global McDonald’s empire.
See online: A degree in burgerology—and a job, too