Working learners

22nd May 2009 at 01:00

We must not underestimate the role that work-based learning can play in bringing adults back to learning. It can transform the lives of those who have been turned off formal education. I know from personal experience that this approach can work.

At McDonald's, almost half of our employees have two or more indicators of disadvantage. Many join us with few or no qualifications - and no expectation of ever returning to learning. We offer everyone the same chance to progress.

When we asked Leeds Metropolitan University to examine the impact of our approach on the social mobility of our employees, it found that 40 per cent who began with few or no qualifications had improved on their highest qualification since joining and, unprompted, 96 per cent said they had improved or developed skills.

There's a place for traditional courses, and provision must be made for the unemployed to have access to learning, but let's not forget the value of work-based opportunities in ensuring that Britain meets Lord Leitch's targets for the nation's 2020 workforce.

David Fairhurst, Senior vice-president and chief people officer, McDonald's Restaurants UK and Northern Europe.

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