Minimum Rage

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.

 

Adventures In Charity: Why I Am Doing This

I began this adventure by accident. I thought I could do something nice for one person but had my eyes wrenched open and could now see a larger problem that really isn’t so evident. Who doesn’t own a computer? Senior citizens? That isn’t even so true anymore. My grandparents have a desktop, laptop and a tablet. Nobody shows up to work and talks to their coworkers about not having a computer. People don’t typically share when they are lacking something and technology has become so engrained in our daily lives, it’s hard to imagine other people without it. I have a hard time remembering what it was like not to have a computer myself.

At some point during my grade school career, teachers stopped accepting hand-written papers and required all final copies of our work be typed. I got very familiar with typewriters. Computers were very unaffordable when I was a kid. At this point in time, having a computer meant that you had a job that required you to have a computer. If not, you were spending a lot of money on another object to collect dust in your home. Having a computer also meant that you knew how to get a lot out of your computer, unlike today where many computer owners use less than 10% of their computer’s potential. Computers are just as much a life tool as they are a professional tool.

So, why am I offering to collect, fix, and distribute unwanted computers?

Times have changed. In my lifetime, computer usage has gone from super-specific tasks and training to a widely utilized form of getting things done. Most jobs involve computers. I know only a handful of businesses that don’t use computers in any way and sadly, that practice will die along with the people who do business that way. Computers are utilized from the highest all the way down to even the lowest positions at most companies in this country. Sooner or later everyone will have to know basic computer skills to get a job. Educators realize this and schools are starting to heavily integrate technology in the teaching process.

Technology is no longer limited to the school computer lab. iPads are beginning to replace textbooks. If your child misbehaves in the classroom, an email is sent to you immediately. Your child missed a day of class? The lessons and homework are available online. If you want to have a school’s schedule of events, you can simply subscribe to their calendar and all school events are imported into your personal, digital calendar. Sure, your child probably knows how to operate your phone better than you, but what kind of practical exposure to technology does your child get outside of school?

 

I am doing this because I don’t believe people should be left behind. My first computer opened a new world of possibilities for me. I learned how to use a computer in school but I never truly experienced computers until I actually owned one. Having a home computer can keep parents up-to-date on their child’s progress at school. It can give their child access to reources for school assignments. Computers can bring the classroom home for people who want an education but don’t have the time. Computers may not be a high priority for a struggling family, but it may provide the edge they need to start thriving. That is why I choose to do this. Many programs just like this exist all around the United States because it is worthwhile. Many intelligent people don’t live up to their potential just because they were never given a chance to grow. I want to give people that chance.

Adventures In Charity: How I Got Started

A few years ago, I helped a coworker do some computer work. I will admit it is something I did not want to do. At this point in my life I was very unhappy with my job, unhappy that I lost a good job, and so unhappy with the people I had to work with. I felt sorry for the guy, so I agreed to help him. He didn’t have anyway to pay for the work I did, which was fine. I didn’t want to be paid. Instead, he gave me all the extra computer parts he had. I played around with some of the parts and managed to make a working computer. It was fairly outdated and I had no use or room for an extra computer so I offered it up for free online. Within 12 hours I had over 100 people asking for that single computer.

More than 100 people, part of one, small online community in Macomb County, Michigan. I couldn’t believe it. Computers seem so commonplace. Who doesn’t have a computer? Apparently, many people. The reasons for needing a computer were mostly the same for the group seeking my solitary machine; education. People who are homeschooling, the jobless looking to become employable, parents who want their kids to keep up with their peers, and one grandparent taking care of a special needs child. It was difficult to just pick one person. Who am I to decide who is more deserving? I finally settled on a couple who uprooted their life in Georgia to come pastor a new Church in Marine City. I didn’t believe they were more deserving. I simply believed that one computer could make a larger impact that way.

Ever since that posting, I have had  a project on my mind. A charitable effort to help people gain access to everyday technology. It has finally launched, in the form of a ministry. Partnering with The Eastside Vineyard Church, my home church, we are spreading the word and working to make an impact mainly for the sake of education.

 

To be continued…

 

For more information about The Eastside Vineyard Church, click here.

To know more about TEVC Computer Pantry, from The Eastside Vineyard website, click on “what we do” and then click on “computer pantry” or click here.

I’m Really Not A Slacker

I'm Really Not A Slacker

In defense of my lack of recent posts, this picture should explain why I haven’t been posting. I usually post what I’m up to, recent photos, and my Lunch Hour Revolution posts. Instead, I’ve been spending my lunch breaks and blogging time working on this project; TEVC (The Eastside Vineyard Church) Computer Pantry. I’m hoping to launch it really soon but for now we have been doing all our legal research, outlining the process, creating documents, setting up contact info, and working on a website. Consider this a teaser. I will post all the details real soon!

I Sometimes Wonder About Heaven

Information is my ultimate craving. I like to know how things work. I love to know the reasons behind situations, why and how things work. To learn about how something works, I usually take it apart. This helps me to see and touch the the why and how.The things I can’t touch though, keep me wondering.

Sometimes, I find myself wondering about heaven. There are many accounts about heaven. People claim to have been there and back, but there is only one person I know who has for sure been there and back; Jesus Christ. His description of heaven doesn’t give me all the details I crave. I truly believe heaven is the wonderful place the Bible says it is, but I love to know how things work. How does heaven work? And, it’s not so much about how heaven works but more specifically, how will work in heaven? How much of this worldly man will still exist in heaven?

The most specific thing about heaven I wonder about can be summed up like this: I have so many questions about the world, the universe, existence, myself, the devil, humanity, history, etc. Will those questions be answered in heaven? If so, how? Will there be a Heaven 101 class? Do I get to have Peter as a teacher and sit at a desk to learn all the basics? After that do I take a class where all my specific questions are answered? Is it like adding songs to an iPod? When you get to heaven, all the rules, regulations, and secrets of the universe are uploaded to your brain? Or, do you become so enlightened and content that all your worldly desires completely vanish and you don’t even care about those questions anymore?

I know I have to wait for the answer. Waiting may actually be the best part. It builds up my anticipation and I bet the real thing will be better than I could ever imagine.

The Lunch Hour Revolution #4

These posts are intended for people who claim they are “too busy” to pursue things that we think should be done in our spare time. Spare time just doesn’t fall in your lap. You have to make time. These posts will focus on things that can be done in the little time set aside for lunch.

Yahoo! puts useful lists together usually about once a week. These lists are intended to inform and empower readers. This list featured at the link below is right up my alley. It features degrees you can earn on your lunch break. I am currently doing this as well. I studied graphic design in the late 90’s on a beige MacIntosh with Mac OS8 or 9. I still remember how to do quite a bit, but a lot has changed since those days, so I’m taking an online class during my lunch break. In 14 hours of lessons (and the accompanying homework) I will be officially Photoshop certified. Take a look at the list Yahoo! put together and see if an education is in your future.

http://education.yahoo.net/articles/school_on_your_lunch_hour.htm?kid=1O0PA

The Lunch Hour Revolution #3

These posts are intended for people who claim they are “too busy” to pursue things that we think should be done in our spare time. Spare time just doesn’t fall in your lap. You have to make time. These posts will focus on things that can be done in the little time set aside for lunch.

This will be short and sweet. On my lunch break today, I installed a trailer hitch. Hope you enjoyed your burger.