Back in July, McDonald’s U.S. chief people officer, Melissa Kersey, said the fast-food chain had the opportunity and leverage to play a pivotal role in the country’s evolving labor force. The company, which employs about 850,000 individuals across the U.S. either directly or through its franchise partners, was facing down an issue affecting businesses nationwide: How do you fill jobs amid a shrinking workforce?

McDonald’s conducted a Workforce Preparedness Study with Morning Consult. The survey of some 6,200 people (966 Gen Z respondents) from the general U.S. population found that soft skills such as teamwork, customer service, and responsibility are in high demand, yet remain in short supply.

“If we don’t address the current gap in soft skills, particularly for Gen Zs, it will have a detrimental impact on the future of work in our nation,” Kersey told QSR at the time.

Now, McDonald’s is doing something about it. The chain announced October 30 the launch of its “Where You Want To Be” campaign. McDonald’s is calling it “a concerted effort by the company to help restaurant employees connect the skills they learn on the job with the education, tuition assistance, and career tools available to take the next step in their professional journey—whether at McDonald’s or elsewhere.”

From the earlier study, McDonald’s said it discovered that arts/entertainment, technology, entrepreneurship, healthcare, and restaurant/foodservice were top industries employees aspired to be in.

Through “Where You Want To Be,” McDonald’s will look to educate restaurant employees on the professional tools available to them through the company’s Archways to Opportunity education and career advising program. And based on those five industries identified from the study, McDonald’s partnered with five influencers from each field to provide a special experience for select employees to learn first-hand what a future career in that industry looks like.

They include:

  • Technology: Digital Content Creator, former McDonald’s crew member, Tyler Oakley
  • Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneur and Author, James Altucher
  • Healthcare: Board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon, Dr. Meena Singh
  • Restaurant/Food Service: Community of McDonald’s Owner/Operators

“This campaign started by listening to employees,” Kersey said in a statement. “By connecting restaurant employees’ aspirations with the necessary education tools and career advising services to achieve them, we continue to reinforce our role as America’s Best First Job. Through this campaign and our ongoing education investments we are committed to helping all those who come to work for us—or our independent franchisees—to see the possibility of their own potential.”

Employees can submit a video at, describing why McDonald’s is where they want to be today, in order to learn the skills that will help take them to where they want to be tomorrow, for a chance to win a career shadow day in their desired field. 

    “Our current workforce needs more innovative and flexible options for learning. In order to deliver on that need, employers and universities must be better aligned and more responsive to the needs of adult and working learners,” added Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University, an Archways to Opportunity partner. “I have huge admiration for the work McDonald’s is doing to develop the workforce, foster greater educational attainment, and unlock opportunities for restaurant employees.”

    Archways to Opportunity has a new suite of career advising tools as well, and the “Where You Want To Be” campaign will serve to highlight them. Together with longstanding Archways education partner, Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, McDonald’s aims to improve employees’ experience with career pathing solutions to better position them for long-term career success, the company said.


    • Career Advising Services: Available immediately, restaurant employees can access no-cost career and academic advising services with a Master’s-level prepared advisor to create a plan for reaching short and long-term education goals that bridge to career pathways.
    • Career Exploration Tool: In 2019, McDonald’s restaurant employees will gain access to a rich new mobile experience for career and education exploration through a mobile app featuring built-in guidance and resources to help people advance their careers. Restaurant employees will be able to understand the valuable skills they are developing, understand their strengths, find local education, and link to growth opportunities in a variety of careers. This tool will be connected to existing advisors who are able to support restaurant

    “As a young worker, it can be hard to look beyond the day-to-day and think about the future, but services like this can be a huge help for youth that may not know what careers are available to them and need help mapping out how to grow their skills, education and interests to be set up for success,” said Dr. Marie Cini, president of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning. “With this new offering, McDonald’s is giving restaurant employees a big leg up in their journey to building the futures they want.”

    The campaign also underscores McDonald’s broader commitment to education and advancement opportunities within its system.

    Some highlights from 2018:

    • Invested $150 million into Archways to Opportunity, which provides eligible employees at participating U.S. restaurants an opportunity to earn a high school diploma, receive upfront college tuition assistance, access free education advising services and learn English as a second language. Since the Archways to Opportunity program launched in 2015, it has increased education access for over 33,000 people and awarded more than $42 million in high school and college tuition assistance.
    • Launched a new initiative with the International Youth Foundation called Youth Opportunity that sets a global goal to reduce barriers to employment for two million young people by 2025 through pre-employment job readiness training, employment opportunities and education programs.
    • Expanded the McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship from five to 30 winners, providing more Hispanic students the opportunity to obtain a college degree. Scholarship applicants have the opportunity to directly receive up to $100,000 to help finance their tuition.
    • Partnered with the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund to support historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) by funding four “True to the HBCU” $10,000 scholarships as a way to help foster educational empowerment.

    On the soft skills front, McDonald’s has taken action to modernize its training programs for restaurant employees, including the debut of digital training that places a greater focus on hospitality and prioritizes teaching people skills like customer service and teamwork while emphasizing attitude and communication.

    In terms of cultivating soft skills, McDonald’s Workforce Preparedness Study found workforce experience and, specifically, first jobs as being particularly important—more so, in fact, than either home or school.

    That reality highlights the important role McDonald’s and so many of its other quick-service peers play in closing the soft skills gap. One in three adults received their first job experience in a restaurant, according to data from the National Restaurant Association. The soft skills developed early on can build a foundation for future roles, in the restaurant industry or elsewhere.

    Employee Management, Story, McDonald's