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McDonald’s Now Offers Courses Equivalent To A-Levels

You must have just entered your house after eating a horrible, calorie-filled meal of French Fries, Cheeseburger and a super sized Soda from McDonald’s. Sit on your couch, switch on the TV (or the internet) and get ready to see/hear some amazing news-

All your dreams have been answered. The Qualifications and the Curriculum Authority of UK has given the fast food giant the liberty of offering courses “equivalent” to A- levels. You can now enroll in training and development courses at the “school” which will be started by the world’s biggest tyrant, who has earned a notorious reputation for its greasy, unhealthy and soggy food.

I agree to the fact that such a move will help the company better train potential employees. And people who want to work for McDonald’s (I don’t know in what capacity- Dish washer, server, cashier, branch manager etc) can definitely look forward to receiving good hands-on education. I doubt that people who will be placed in senior management positions will go to their school because of the comparatively low level of education that will be offered.

I have a feeling that people who will enter their training programs will obviously prefer McD’s schooling over the traditional schooling that’s provided elsewhere in the country. What kind of people will want to enter such a training school? Obviously they don’t care very much if this A-levels equivalent degree will ever get them into a decent undergrad college. Maybe they don’t even want to go to college and are happy with this McDonald’s degree, which I think, is good only for getting a job at McDonald’s!

Another angle that needs to be explored here is whether McDonald’s really needs such an approval to start a “training” course, which is primarily aimed at future McD employees.

And by the time they graduate and get ready to work, they’ll look like this the man in picture on the left…or maybe 30 pounds lighter.

And if you think that that one meal at McDonald’s didn’t do you any measurable harm, then you need to take a look at their Nutrition Facts. Since I’ve come to the US, I haven’t been to McDonald’s more than three times. And I drank a coffee (tasteless), ate a salad and a baby sized ice-cream.

I’ve noticed that most of the workers at McD joints are considerably over-weight, inspite of the fact that they work on long shifts. Obviously they consume more number of calories compared to the number of calories that they burn while working. Imagine what’s going to McD for your schooling will do to you. Forget about the so-called education, I wouldn’t go there for the sake of my health.

If you’ve not already seen it, then I highly recommend that you get a copy of Super Size Me and watch it. Even Fast Food Nation is an amazing movie that is loosely based on the book (same name) and reveals lots of hidden truths of fast food companies.

Even if the employees will be better trained because of this course, it still won’t change the very back end of the McDonald’s operation model- suppliers of meat. And it is this highly processed meat that you eat. Does it matter that the cashier or the cook is/will be better organized? Or maybe it does. You’ll feel happier eating that pile of grease on your tray.

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18 thoughts on “McDonald’s Now Offers Courses Equivalent To A-Levels

  1. “I’ve noticed that most of the workers at McD joints are considerably over-weight, inspite of the fact that they
    work on long shifts. Obviously they consume more number of calories compared to the number of calories that they burn while working. Imagine what’s going to McD for your schooling will do to you. Forget about the so-called education, I wouldn’t go there for the sake of my health.”

    That was too good 😛

    Okay, I would really want to see a before and after photo of a McD Graduate !!

  2. @ Ankur Aggarwal:

    CEOs of McD or CEOs of other firms? If it’s the latter, then I haven’t heard. Give me some examples. 🙂 Any comment on the actual content of the post?

    @Dinsan

    Yes, me too. 🙂 Would love to see the mental and physical improvement.

  3. @Ankur

    Very interesting, but did you notice that the only CEO in the entire list was Jeff Bezos (that too as a student). The others are all in the entertainment industry (to which I don’t attach much importance).

    @Balu

    Ahh good question! 🙂 I’m sure they’ll have a ceremony, complete with french fries, burgers and sodas. All free, of course. 🙂 I don’t know if it’s a sham/publicity. I guess not, else they wouldn’t be seeking an approval, right? But what’s the need of taking an approval when all that the corporation is doing is starting something like a “training program” for its future employees?

  4. @Balu

    Sounds like a way of employing people without paying them any money..

    Are you talking about the education? If that’s the case, then even though I don’t understand this certified training, I would beg to differ. In all fairness, it’s not a way of employing people without paying money.

    Well those people will actually enroll, right? 🙂 So they have a reason to feel proud.

  5. scotchcart says:

    Actually I don’t think it is so bad to offer A levels. Not everyone has a choice of where to work.

    I just think McDonalds is sad. Let’s play this out. If you are driving along a major road in the UK and you are tired and you have fluffed your arrangements. You are hungry and you have no food with you. WHAT IS THE CHOICE? So you pull in, and hopefully the loo is reasonable and you try to work out what is on the menu – and the funny thing is that NO ONE KNOWS. People who eat there somehow have an internal menu, it is the same with KFC, that doesn’t correspond with the board. It is mystery. Someone makes the board. Someone makes the food. Some one eats the food. But with zero connection in between. Not unlike dealing with government departments.

    And then you eat the food. My, that is a disgusting experience. And so you hasten home to wash you mouth out, and eat some fruit – I drank a large neat scotch.

    What is sad is that they are there. All that tells us is that we are happy with that. And I will land up eating in them again, for that reason. And if they are there because we buy from them, kids will work there. And if kids work there, I would rather they get a recognised qualification than not. It is sad but we have to make the best of bad situation.

    McDonalds survive because they work in locations and at times no one else is interested in. No one else wants to work that hard. Let the kids have A levels – it will be a badge of get up and go and survival of the fittest (no pun intended.)

  6. @ scotchcart:

    Thanks for your comment. While I agree that sometimes we don’t really have a choice and that we might be stuck with McD food, I don’t quite understand this part of your comment:

    And if they are there because we buy from them, kids will work there. And if kids work there, I would rather they get a recognised qualification than not.

    Why will kids work there just because we buy food from them? This will only happen if the kid can’t afford a traditional education and decides to join McD school (presuming that McD school is cheap and there is a guarantee of keeping a job). I’m not against students who work at McD and pay for tuition fees. I’m questioning their so-called training that’s equivalent to A-levels.

  7. @ Ruhi: There is a lot of political context in the UK behind this development. It is not nearly as simple an issue as your post suggests. The A-levels are school-leaving examination and the purpose of this training scheme is to let those with little academic interest or ability develop some skills which will make them employable.

    Besides your observation about overweight employees is probably a US phenomenon. I claim no familiarity with McDonald’s as a consumer (having eaten there 3 times in all in my whole life so far, of which 2 times during my relocation last year) but as a researcher and observer, I have walked in often in the outlets in the UK and in Europe, and not noticed their employees to be particularly fat. They usually employ young, sparky people who have the ability to stand for long hours and who therefore have the stamina necessary. Overweight employees at the till also send the wrong sort of signal to their customers, especially in an environment of heightened awareness.

    As for FFN and SSM, the cinema version of the former is hardly shocking, or may be it is my extreme familiarity with even worse stuff about the food industry; I wrote a review of the film during which I found hard to stay awake. The latter is always on TV in re-runs in the UK and it _is_ greatly exaggerated and the ‘experiment’ can be challenged on many grounds. But it may be too much of a counterpoint for some people’s liking 🙂

    Besides, McDonald’s is emblematic of a problem, not the problem itself. It is really more complicated that suggesting that somehow the health issues of the world are down to them.

  8. @Shefaly

    Of course there has to be a lot of political context behind such a move…why else would McD (a US corp) bother about getting their program approved by a Govt body in the UK. I am actually interested in knowing more about this particular move by McD- what made them seek the approval?

    Regarding your comment on the obesity of the employees, probably it is a US phenomenon. I haven’t stepped into a McD joint in UK- so I dunno how fat the employees are over there. The second part of my post is actually independent of the first part, that reflects upon the training certification.

    It is really more complicated that suggesting that somehow the health issues of the world are down to them.

    No, that is not what I suggest at all. I haven’t even spoken about other fast food joints or the normal eating habits. This post is only about McD as a corporation.

  9. @ Ruhi:

    I find it interesting you describe it as a US corporation. McD does not see it that way and nor do many in the rest of the world. This is a good corporate citizenry move and in many ways, some “bad” organisations work more responsibly than some ostensibly “good” ones.

    The background lies in prolonged skill shortages and unwillingness of people to work some essential jobs, hence employers’ ability to find enough employees. McD is not the only employer to launch such a scheme; Network Rail, the company that maintains our rail tracks, is also going to offer a course in track engineering.

    The Labour government was big on return-to-work programmes so skilling people up is of significance. There is also some background in the balance between vocational and academic pursuits by young people. A good 7-8% of 16-25 year olds in the UK are classified as NEETs which costs the economy a lot of money and who, unless redeemed through intervention which works with their basic capabilities, are destined to become benefit-dependent later in life. So McD and others are playing a key role in the economy in the UK.

    You say: “No, that is not what I suggest at all. I haven’t even spoken about other fast food joints or the normal eating habits. This post is only about McD as a corporation.”

    That is precisely why I said the company is emblematic of a problem, not the problem itself. And since you discuss the A-level-equivalent qualifications, by not placing it is context (such as by citing what other organisations are also offering such courses) the article does mislead. I would not hold many other bloggers to higher standards but you are one of the unfortunate ones, whom I do (and will) hold to higher standards 😉 Sorry!

  10. @ Shefaly:

    Actually, you’re right. I should have said that they originated in the US, but since then, they’ve become a global corporation.

    Network Rail, the company that maintains our rail tracks, is also going to offer a course in track engineering.

    Thanks for that information. So, McD is not the first corporation to do this. Shefaly, I did a small search on NEET (the term is new to me) and I learned that the term only applies to people betn. the age of 16 and 18, and not 16-25. So, if we consider the number of kids who was between the age of 16 and 18, then the number will be quite small, no?

    So McD and others are playing a key role in the economy in the UK.

    Could you find an approx. figure of their contribution to the UK economy? I’ve been sifting through their Consolidated Income Statement and Cash Flow Statement and they haven’t given the break up of their income country wise. Most of the companies don’t mention this in their annual statements. I can only find consolidated figures. So…I wouldn’t be so quick to say that McD plays a “key” role in the economy in the UK.

    I didn’t cite other corporations because I’m not aware of them. That’s the reason I asked you if you could tell me the precise background behind such a move. I couldn’t (and still) don’t see the point of seeking Govt approval for starting a training course that will eventually lead to a job. Such a training course can lead to a job even without the Govt. certification, right? People who receive such a cert. from McD probably won’t find a job elsewhere. That’s my main gripe. But that’s just me.

    Besides, I find it surprising that you are standing up for McD- a corp. that has done more harm health wise than probably any other fast food joint. Maybe I’m being prejudiced here…I don’t know. Just today I was standing in a line at a grocery shop to pay my bill. There were some people in front of me who were casually saying “We’ll have our dinner at McD..right?”. I almost cringed. 🙂

  11. @ Ruhi:

    First pass, I am not standing up for McD or anything. But fair is fair and every argument – every balanced argument – should see things in their completeness. It is not easy to do which is why reductionism is so appealing to so many. 🙂

    Further I do not believe companies work in isolation. If you are familiar with the history of smoking and the growth of fast food etc – history of public health is replete with examples – the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s were the years of hedonism where people in general were paying scant attention to the implications or long term effects of things they were indulging. These things include LSD, smoking, free sex, junk food consumption and so on. People started waking up to ill-effects of smoking in the 1970s, and the junk food thing being a bad thing only started in the 1990s. So if all this goes in the name of individual liberties, how come an organisation that capitalises on the market opportunity is evil, with the benefit of hindsight? In a liberal society, should individuals not be responsible for their own choices? There is plenty of information available and plenty of awareness around, as BRFSS data shows, but very little changes in lifestyle effected by people.

    On that cringing, I think your middle class values are leading you to judge them. 🙂 How do you know what they will eat, for instance? If you do not dress the salad, McD salads are amongst the cheapest around and given their portions, quite filling. You can also have an orange juice, coffee, remove the bun (and have an equivalent of 1/4 pound of red meat) but you have to know what you are doing. I would suggest an experiment – go to a McD and see if you can build a healthy meal from their menu. I think you will be surprised. You may turn around and ask why *I* do not go to McD. Well, where I live, the nearest McD is 3 miles away. It is immensely easier for me to eat something I have in the fridge than go to McD. Besides I am more lazy than I am ‘chatori’! 😉

    If the caloric bang for the buck is greater in McD and similar places, and not in supermarkets flogging fresh produce, the issue clearly goes beyond just McD, don’t you agree? Besides the lack of skills in cooking – again an individual issue – means that many people rely on these ready-to-eat things for their meals. We could argue about the cause and effect till the cows come home (unless they have all been burgered!).

    As for economic contribution of McD in the UK, see this post from my Ob blog:
    http://obesityheadlines.wordpress.com/2008/01/09/so-near-yet-so-far/

    A link in there will tell you a lot about McD’s recent UK performance. Did you know that outside the US, the most profitable country for them is France? Yes, that mecca of culinary excellence and snobbery!

    Re 16-18 versus 16-25, I have recently taught a media case study and the 16-25 figure is somehow in my head. You are right. It is 16-18 and not 16-25. Fully 11% of them are NEETs. The numbers may be small but those in this stratum may not get education or have any skills, but they are more likely to contribute to crime, teen pregnancies and welfare dependency. So their cost to the economy are considerable. I have seen recently figures to the tune of £5B or so per year being bandied about.

    The point of seeking government approval is also for local market reasons. Accredited qualifications esp in vocational or ‘skill’ type jobs are more likely to get people jobs and make their slightly better wages. Nobody would come to McD if they did not see an implicit benefit. Some of these people will definitely find jobs in McD but some will go on to work in the broader food and catering industry. In that respect, their skills will end up making an economic contribution to the UK economy. The government also is not averse to co-opting business organisations in sharing this “skilling” responsibility. This sort of public-private partnerships are a growing mode of addressing larger social problems.

  12. @Shefaly

    I’m sorry for replying so late to this comment. Like you know, I had an Level 5 emergency (still do). 🙂

    I agree with you on the count that organizations don’t function alone. Both the society and the culture that they operate in greatly influence the way they function. And yes, individuals need to be responsible for themselves. There are loads of ways by which they can become more informed.

    Yes, I had no way of knowing what they would be eating- but their sizes gave them away. 🙂 Plus, this is a country where people don’t know what ‘veggies’ mean. Nobody goes to McD to eat salad (except people like me) 🙂 They can do that at a better place. I have tried to build a healthy meal around their menu and it doesn’t work. And believe me, charging $6 for a small pack of salad is not cheap. Their burgers and other meat items cost something in the range of $0.99-$2. So, I’m paying much much more for salad because I’m not their ideal client. Whereas in Subway, I can get a good 6 inch sub for around $4. And Subway is also McD’s competitor. Recently, when I was out of town, I had to stop there to use the rest room and because Mr. Pragati wanted to have a cup of coffee. And believe me, the coffee was YUCK. We threw 80% of it in the bin.

    Did you read the Business Week article on McD that talked about how the company is expanding its menu options because Americans love eating out? 🙂 They have special menus for 2 am meals, when lots of night workers are returning back. Then they have special menu for 6-7 am when people are on their way for work. They have introduced salad now because they want to serve everything people could want to eat. They don’t want people going to a restaurant for a salad because they lose business this way. This again reaffirms your previous statement that a company’s policies kind of reflect the environment they operate in. 🙂 I’ll try to send you the link for this article. You’ll find it interesting.

    I checked your blog post- it didn’t answer my question though. I could only find their customer base (little less than a million) and nothing else. This is not a very good measurement of how the company plays a key role in the economy of UK.

    Regarding NEET- I feel that yes McD might help them to an extent, but we need to wait for at least 5 years to see the real difference. For all you know, these kids might never want to be helped. There are lots of other psychological factors that come into play. Anyway, I think one thing is clear- I should be looking at this new move of offering accredited training course exclusively and not let it be clouded by my personal feelings regarding the corp. 🙂

  13. @ Ruhi:

    You say: “And believe me, charging $6 for a small pack of salad is not cheap”.

    This pretty much captures the essence of why McDonald’s can and will continue to make huge profits through their main products. The expectation of consumers to pay next to nothing for food, an absolute essential, but to expect the world, is so entrenched that it is laughable!

    Some of it is down to unwillingness to pay; some of it is down to lack of awareness (increasingly the less important factor); some of it is lack of skills; some of it is sheer lazy-arsed-ness! Because for $6 or $10, people can buy a lot more food in American supermarkets and go home and spend 10-15 minutes preparing it and some more cooking it. But of course not.

    BTW Subway’s daily special sandwiches – according to their very irritating TV advertising – cost about £1.99 here, which believe me is extremely cheap. UK is in general very expensive to live in. Just as a comparison – not of McD’s prices but a large contributory factor – our petrol and diesel prices are currently OVER £1 per litre (read that again if you will).

    On menu options, it will surprise you to know that such as they do not serve beef in India, they do serve wine in France. French families are increasingly keen on McDonald’s! Their coffee and OJ in the UK are on par with other packaged instant offerings in those categories. If they are extending the menu choices, well they are only responding to the demand. Americans are spending larger and larger sums of money outside home (there are many NBER papers with stats and numbers which are eye-watering). So why not get some or all of it?

    PS: On coffee, I am astounded at what passes for coffee in the US. Dunkin’ Donuts and Peet’s are two popular brands in MA for instance. Both are crap. Well, come to think of it, people see Starbucks as good coffee in America. What can I say? Last week it came bottom of taste tables in blind tasting in the UK.

  14. @Shefaly

    How many people actually order a salad? I don’t think eating outside is cheap (Except at McDonald’s or a similar fast food joint). I prefer eating at home, because there are very few restaurants here that cater to my taste buds. I prefer independent restaurants compared to national/global chains because of the level of service and personalization.

    People are too “busy” too cook here. 😉

    Subway food is very cheap-yes. That is exactly what I meant when I compared the 6 inch sub with a horrible salad at McD. I can customize my sub (remove cheese, ask for fat free mayo or skip it all together), whereas a McD salad is not customizable.

    But overall, I guess McD does a good business out of adapting themselves to the countries in which they’re running their business. I totally dislike Dunkin’ Donuts. We don’t have Peet’s here. So don’t know about that. People here have never had a good cup of coffee- till date, I’ve had Starbucks coffee only four times. Like I said, I dislike these companies that have an outlet in every possible town or city. 🙂

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