Minimum Wage Deals a Blow to Teen Training

The nation’s lowest-paid workers get some relief today, but teens may feel the heat.

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The federal minimum wage rose 70 cents today to $6.55 an hour. It will rise again next year to $7.25. The move has its fair share of detractors who argue against government price-setting.

Business owners who pay minimum wage to train teenagers in their first jobs often find the increases frustrating, as it makes the training more expensive, and the teenagers aren't bearing major financial burdens.

I started working as soon as I could—in an independently owned coffee shop—and worked in the same spot for all of high school. I was as green as it gets, and I got minimum wage. I had to learn how to operate a register, prepare food, sanitize a floor, unclog a toilet, record sales at close of business, and how to respond to customers. I learned what happened when a drawer was short, when the cafe wasn't cleaned properly at night. My boss wasn't in the shop all the time, but when he was, he was training. Even after I'd been there a year, he'd quiz me on how to pull the perfect shot or how to steam skim milk properly (the lack of fat makes it tricky to build decent foam).

There are, obviously, major benefits to increasing the pay of 13 million or so workers. A downside, however, is that employers may be less able to hire and train those very green teens.

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