A program in which Vietnamese high school students are encouraged to achieve hospitality skills via on-the-job training at McDonald’s stores in Ho Chi Minh City has been blasted for appearing to take advantage of student workers, local media have reported.
The McDonald’s Apprenticeship, the second to be launched in Vietnam following the first edition last year, invites students aged 14-18 to work at five of the fast food chain stores during the summer, as announced by organizer IvyPrep on its Facebook page on June 2.
The apprentices will work five hours a day but no more than 25 hours a week, undertaking daily tasks such as frying chips, wrapping burgers and preparing ingredients, in addition to cleaning floors, washing dishes and dumping garbage.
The rewards for the apprentices include one free meal during each shift, a McDonald’s uniform and “a McDonald’s Apprenticeship certificate [for students] to feature in their applications to study abroad,” according to the Facebook post.
IvyPrep said the apprenticeship will provide participants with “a memorable summer,” expose them to a professional work environment, and strengthen their soft skills like communication and teamwork.
IvyPrep is a training organization aimed at helping Vietnamese students gain scholarships to study in the U.S., especially at Ivy League universities, as its name suggests.
The June 2 program announcement has sparked widespread criticism among Vietnamese Facebook users, as the apprenticeship seems to imply that students as young as 14 will work at McDonald’s for free.
The legal working age in Vietnam is 15.
Opponents of the program criticized it for having students work 25 hours a week in exchange for only one free meal and no wage.
Others questioned the value of the “McDonald’s Apprenticeship certificate,” expressing skepticism over whether the document would add strength to a student’s résumé.
Clarifications and apologies
The announcement of the apprenticeship program appeared to have been posted only on the Facebook page of IvyPrep, and not on any of McDonald’s official channels.
On Sunday, IvyPrep took to its Facebook page again to announce that the June 2 post was deleted for containing misleading information, and addressed the online criticism with some clarification and an apology.
The organization said that the apprenticeship is an “explore and study experience,” rather than a “form of labor.” IvyPrep said the initial announcement had mistakenly put the age range for applicants at 14-18, while it should be 15-18.
“This mistake has resulted in the misunderstanding,” Sunday’s Facebook post reads.
“We express our sincere apologies to parents, students, readers [of the previous post], and our partner McDonald’s for the misunderstanding and the inconvenience this has caused.”
While the previous announcement mentioned no wage for the apprentices, IvyPrep assured followers on Sunday that participants would receive a certificate, plus an “encouraging award” equal to the probationary wage of McDonald’s employees.