ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Clemy Garza and her father Julian employ more than 700 people at their 12 McDonald’s restaurants, many of whom they recognize have long-term career goals that may not involve Big Macs.
Recent conversations at their restaurants have revealed an aspiring dental hygienist, a would-be engineer and a man who wants to one day run his own car wash.
The Garzas hope a new partnership between their company, Garza Enterprises, and Central New Mexico Community College will help put those employees on their desired professional path.
The partnership will leverage the support employees can get through a corporate-level McDonald’s program called “Archways to Opportunity.” Qualified workers can get up to $750 per year in tuition assistance – up to $1,050 for managers – as well as help with English as a Second Language programs.
Resident tuition at CNM is $54 per credit hour, so “that can pay for a lot of school,” Clemy Garza said.
CNM, meanwhile, will offer “concierge” service for Garza employees who want to enroll at CNM, credits for prior learning they may have done on the job and even some customized ESL courses developed specifically for the McDonald’s employees.
“This is really testing all of our innovative, alternative approaches,” said Samantha Sengel, CNM’s chief advancement and community engagement officer, who noted that the goal is to expand the courses to employees from other McDonald’s franchises.
The Garzas recently hired a retired Dallas school administrator as “Archways” coordinator for their network of restaurants, which are spread through the Albuquerque metro and northern New Mexico.
“She’s specifically asking ‘What is your dream?’ What is it you have always wanted to do?’ ” Garza said, noting that she has already met with half the employees to help plot their future.
David L. Thomas, McDonald’s corporate vice president of operations and franchising, said the company sees itself as “America’s best first job” and wants to contribute to its employees’ personal growth, even if it might take them away from the company.
“We’re making a commitment to the people who work for us that we’re going to do the right thing for them,” said Thomas, who visited Albuquerque on Monday for a ceremony cementing the new partnership.
More than 30 Garza employees are now planning to use the tuition as
sistance to attend CNM this January. They will get special assistance from “navigators” designed to help them “through every step of the process in becoming a student … and connect them personally to any college service they might need,” according to CNM spokesman Brad Moore. Navigators have so far been available only for select students as part of a pilot program, and Moore said assisting the McDonald’s employees will help refine the service before it expands to all new students in fall of 2018.
About 80 more Garza employees plan to take the non-credit ESL courses.