Would you like a certificate with that?

Submitted by martin on 9 February, 2008 - 7:59 Author: Heather Shaw

You’ve tasted the Big Mac, you’ve probably had some McNuggets in your time but how about getting your chops round a McA-Level? Sceptical? Me too.

David Fairhurst, senior vice-president and chief people officer of McDonalds, is hailing his company’s decision to award work-based qualifications as “an important and exciting step” for the company. The qualifications, by combining marketing, HR and customer service skills to the equivalent of A Level, will offer employees the all-important opportunity for “social mobility”, roughly translated as “getting working class kids to stomp on other working class kids in order to earn higher wages”.

Network Rail and Flybe have also been granted permission to run this kind of work-based education scheme, which will contribute points to university applications.

With “McJob” taking its formal place in the dictionary last year, this latest initiative seems to me to be a perverse response. As they leave compulsory education these days, kids aren’t exactly being offered the world on a platter. You can go to college, if you can get the grades and support yourself financially, you can do an apprenticeship if you don’t mind being paid the legal minimum of absolutely nothing to be someone’s slave. You can claim Jobseekers’ Allowance and live off £50 a week whilst trying to find someone to exploit you. Or if you want to “Be The Best”, get fit, get paid and get out of that shit town, you can go and kill people in the name of your Queen. Good choices? No.

McDonalds, decision to employ such tactics may on the surface seem generous, noble even, giving their staff the opportunity to gain useful qualifications whilst earning a crust, but in reality it is part of the continuing “dumbing down” of Further Education.

McDonalds workers should not have to rely on their bosses to provide them with skills; the education of young people who make up the majority of the McJob labour force should be more than grooming to be the next generation of low-paid workers! Education should be free and accessible to all! This kind of faux-altruism is beyond patronising — telling workers that it is their fault they are where they are in the system and that the least they can do is battle to improve themselves and up their employability.

Young workers make up a large part of the lowest paid sectors making them some of the most vulnerable. Choosing their own mode of exploitation is not an improvement.