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Page last updated at 09:09 GMT, Thursday, 8 January 2009
Burger chain increase apprenticeships

By Paula Fletcher
Newsbeat reporter

If you thought apprenticeships were only reserved for mechanics, electricians and carpenters, think again - McDonald's is set to expand its training programme, giving thousands of employees a chance to gain qualifications equivalent to GCSEs.

Cheese burger
McDonald's already offer a management course equivalent to an A Level

No longer will the golden arches of McDonald's simply mean a place to grab a burger and fries with a shake.

The fast food chain is super-sizing its training, so by 2010 up to 10,000 of its staff may be apprentices.

Those taking part will gain a nationally recognised qualification equal to 5 A*-C grade GCSEs every year.

McDonald's trialled the scheme across 80 of its restaurants last year.

Although a job in a burger bar is often seen as a dead end, Alix Potts from Sleaford in Lincolnshire says her experience has been far from that.

The 22-year-old went from working part-time at McDonald's to full-time after deciding that a career in hairdressing wasn't for her.

"Being there for five years, I'd done most things," she explains, "but doing the apprenticeship you have to be skilled in most areas, so I had to start working in the kitchen which I hadn't done before, so that was a bit daunting.

"Just because I'd done counter for five years, it was a bit extreme going in there having to learn measurements, temperatures, how the equipment works, what you've got to do to maintain it - it was really scary."

'Hire the best'

The government has announced it is going to fund an extra 35,000 apprentices next year as part of its efforts to tackle problems with the economy.

It already has a target of training 400,000 apprentices a year - almost double the current total - by 2020.
Alix Potts
Apprentice Alix Potts at work behind the counter

Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged to provide an extra £140m for schemes in England during a visit to Rolls-Royce in Derby on Wednesday.

He has said he wants one in five young people to take up apprenticeships, which provide work-based training and qualifications, within 10 years.

McDonald's will be the UK's largest provider of apprenticeships in multi-skilled hospitality management.

It expects one in every 25 apprentices to have been trained by them by the end of the decade.

"We're looking to hire the best, hire the most talented people, [with] great attitude," says Steve Easterbrook, the Chief Executive for McDonalds UK.

"Once they've settled in we've then got this structured training in the workplace to help them progress.

"On the academic side, you can learn at your own pace online to get your GCSE equivalents in Maths and English.

"[On] the vocational side, they're working in the restaurants and gaining teamwork, communication, basic IT skills, problem solving - skills which really work for us in the restaurant environment but actually are also transferable to other employers."

There's two promotions and three pay rises that I've had in just this year, so I've really enjoyed it
Apprentice Alix Potts

"I've encouraged a lot of people in my restaurant to do it," says Alix.

"I've always said if you want to do something while you're at work, it's easier to do it while you're at work, instead of going back to college.

"If I'd have gone back to college I don't think I'd have got as far as I have done now.

"I've done a lot over the last year. I've done my apprenticeship. I did my crew training. I'm now a trainee manager. There's two promotions and three pay rises that I've had in just this year, so I've really enjoyed it."

McDonald's are adopting the term 'McJob' for its apprenticeships in the hope it will counter any negative stigma associated with the word.

'Up the ladder'

Some of the people Newsbeat spoke to reckon the plans are promising.

Ashley, 21, who's from Glasgow and used to work at McDonald's, thinks: "It's probably one of the best jobs I've had - but it's still McDonald's at the end of the day, isn't it?

"You don't want to be there for the rest of your life, but you're gaining qualifications, so you can always move somewhere else."

"It gives people a chance in life at the end of the day, doesn't it?" says Lee Edwards, 20, from North Wales. "Instead of being stuck in a fast food place and just think they're nothing but it gives them a chance to go up the ladder."

Others think it's not such a good idea, though.

Latifa, 18, from London, reckons: "I'd rather just go to college or uni. McDonald's is a bit... naff, I suppose."

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