Chipotle Mexican Grill is an undisputed foodservice powerhouse, but that doesn’t mean it’s content to rest on its laurels. Last year, the chain launched a comprehensive multi-tiered restrategizing plan to push growth. Now, the company is looking inward at its own workforce, launching a new debt-free college degree program, enabling its employees to pursue higher education with assistance from their employer.
"Chipotle recognizes that financial barriers can be one of the biggest obstacles that impede our employees from achieving their fullest potential," said Marissa Andrada, Chief People Officer for Chipotle. "We are proud to launch this opportunity for debt-free degrees by providing free tuition to help our employees excel in all areas in their lives, both in and out of Chipotle."
Unemployment levels have hit a record low—3.5 percent, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics findings—and while that may be good news for workers, it puts the squeeze on employers looking to attract and retain quality talent. Some companies, like Chipotle, are rethinking their employee benefits programs to remain a competitive employer. Through the Chipotle Cultivate Education benefits program, the company has already provided over $20 million in tuition assistance over the past two years, and the expansion of the program will cover 100 percent of tuition costs upfront for 75 different types of business and technology degrees.
Chipotle has partnered with Guild Education, a leading education benefits company on the program expansion to offer team members, employed for longer than 120 days, the opportunity to pursue degrees from schools including The University of Arizona, Wilmington University, Bellevue University, and more, according to a press release.
"This expansion of Chipotle's Cultivate Education benefits program to cover 100 percent tuition costs upfront for degrees in business and technology represents the company's commitment to up-skilling its workforce and helping employees achieve their professional goals," Rachel Carlson, Guild Education CEO and Co-Founder, commented. "We are thrilled to partner with Chipotle as they continue to lead the way in the fast-casual industry for enhancing the employee experience with best-in-class benefits."
The debt-free degree initiative is the latest addition to the company’s Cultivate Education initiative, which includes an Existing Tuition Reimbursement Program, offering eligible employees reimbursement for tuition costs of up to $5,250 per year at the school of their choice.
"I had two majors with a number of credits and was debating whether or not to go back and pursue my degree. The accelerated program with Bellevue University combined with Chipotle's tuition assistance made the decision easy. It is convenient as I am able to take classes in the evening, which I really appreciate," Brice Widger, a Chipotle crew member in New York City, stated.
Will the restaurant chain’s latest push for employee benefits and assistance cultivate further employee loyalty and reduce turnover? Deli Market News will keep you posted.