- Chipotle Mexican Grill announced the expansion of its education benefit to include a debt-free degree program. The fast-food chain said it's partnering with Guild Education, an education benefits company, to allow eligible employees to earn a free college degree through its Chipotle Cultivate Education program.
- The company said it's offering the debt-free degree benefit to give workers a chance to gain the skills and knowledge needed for 21st century jobs. Employees are eligible after 120 days of employment and can "pursue degrees from leading nonprofit, accredited universities." Chipotle pays 100% of the tuition for 75 types of business and tech degrees.
- Chipotle said it has given workers more than $20 million in tuition assistance during the past two years. The debt-free degree program expands an existing tuition reimbursement benefit, which allows eligible workers to receive up to $5,250 each year in reimbursed tuition. "Chipotle recognizes that financial barriers can be one of the biggest obstacles that impede our employees from achieving their fullest potential," Chipotle CPO Marissa Andrada said in news media release.
This is not Chipotle's first move in recent months to improve its employee experience. In August, the company announced a new bonus program that allows hourly employees to earn up to an extra week's pay per quarter based on their performance. Teams that meet preset sales quotas, as well as throughput goals and cashflow, can receive what amounts to an extra month's pay over the course of a year.
The restaurant's expansion of multiple benefits falls in line with the recent trend of employers improving benefits for hourly workers. Salad chain Sweetgreen, for example, announced it would offer five months of fully paid parental leave to workers in May. Smucker made a similar move in September, announcing 12 weeks of paid leave for workers following the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child.
Chipotle's attention to education benefits — specifically its offering of tech and business degrees — appears to follow another trend. Employers in every industry need tech talent, especially as automation introduces sweeping changes. Some employers have opted to host in-house training to reskill workers for tech-focused jobs; Liberty Mutual, for instance, created a coding boot camp for workers to help ease its need for software developers. Employers are on the hunt for candidates with business skills, too. A recent Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. report revealed employers grapple with skills shortages in data analytics, finance, operations and human resources.