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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 September 2006, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
McDonald's to offer exams at work
McDonald's employees
Workers will be able to take their exams at branches of McDonald's
Branches of McDonald's are to become exam centres as the fast-food chain sets up a web-based scheme to help its employees boost their basic skills.

Employees will be able to gain GCSE-equivalent qualifications in numeracy or literacy - at work.

The Our Lounge website will also include features on topics ranging from house-buying to becoming a parent.

The CBI's director general, Richard Lambert, said offering on-site training made learning far more accessible.

He said: "Competency in literacy and numeracy is vital for the modern world of work and McDonald's should be applauded for investing in their employees' development and allowing staff to brush up and improve these essential abilities."

Accredited centres

According to the government-commissioned Leitch Review of Skills, basic skills have improved in the UK.

But, despite this, one in six adults do not have the literacy skills expected of an 11-year-old and half do not have these levels of functional numeracy.

The Our Lounge website will be available to all 67,000 UK staff who will be able to boost their skills with the support of an online tutor.

McDonald's expects up to 1,000 employees to gain nationally recognised Level 1 and 2 qualifications in accredited exam-centre restaurants.

It brings a new convenience to learning and removes the barriers of travelling to college
David Fairhurst
McDonald's vice-president

A spokeswoman said exams would be sat away from the public areas, generally in a training area or staff room.

Level 1 is the equivalent to an NVQ Level 1 or GCSE grade D-G while Level 2 is equal to an NVQ Level 2 or GCSE grade A-C.

The tests are from exam board OCR and the e-learning platform has been developed in association with the Learning and Skills Council and Cambridge Training and Development.

LSC chairman Chris Banks said it was particularly important that employees could gain qualifications at "the click of a mouse".

"This is a significant step," he said. "Making learning easy and accessible is crucial to increasing the number of people with these essential qualifications and your people will benefit enormously and so will McDonald's as a business."

The Our Lounge site was developed in consultation with McDonald's staff on the basis of the advice and support they felt they needed to enhance their social, personal and working lives.


The company's vice-president, David Fairhurst, said McDonald's had a tradition of staff development with 80% of its restaurant managers having started as crew members paid by the hour.

He said: "But we can do more to ensure that no-one is held back by not having the basics of literacy and numeracy.

"Our Lounge is the logical evolution of our shoulder-to-shoulder coaching and development programme.

"It brings a new convenience to learning and removes the barriers of travelling to college and other adult education centres to sit exams."

He added: "When you consider that most people in need of help with literacy and numeracy are already in the workforce, basic skills training is a matter of concern for everyone."

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