Life is full of experiences, stepping stones if you will. As babies, we started out crawling, then pulling ourselves up, and eventually learned to walk. In school, we began in kindergarten learning numbers, shapes, and the alphabet. We then built off of that knowledge and learned multiplication tables. Later, we started using letters, combines with multiplication skills to master algebra. Everything we do in life is made possible by the experiences and trials of our past. While we couldn’t master algebra without the principles we learned in kindergarten, we also couldn’t simply stay in kindergarten forever and still obtain the knowledge and benefits that come with mastering algebra. It’s all very logical. Surprisingly enough, the essence of the professional world is not much different than this scenario.
The majority of American teenagers get a job, typically in the fast food industry, some time during their high school years. This is what we refer to as an “entry level job” because it doesn’t require a degree or any level of past experience. This is the working world’s version of kindergarten. Entry level jobs were never intended to be careers. In fact, minimum wage was never meant to support a family.
I personally started out making milkshakes at Cookout. That minimum wage job has taught me so much. I learned how to work under pressure and that sometimes, we have to do things even if we really don’t want to. I learned how to work with all types of people, and how to be professional no matter how rude a customer was being. I learned to be responsible – for money, for my trainees, and for the quality of my product. I also learned the true meaning of exhausted and how satisfying it is to get a check that I worked incredibly hard for. I earned the federal minimum wage, $7.25 per hour, for a year at this job. The reality is, Cookout was my kindergarten. It taught me key skills that I will carry into a career one day. I worked at Cookout while going through school and working toward the education required to move up. Just like kindergarten, minimum wage jobs are not intended to be for life. Minimum wage jobs exist to teach young adults about the workforce and give them key skills necessary for the professional world as well to allow them to earn a little spending money. Minimum wage jobs are not intended to be a lifetime career.
Society today is demanding a $15 minimum wage for entry level workers. That was never the intention behind these positions. Raising the minimum wage could force companies to raise prices, lay off workers, or even replace workers with technology. Demanding $15 is not only irrational, it’s also a huge risk. It doesn’t make sense to pay someone who is not only more educated in their field, but also potentially has college loans, the same wage as someone who doesn’t have credentials or a higher education. It is so easy to find scholarships and grants to at least attend community college – there’s no reason not to work and advance professionally.
Minimum wage is only the beginning, it’s the bottom of the barrel, and it’s stepping stone to grow professionally. While it has numerous benefits, minimum wage isn’t meant to support a family on. The bottom line is that minimum wage is an entry level pay, it’s meant for those just getting jobs and starting out not for those who’ve been in the workforce for years. Anyone on minimum wage should have bigger plans and actively being working toward accomplishing them. Minimum wage is the starting line, it’s kindergarten – not anyone’s end game.