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McDonald’s training is now a path to a college diploma

As of September, McDonald’s employees can count their in-house management training as credit toward a two- or three-year business administration diploma at one of Ontario’s 24 public colleges.

BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS

The Globe's biweekly business-school news roundup.

Corporate training, while valuable, typically does not count toward an employee's pursuit of a college diploma.

That's no longer the case under an agreement announced Friday between Colleges Ontario and McDonald's Restaurants of Canada Ltd. As of September, McDonald's employees can count their in-house management training as credit toward a two- or three-year business administration diploma at one of Ontario's 24 public colleges.

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"It is a hint of where we are going in the future in postsecondary education," says Linda Franklin, president and chief executive officer of Colleges Ontario. Though long discussed, recognition of past learning has been slow to catch on, with postsecondary institutions themselves often at loggerheads on how to credit already-acquired knowledge toward future credentials.

Friday's province-wide agreement may signal a breakthrough in thinking on how to recognize alternate routes to the same educational destination.

"More and more we are hearing that, particularly for millennials, a big part of what is interesting to them in their jobs is the opportunity to advance their education," Ms. Franklin adds. "None of these internal qualifications or training programs offers a path to a public credential."

Under the agreement, Ontario colleges recognize that a McDonald's employee with at least two of four company courses required to become a manager has earned the equivalent of first-year courses in a two- or three-year business diploma. As a result, the manager-in-training could apply to a college and enter a business program in second-year, potentially saving up to $4,500 in tuition. Eligible students can take courses online, in class or a combination of both.

"We feel having this partnership with the Ontario colleges is another great way to continue to develop the skills of our managers as well as to allow them that opportunity to continue their education if they want to explore a diploma or future degree," says Sharon Ramalho, chief people officer of McDonald's Canada.

For three years, Ms. Ramalho says, college officials reviewed the content of McDonald's management training, ultimately concluding that the various elements (leadership, communication skills, managing and leading teams) were essentially equivalent to a first-year business program.

"It is finally being recognized that people have real skills and have invested time to learn," she says of in-house corporate training of employees. "Companies like McDonald's have invested a great deal of money to teach [employees] and it is being recognized that an employee can get that important degree or diploma.

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"In the past, perhaps the training we offered was not understood or swept away."

In 2014, McDonald's carried out the prior-learning recognition system as a pilot project with the British Columbia Institute of Technology. To date, 120 McDonald's managers in training are pursuing their business diplomas at BCIT, says Ms. Ramalho. "It's a great start," she says, with her company now talking to institutions in other provinces about potential agreements.

The renewed focus on prior learning comes as demographic forecasts point to a declining youth cohort (except for aboriginal students) in postsecondary education. "Most of our work force is already here working in the province," says Colleges Ontario's Ms. Franklin. "As the economy progresses and gets more knowledge-based in its orientation, the more we will have a need for people in the work force to upgrade their skills."

Endowment announced for business retail scholarship

A new endowment of $250,000 over three years from Staples Canada Inc. will generate scholarships for top third-year commerce students at the University of Alberta's school of business who are eyeing a career in retail. Individual scholarships of $5,000 over two years will be awarded to students (one initially but more in future years) who demonstrate "superior academic achievement" while earning a major or minor in marketing or retail and services, the school says.

School rebrands for a milestone birthday

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Founded in 1948, Ryerson University's school of management was renamed in 2007 for Canadian broadcasting and telecom legend Ted Rogers, following a gift of $15-million from him and his wife, Loretta. This month, the school marked the 10th anniversary of the gift by unveiling a new logo and renaming its MBA for Mr. Rogers.

Canadian tapped to lead global management scholars

A decorated researcher from the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management has been elected the 2016-17 president of the Academy of Management, which represents more than 20,000 management and organization scholars from 125 countries.

Anita McGahan was associate dean of research and director of the school's PhD program between 2010 and 2015, when Rotman climbed into the Financial Times top-10 rankings for research and the PhD program, according to the school. Currently the Rotman chair in management, she holds several appointments at U of T and is also chief economist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Division for Global Health and Human Rights.

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Contact Jennifer at jlewington@bell.net

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