McDonald’s Youth Opportunity Initiative to launch in Chicago


Patrick Casey

McDonald’s Youth Opportunity Initiative to launch in Chicago

By Jermaine Nolen

McDonald’s announced its Youth Opportunity Initiative to help combat unemployment, and Chicago has been selected as the first location.

According to an Aug. 22 press release, the initiative aims to reduce barriers to employment for young people, aged 18-26, by providing pre-employment job readiness training, employment opportunities and workplace development programs.

The corporation plans to give $1 million in grants to local community organizations. The four programs scheduled to receive grants are After School Matters, Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, Phalanx Family Services and Central States SER. These programs are designed to help participants learn self-awareness, communication and problem-solving skills.

“The vast majority of students I work with have minimal knowledge of résumé building,” said Rashad Jefferson, history department lead and ninth grade physics teacher at Butler College Prep. “That is a gap we are trying to fill at our school.”

Jefferson said many students  get a bad reputation because they come  from broken homes or other  social and economic  situations. If McDonald’s is willing to provide opportunity, then he is “all for it,” Jefferson said.

According to the press release, McDonald’s also plans to donate another $1 million to Skills for Chicagoland’s Future to develop a new apprenticeship program with City Colleges of Chicago. McDonald’s has joined the Chicago Apprenticeship Network and plans to provide scholarships to pay for time spent in class by any student who is a McDonald’s employee.

“The problem isn’t that we have students that do not have the skills needed. The problem is that students don’t know how to articulate the skills they have,” said Brian Socall, assistant director for Career Development st Columbia’s Career Center, 618 S. Michigan Ave. “Seventy-five percent of candidates are excluded from an interview just because of mistakes or [they have] a poorly designed résumé.”

The program asks people to apply through McDonald’s website. 

Requirements for applicants include a high school diploma or GED, Chicago residency, qualification for the City Colleges of Chicago associate degree program and the ability to work a flexible schedule including nights, weekends and holidays.

Knowing how to narrow her job search when she first entered the workforce would have been beneficial, said Andrea Newell, a Chicago native from Chatham.

Newell is a full-time student at Harold Washington College. “I wish I had known how I could narrow my search [to gear it] toward who I was and what skills I had to offer as a 15-year-old high school student,” she said. 

Newell attended high school on the South Side and said she was familiar with programs such as After School Matters, but found out about them from classmates, not programs promoted by the school. 

She said the target age group of the initiative was important because, at 18, students are leaving high school and need those skills to support themselves and function as members of society.

“It’s a good thing they are doing,” Newell said. “All the money being put into it is fantastic.”