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The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor released numbers late last week from a longitudinal study that might make a high school principal shudder. The likelihood of a 20-year-old in the United States being employed and receiving some form of work training is reduced by almost half if that person is a high school dropout. While the United States is wringing its hands over how to keep its students in school and employable—especially in this tough economy—Britain’s Prime Minister Greg Brown has a plan for making his country and students more competitive.

Today’s UK newspapers—as well as a number of other media outlets in the U.S.—are abuzz over the news that three commercial companies—McDonald’s most notable among them—are now allowed to grant A-Levels, the equivalent of a high school diploma, to students based on completion of an apprenticeship program. Not unless you’re referring to the fast-food giant’s Hamburger University or its more recent offer to exchange happy meals for good grades, might you use “academic” and “McDonald’s” in the same sentence. But before you choke on your Egg McMuffin, consider this: an apprenticeship at the Golden Arches would provide students with the opportunity to learn about human resources, customer services skills, and the corporate titan's true genius—marketing.

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