Fiat Chrysler and its U.S. dealers are innovatively tackling a real need by taking the [email protected] free-college program national and expanding it to include employees' spouses and children.
Dealers always struggle to attract and retain good employees, a concern that will only grow as baby boomers retire.
This perk should attract better job candidates and encourage workers to stay while they complete their education.
At participating FCA U.S. dealerships, any employee can take a class or pursue an associate, bachelor's or master's degree -- online or in person at any of Strayer University's 77 campuses. Employees pay nothing toward tuition, fees or books.
Strayer is an accredited, private, for-profit university based in Washington, D.C., with an enrollment of 40,000.
As FCA expands the program from its Southeast region to all of its 2,600 U.S. dealerships, it has added an optional second level that extends education benefits to employees' spouses and children.
FCA underwrites part of the cost. Participating dealers pay a monthly flat fee based on store size: $400 to $1,000 for employees only and up to an additional $2,500 for families.
FCA's program looks like a win-win-win.
Employees, and at some dealerships, their families, get free education. For a modest cost, dealers can offer a benefit to help attract and retain talent. By negotiating a national package with Strayer, FCA earns goodwill with dealers while helping to strengthen its 118,000-employee retail base.
It's a voluntary program, but it's taking off faster than FCA expected since the pilot started in May.
Daytona Beach, Fla., dealer Randy Dye says a third of his 130 employees are enrolled. He calls the program "the answer" for employees struggling to educate their children.
As middle-class concerns about education costs mount, kudos to FCA and its dealers for a bold and innovative approach.