- Disney Aspire, a new program announced by the Walt Disney Company, seeks to offer the company's hourly workers access to college education and beyond. The program will pay 100% of tuition in advance as well as reimburse learners' application fees and any required materials and books. Disney said the program will remove the worry over paying to start school or continue educational pathways.
- In a partnership with Guild Education, the company’s working learners will have access to an assortment of degree paths, from high school equivalency to ESL and vocational training as well as bachelor's and master's programs. Educational options will be available to cast members regardless of the education's relevancy to their role at Disney.
- Guild Education staff will work with hourly employees to help them navigate every step of the process from application through completion, providing coaching at every phase when needed, the announcement explained. The company plans to continue to expand the Disney Aspire program in accordance with future employee feedback.
Development has increasingly emerged as an important benefit, especially for younger workers. Many companies are providing free to low-cost learning opportunities in an effort to recruit new hires, retain current employees and create a manager pipeline for the future.
The hospitality industry, in particular, has been hit hard by low unemployment rates and fierce competition among employers. For many companies large and small, the focus has shifted to continuing education to attract and retain candidates looking for a career pathway, rather than continuously fill holes left by high turnover, especially in hourly positions.
Part of the process has included re-branding companies as a stop on employees' path to success and recognizing that hourly positions may not lead to an employee staying with the company for longer than a few years — though a few months is better than leaving after a few months or even weeks. And as Disney's announcement shows, such programs can also be solid employer branding opportunities, giving companies a chance to show they value people beyond the simple productivity they can bring to the company at any given moment.