This is a rant. A whole lot of opinion, experience, and some frustration put into text and organized in some sort of, maybe logical, order. You can be offended by my opinion if you want. You can also agree with it if you like. Just remember, you have an opinion too so the fact that I have one, is not a crime.
It shouldn’t be new news to anyone that minimum wage has been a hot topic lately. So, I think it’s my turn to weigh in on the subject. The issue we see in the news is that fast food workers want the minimum wage raised to $15 an hour. They believe they deserve a “livable” wage. The argument has two sides; those in favor and those who oppose. However, raising the minimum wage really isn’t the true problem or a good solution. Let me explain.
Traditionally, there have been two types of people working in minimum wage positions; students who don’t have the time or experience for full-time work and people who set the bar low and haven’t moved on from a minimum wage position due to lack of skill and motivation. Now, a lot of people have taken offense to comments made in this debate. People who oppose raising the minimum wage have been insulting the intelligence of minimum wage workers. They don’t deserve that, but at the same time, there are many minimum wage workers who are lazy, ignorant, and not too bright. Anyone who has been to a fast food restaurant has witnessed this. This however, does not represent minimum wage workers as a whole. Along with the first two groups of minimum wage workers I mentioned before, there is a third group that has significantly increased in recent years; the over-qualified.
This is where I think the real problem is. Minimum wage jobs exist to get people accustomed to being in the work force. They start off in a job where no previous skills are required and they are spoon-fed everything they need to know. Many minimum wage jobs require little thinking. It shouldn’t be a livable wage. These jobs are intended to show kids responsibility and give them enough money to hang out with their friends. Minimum wage jobs were never meant to be for single parents with multiple kids. They should be in jobs a step up from minimum wage. Line workers. Managers. Even the butcher at your grocery store. Jobs that don’t require education but do require experience. Those jobs start slightly lower than $15/hour and can reach wages significantly higher. Why should a job requiring no skill pay the same as one that requires it?
The real problem isn’t how much minimum wage pays. The true issue is how many people are stuck in minimum wage positions. If you have waited in a drive-thru in the past few years, you should notice that the age of fast food workers is increasing. I was once in the same position as these people. After losing my job, I submitted hundreds of applications. I had to settle for a restaurant job. Sometimes it’s hard to get the job you want, just because you lack a degree. Sometimes it’s because the jobs just don’t exist.
Minimum wage jobs aren’t just flooded with people who had to settle. There are also many senior citizens taking these jobs. Their retirement took such a hit, that they need a source of income. This is why people want the minimum wage increased. There are so many people in these positions that need a livable wage. Increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour will not solve the problem. We need more jobs for our experienced workers.
Fourteen months after I was laid off from my job, I was called back to work but there was a noticeable change in my industry. I work for a small engineering company and our main area of expertise is in automotive tools. We make the equipment that makes our vehicles. When I went back to work, some of our competition and partner companies did not. Many automotive suppliers were phased out. Most automotive related companies rely on people who don’t have degrees, but have the experience to get the job done. They, by definition, are our middle class and middle class jobs have changed significantly. Many of those jobs are now within the tech sector. Programmers, IT, and so on. Some of these tech companies make physical products and according to them, to bring jobs to the United States, jobs making consumer products designed by tech giants, they need thousands of qualified people. People who don’t hold degrees, but are smarter than the average high school graduate. According to these companies and our President, we don’t have enough of these people to justify bringing those jobs from China, back to our own country.
Do you see where I am starting to go with this?
Let me give you a little insight into me. Who I am. What I do. What I see.
Currently, I work in automation controls. Ever see an assembly line? I make those machines work. I make them function properly and safely. I don’t have a degree. I stopped going to college when I saw many of my friends struggling (some for years) to get jobs in their degree field. Having student loans and no work is not where I wanted to be. Though I lack fomal education, I have a lifetime of experience designing, building, and fabricating. I have experience with mechanical drafting, technical writing, welding, quality control, robotics, testing, machining, automotive repairs, carpentry, electrical, electronics repair, and so on. I grew up as an engineer’s son. Well, stepson. Even before my mom and stepfather were married, I loved all things mechanical. I wanted to know how everything worked and I wanted to design and build things. Having an engineer for a father was just meant to be. When I was in elementary school, I started working on small engines. In junior high, I was building and rebuilding bicycles and motorcycles. I’ve always tinkered with complex electronics too. I wanted the first generation iPhone so bad, I bought replacement parts online and built one for a fraction of the off-contract price. I still make custom parts for my vehicles and home to this day. I’m by no means some super-genius. I’m just very mechanically and technically inclined. I’ve met many people like me over the years. Some of these people struggle to get noticed at their jobs and get into the positions they were meant for. Some of these people struggle to even at least get in their industry of expertise.
From here, let’s look at the reason why this is, then continue on to make my point about jobs in this country and minimum wage.
Many employers look for a degree first. It’s almost as if, to them, the degree makes the person. Do you know how many incompetent, educated people I have met over the years? Many. Just as many of them as brilliant, uneducated people. I’ve been passed up for promotions, doing work that I actually have done before and am good at, for people with no work experience but they do have a college degree. Guess what the result was? I had to train the people! Two different instances at the same company. Back in the good old days, people were hired based on their willingness to work and willingness to learn. Companies would hire people for their raw talent. Not a piece of paper that said they studied hard and passed their exams(not that college is bad. Education is a good thing). Studying something and actually using the information in the real world are two different things. Did you know that photographers, graphic designers, computer programmers, web designers, and other creative types still get hired based on what they can do? Many of the most talented in these fields are self taught. Some of them even high school dropouts.
Now, I am focusing mostly on engineering-type jobs. The type of jobs our President recently said we don’t have enough qualified people to fill. If that is true, why do companies like Quirky exist? Quirky takes the ideas of average people and turns them into real products. What about Kickstarter? People take their ideas to this website and whoever feels inclined to support that idea, donates money to take it from an idea to a real product or service. If you haven’t noticed, DIY is a really big thing right now. Startup companies are the new way of getting things done.
I think I see where all the intelligent people are. The people who could do these manufacturing jobs (engineering, management, quality, assembly, logistics, etc) are sick of waiting for the jobs, so they create their own. Why do you think tech giants buy so many startups? That’s how they get truly valuable employees. They didn’t just build a startup company. They created a resume, filled out a job application, completed an internship and proved their value all at once. I truly believe that the lack of proper employment for the middle class is propelling some into the world of startups and holding others back. Those of us who hold true, middle-class jobs; are we lucky, complacent, or really just somewhere in between?
With that, I will close this rant. It is all based on my personal experience and my personal experience is based on what I view in the news and what I view around me. I also want to challenge the President and the large companies who could create jobs for us: look at where we are and truly try to see what got us here. Look at the points I made. Do we really have a shortage of qualified people? Would less-than-qualified people rise to the challenge if given the chance? You possess the power to influence real change in America. Give people hope again. Give them a source of self-worth. Give them jobs. Raising the minimum wage isn’t just “raising the minimum wage.” It is lowering the American standard.