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As more restaurants work to support employees’ education goals, their approaches become more varied. Many work to provide scholarships or financial aid, some partner with different institutions to grant employees special access, and still others create programs with classes counting toward school credit.
KFC recently rolled out a new initiative in which staff could earn college credit for mandatory store training.
The brand had already applied for recognition with Brandon Hall, a research and analyst firm specializing in human resources solutions. In 2014 the company honored KFC with the Best Custom Content award for its self-paced online training. That affirmation ultimately led KFC to pursue the credit route for that same program.
“We thought if we can get recognition from the HR world for the programs that we offer, that should be good enough from the academic world,” says John Kurnick, chief people officer at KFC. “We applied through the ACE organization to get several of our programs recognized for college credit, and they were [approved]. We actually have nine credits that are available for our employees.”
The American Council on Education’s (ACE) College Credit Recommendation Service works with employers to assess their in-house educational programs, and, if they pass, advocate for them to be accepted by traditional degree programs. In this case, ACE did recommend college credit for five restaurant classes offered at KFC: Above Restaurant Leader Training; Assistant Manager and Restaurant GM Training; Shift Supervisor Training; Cook Training; and Guest Service Training.
“All of our training is online, web-based training, so we have a learning management system that our team members access it through a computer in the restaurant,” Kurnick says. “If they’re in college, they can go to ACE Credit website and apply for that course that they completed with KFC.”
As Kurnick points out, so long as team members do the basic training, they would eligible to receive college credit. Over time an employee could work their way up the KFC ladder from basic service team member to general manager or above restaurant leader, but such advancement would likely be longer than the typical college timeline.
Another remarkable part of KFC’s training is the format. A couple of years ago the brand switched up its training modules to better engage users.
“We’ve modified our training to include very interactive training—‘gamifaction,’ if you will—so we can actually have team members experience, in a web-based environment, the types of interactions that they might have with customers,” Kurnick says. “People don’t come to us always having the knowledge of how best to serve a customer or how to handle difficult customer situations.”
The new accreditation is just one part of a multipronged system the brand has in place to help its employees achieve their educational goals. Since the KFC Foundation was established in 2012, it has awarded $14 million in scholarships to 2,600 students, of which $4 million has been awarded to 2,100 restaurant employees. KFC also offers a GED initiative, which Kurnick says eight employees have already completed and 200 more are in progress.
“Not everybody comes from circumstances that allow them to have the financial resources to go to school. For us to be able to afford $2,500 a year in scholarships can certainly make the difference in someone pursuing the degree or not,” Kurnick says. “We get really excited when we send those checks out.”
He adds that KFC expect to continue its relationship with ACE and submit other programs for accreditation.
By Nicole Duncan