Posted tagged ‘poverty’

Catch Up and Ketchup

February 17, 2013

 Historic implications aside, African American employment rates are dismally low. To add salt to an infected wound, high school graduation rates in America’s high minority urban school systems teeters around 50% when measured against a typical 4 year high school cycle. These truths being stated make for a hazardous potent cocktail that is drunkenly destroying the fabric of urban neighborhoods, school districts, and municipalities nationwide.

The focus of this blog entry is job preparedness and the development of workplace skill sets.

Too often, African American teenagers do not seek work until they are twenty years of age or older. This trend must be reversed if a young African American population is to realize their earning potential.   

If young African-Americans are waiting until 20 years of age to secure minimum wage employment, they have a late start when compared to the number of 15 year-old children who secure minimum wage employment upon eligibility. The 20-year-old is 5 years behind  in terms of marketability,  the acquisition of job skills, experience, and short and long-term earnings and taxable wages.

As a high school teacher and Assistant Principal, I encouraged young people to seek employment at the one place where there is unlimited potential due to high turnover: Fast food restaurants.

Now, I in no way am advocating for the many fast food giants that churn out food of questionable quality. However, a young male or female can earn a federally mandated  wage, gain work experience, learn to work cooperatively, gain time management skills, build references, and develop many day-to-day life skills. 

As a teenager working long hours in a fast food restaurant, I developed some very basic skills that have, in some form or manner, afforded me the privilege of gaining employment within several domains. Whether as a a hard hat at a coal facility through college, school district employee, or an elected official, I’ve secured any job I’ve applied for over the last 30 years. 

How can part time employment at a fast food restaurant assist the most at risk urban minorities in gaining an understanding of life and vocation? I came to understand workplace climates, protocols, and politics by the time I was 16 years of age. I gained invaluable knowledge related to team work, selflessness, and how to work on and within a winning team. If you win, then we all win was the mantra of fast food employment and exists within many corporate structures to this day.

How can part time employment at a fast food restaurant assist the most at risk urban minorities in gaining an understanding of life and vocation? 

My first day of work/orientation at the fast food restaurant informed me that uniformity in appearance and operations were vitally important to the success of the employee and business.

I learned that there are stages, levels, and steps within the simplest of operations and systems. Within this fast food establishment, a new employee starts at the dead bottom by performing duties such as refilling napkin and drinking straw canisters, emptying trash, hosing parking lots, unloading delivery trucks, and cleaning bathrooms. I was never too proud to say, “No, I don’t do that”.

Note: Fast food bathrooms may just be the filthiest public bathrooms on earth. 

Once an employee has performed these duties with regularity and within a certain performance rubric, food preparation was the next step  on the career lattice.  Hours of cutting onions, mixing sauces, prepping meat, and exchanging heavy CO2 bottles were just several of the duties performed. Although not glamorous, it was certainly better than cleaning toilets.

Once I was seen as an actively engaged and committed employee, I moved to actually cooking the food. I was responsible for delivering “the package”. The package contained the food items that made this fast food establishment millions of dollars per year. 

As my trustworthiness, performance, adaptability, timeliness, willingness, quick math computation skilks, and human to human contact were assessed to be adequate, I quickly moved from the fryer to the cash register. This was a time when the register person had to take a math test to gauge suitability to touch the money. The cash registers of the early 80’s did not compute change.  Eventually, I ascended to shift supervisor. This promotional track took all of one month and I was still a teenager. Best of all, I found my way to the money.

In essence, children must be raised with the understanding that work is as much a part of life, if not more so, than sleeping and jumping from social media platform to platform.  It is unfortunate that no matter the economic status of the family, we refuse to lay upon our children that hard work, early and often, reaps results and establishes a foundation by which America was built. 

No man or woman should be too proud to work an honest day for honest pay. 

This is important to note because as I told my students, one has to start at the bottom. You have to work hard, be on time, learn the job, develop customer service skills, deliver results, and treat each working day, whether sweeping floors, changing oil, or running a Fortune 500 company, etc., with pride and genuine effort. 

Throughout the summer of 1983, I received compensation at the rate of $3.35 per hour.