Op-Ed

Raise skills, education level instead of minimum wage

Janey Moores is president and CEO of BJM Staffing & Associates in Lexington.
Janey Moores is president and CEO of BJM Staffing & Associates in Lexington.

What is the point of the proposed minimum wage increase? It is to offer lower skilled individuals an opportunity to earn a higher income.

While this may sound like a compassionate, even a noble, endeavor, it misses the mark — both on the immediate front and in the future.

A minimum wage was always meant to serve as an entry-level wage for first-time workers who require close supervision, plus a great deal of training time and employer costs.

With additional work experience and education, employees advance from that first rung on the ladder in their career paths. They were never intended to languish on that first rung. They must actively participate in developing their career advancement.

According to numerous studies in the past two years, over half of all minimum wage earners work part-time.

Additionally, the number of entry-level jobs for first-time workers (primarily teenagers) has dropped significantly, as the minimum wage rate has increased in cities across the United States.

These cities are also learning that when increasing the minimum wage rate, the increased direct cost of doing business forces everyone in the community to pay more for all goods and services — including chipping away the benefit of the higher wages.

On April 1, Seattle's minimum wage was increased to $11 an hour and is mandated to increase to $15 by 2022. After only four months of what is developing into an economic death wish, there are now more than 1,300 Seattle area restaurant workers who were employed in January who no longer are employed today — and that's in only one sector of Seattle's job market.

Jobs were lost, work hours were cut, and there has been more robotic replacement of workers.

In an effort to absorb the higher wage costs, businesses face laying off employees, reducing work hours of the remaining employees, moving out of those cities or closing down entirely. Those consequences are becoming more visible with each passing day.

What we cannot readily view today is how many businesses, stores and franchises will not open or will not expand their operations due to the higher labor costs.

So, how can we help people earn more money?

■ Improving education, particularly learning the basics (reading comprehension, writing skills, grammar, spelling, math, etc.).

■ Learning skills that are in demand in today's economy (nursing assistants begin earning $9 to $10 per hour and require only one to two weeks of training prior to certification; auto mechanics are in high demand and earn generous wages; general maintenance workers also earn high pay; bookkeepers are another high demand skill set).

■ Learning how to conduct a successful job search or how to qualify for a better job.

■ Learning how to keep a good job.

How can we help them earn more money?

■ Incentivize businesses to grow and to hire more employees. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that well over 50 percent of all workers in the United States are employed by small businesses. Two-thirds of all new jobs are created by small businesses — not by minimum wage laws.

What is preventing America's primary job creators from hiring more employees?

■ Shrinking profits.

■ Bloated business taxes.

■ Suffocating government regulations and excessive reporting.

■ Mandated health care costs to pay for the exploding Obamacare and Medicaid reforms.

Today, there are over 93 million Americans ages 16 to 68 years who are unemployed or underemployed.

With an already weak economy, better career training and healthy businesses with the funds to hire will assist low-skilled and low-income workers to earn a higher income while not reducing job growth.

Increasing the minimum wage misses the point and is an attack on education and career training.

Our state is already one of the lowest-achieving states in the nation when it comes to completing quality education. In earlier years, families encouraged, if not insisted, that their children stayed in school, studied well, graduated, and worked hard in their careers.

That was the successful formula that helped them to earn higher incomes and to achieve their dreams — not mandated wage increases.

It still is.

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