In January of this year, Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger announced an initial $50 million investment in a new and ongoing education initiative aimed specifically at The Walt Disney Company’s hourly workforce. “I have always believed that education is the key to opportunity,” he said. “It opens doors and creates new possibilities.”
For more than 80,000 hourly Cast Members and employees of The Walt Disney Company in the U.S., those doors unlock now with the launch of Disney Aspire, a groundbreaking education program for hourly employees in the United States. “I am incredibly proud that Disney is embarking on this historic launch,” says Jayne Parker, senior executive vice president & chief HR officer for The Walt Disney Company, who discusses this new, potentially life-changing program for hourly workers.
Why did The Walt Disney Company make the decision to launch this educational program?
Jayne Parker (JP): At The Walt Disney Company, we strive to empower and support employees in their professional and personal lives. We are constantly looking at ways to help people realize their ambitions and fulfill their dreams, this program is the latest in that effort. Personally, I’m very excited to see what our Cast Members and employees accomplish with this opportunity.
What sets Disney Aspire apart from other education investment programs?
JP: Disney Aspire is the most comprehensive program of its kind. To make participation easier for eligible employees, The Walt Disney Company will cover 100 percent of tuition upfront and will also reimburse application fees and required books and materials, removing the worry of paying to start or continue school. The program is designed for working adults and offers our Cast Members and employees maximum choice and flexibility with their studies, regardless of whether the program and classes they choose are tied to their current role at Disney. Disney Aspire includes a network of schools that offer a wide array of disciplines and diplomas—including college and master’s degrees, high school equivalency, English-language learning, vocational training and more.
What kind of support will employees and Cast Members receive?
JP: We have partnered with Guild Education, an organization committed to redefining the future of work and adult education. Guild will provide personalized coaching to help all employees and Cast Members that inquire about the program navigate their unique circumstances, from application through completion and through every step along the way. We will also continue to evolve and expand Disney Aspire as we listen to the needs of our employees and Cast Members over time.
What do you hope employees will achieve through Disney Aspire in the long run?
JP: I’m personally very proud of this program. With Bob Iger’s support, our team set out to design the most comprehensive, flexible and high-quality education investment program offered to employees today. I know Disney Aspire will enable employees to reach their educational goals and pursue career aspirations—including movement into new roles at Disney, as well as careers outside of the Company. In terms of what employees and Cast Members will achieve with that—all I can say is the sky’s the limit!