Companies tout tuition assistance as another tool to attract workers – WABE

The competition for hourly employees continues to be fierce in today’s economy.

And a few companies with headquarters in Metro Atlanta have programs to pay for college as a way to recruit workers.

Papa Johns’ “Dough and Degrees” program pays for workers to earn online college degrees while working.

Kim Adams, VP of diversity, equity and inclusion at the pizza company, says it’s a benefit that can help Papa Johns stand out in a very competitive labor market.

“We believe our Dough and Degrees program helps to attract as well as to retain top talent,” Adams said.

Papa Johns says 60 employees have earned degrees since the program was launched three years ago.

“It’s just really an honor to be able to invest in the professional development of our team members, in particular, our front-line team members,” Adams said. “We’re just honored to have this benefit to offer them.”

To keep that momentum going, the company recently sent out brand ambassador Shaquille O’Neal on a school bus to promote the program. The former great basketball is a member of Papa Johns’ board of directors. He also owns a stake in dozens of the restaurant’s franchise locations.

“The fact that we’re allowing our team members to further their education at no cost to them I think is really, really big,” O’Neal said. “Wherever you go and whatever conversation you have, the first thing they ask is ‘what is your educational background?’ and the more degrees you have, the easier the conversation is.”

Kim Adams is Papa Johns’ VP of diversity, equity and inclusion. (Emil Moffatt/WABE)

Kim Adams, VP of diversity, equity and inclusion at the pizza company, says it’s a benefit that can help Papa Johns stand out in a very competitive labor market.

“We believe our Dough and Degrees program helps to attract as well as to retain top talent,” Adams said.

Papa Johns says 60 employees have earned degrees since the program was launched three years ago.

“It’s just really an honor to be able to invest in the professional development of our team members, in particular, our front-line team members,” Adams said. “We’re just honored to have this benefit to offer them.”

To keep that momentum going, the company recently sent out brand ambassador Shaquille O’Neal on a school bus to promote the program. The former great basketball is a member of Papa Johns’ board of directors. He also owns a stake in dozens of the restaurant’s franchise locations.

“The fact that we’re allowing our team members to further their education at no cost to them I think is really, really big,” O’Neal said. “Wherever you go and whatever conversation you have, the first thing they ask is ‘what is your educational background?’ and the more degrees you have, the easier the conversation is.”

Kim Adams is Papa Johns’ VP of diversity, equity and inclusion. (Emil Moffatt/WABE)

Atlanta-based UPS also offers tuition assistance through its “Earn and Learn” program, which began more than 25 years ago.

“We know a paycheck alone is not enough to recruit; it’s not enough to retain. There’s so much competition out there for talent,” said Justin Luther, a director of corporate affairs with UPS. “We know this is one piece of a big puzzle for us to make sure we’re serving our customers and having all our facilities with enough people to do that.”

UPS part-timers are eligible for up to $5,250 in tuition reimbursements each year and $25,000 throughout a worker’s lifetime. That money can be used at any accredited school, said Luther.

Last year, the shipping giant put $30 million toward reimbursing the education expenses of part-time employees. That total stands at more than $380 million over the last quarter century, according to Luther.

“We’re getting talent that generally stick with us as they pursue their higher ed goals and our people are getting their degrees,” said Luther.

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