Chipotle Mexican Grill added University of Denver to the universe of colleges and universities that employees have access to through a Chipotle partnership with Guild Education. Through the partnership, Chipotle employees can earn a degree through DU’s Bachelor of Arts completion program in its University College. The partnership with DU adds to existing educational benefits the company already provides its employees, including up to $5,250 in tuition reimbursement, and a discounted tuition program through Guild that offers reduced cost courses and degree programs at a number of colleges and universities.
Since expanding its education offerings in 2015 to include hourly workers as well as salaried employees, Chipotle has seen better than expected participation, improved retention, and higher promotion rates among participating employees. Since expanding the program, Chipotle has provided assistance to nearly 3,500 employees. The company’s education programs currently offer more than 2,000 class and program options to employees. The addition of the new degree program through DU’s University College offers a return to Chipotle’s roots of sorts, given that the first Chipotle restaurant is located just steps from DU’s main campus.
“Our goal in offering really strong educational benefits to our employees is to help prepare them for long-term and fulfilling careers,” says Steve Ells, founder, chairman and CEO at Chipotle. “A year into the program, we are hearing tremendous feedback from our employees, and seeing strong results in terms of enrollment, retention, and internal promotions among employees who are participating in the program.”
To help expand its educational benefits program, including the new degree at DU, Chipotle partnered with Guild Education and Guild’s network of non-profit colleges. Data from Guild Education shows that Chipotle’s restaurant employees enrolled in its programs who go back to school are twice as likely to be promoted at Chipotle, as compared to their peers. Restaurant employees enrolled in an education program with Guild are also nearly twice as likely to stay at Chipotle—89 percent of employees who enrolled stayed with the company for the following nine months.
Carlos Grajeda, a service manager at Chipotle in Denver, was one of the first employees to take advantage of continuing education benefits through Guild. After struggling to complete college twice, Grajeda began working at Chipotle and soon after learned about Chipotle's education benefits.
“Chipotle offered me an affordable way to go back to school, and I’m beyond grateful,” Grajeda says. “I worked with Guild to complete a management training program and earn some college credits, and then I decided to take the next step and enroll in a degree program at Colorado State University-Global Campus. My life has been filled with more purpose and direction than ever before.”
“Chipotle team members are not only hard-working employees—they are also dedicated learners on the path to an entirely new form of the American apprenticeship,” says Rachel Carlson, CEO and co-founder of Guild Education. “Companies like Chipotle are leading on new and innovative solutions to support and retain great employees like Carlos.”