Taco Bell is offering its 210,000 employees financial assistance and tools to get a higher education. The fast food giant announced on Thursday that it will expand a pilot program that it launched last year in partnership with Guild Education to help workers obtain a variety of educational degrees and certificates.
The initiative grants both corporate and franchise Taco Bell employees with access to Guild’s academic and financial aid coaches and personalized college advisers. The program also offers access and tuition discounts for thousands of classes, certificates, and degrees that are part of the Guild network. That includes 80 online nonprofit universities and learning providers that help participants earn a GED, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. They can also sign up for English as a second language classes.
“When we surveyed our employees, education support was one of the top three things they asked for,” said Frank Tucker, global chief people officer at Taco Bell, in a statement. “The barriers to achieving their education goals were time, money, and support. Our partnership with Guild delivers on all of these needs for our employees through access to online classes, financial aid guidance, tuition assistance, and a personal counselor to support each student in real time.”
Taco Bell, which is owned by Yum! Brands, will grant its workers with up to $5,250 per calendar year in tuition assistance, including books and supplies, paid up front so that employees don’t have any out-of-pocket costs. Plus, all employees will qualify for college credit for on-the-job restaurant training, which could save an employee up to an additional $5,000.
Taco Bell launched a pilot program with Guild in 2017 in about 700 corporate-owned restaurants, giving more than 2,000 employees the opportunity to work with a Guild coach to go back to school. The program also serves as an incentive to help the company retain top talent. Staff who enrolled in a course, program, or degree through the educational company had a 98% retention rate over the course of six months last year, a 34% increase over those who did not sign up, Taco Bell said.
“We want to use this as both an attraction tool for them to have them come to Taco Bell and work for us, and if they stay with us long-term, that’s fantastic,” Bjorn Erland, vice president of people and experience at Taco Bell, told FOX Business. “It attracts people to the brand and gives them a really good compelling reason to come. And, secondly, it helps keep them with the brand from a retention standpoint because within those jobs we need a lot of managers to run our restaurants,” he added.
The chain plans to open more than 250 restaurants across the country and create 100,000 new jobs in the U.S. as part of its 2022 growth goals. There are currently more than 7,000 Taco Bell eateries nationwide.
Lyft launched a similar initiative with Guild Education last year.