FORT WORTH, Texas, November 5, 2013 — Long ago young people in America could get a good, life-long career right out of high school. Even dropouts could have a future. Americans were able to make a decent living, support a family and save for retirement without a college degree.
People knew back then that if you took a job in the trades you would never go hungry.
Sounds like a fairy tale but it is true. The trades were a driving force in the American economy that kept the country on the move. However, the 80’s saw a change in the attitudes towards tradesmen and women and what they did. College degrees were king and trade schools became boorish.
Mike Rowe took notice of that when apprenticing for various employers on his show, Dirty Jobs. Influenced by his beloved grandfather, Pop, a tradesman, he set out to change perceptions and help the country as well.
Mike wrote in Guideposts magazine, “I considered a world without men like Pop. What would civilization look like without them? If a TV host calls in sick, life goes on. But if our tradesmen don’t report for work, things fall apart. Literally. “
Our country had begun a war on physical labor and with it came bigotry. To have your name on your work shirt became a joke. Many believed a career in the trades were for the stupid or intellectually deficient—and still do.
And adding insult to injury major industries shut down factories and other venues where a trade skill was vital. They were to manufacturing what oil is to a car— its lifeblood.
Then Hollywood and Madison Avenue added to it by convincing us that hard work is the enemy. An expensive four-year degree was the only way to a “good job.” You were somehow inferior if your source of income was through skilled labor.
Fast forward thirty years. What is the fruit of that arrogance and greed? Rowe reports that the American infrastructure is now crumbling and not only is there no money to fix it—there are no longer enough people who know how to do it if there was capital to pay them.
Fortunately the light that Dirty Jobs shined on these careers began to change the tide that was against them. In 2008 the TV show host founded mikeroweWORKS, a “trade resource center and non-profit foundation designed to reinvigorate Skilled Trades.”
Rowe’s fans helped him and his staff build the site from the ground up. A clearinghouse of Skilled Trades, mikeroweWORKS contains several sections and is a vast source of pertinent information; and if it isn’t there they know where to find it.
Each category contains sub-categories such as: state and national resources, job listings, women in trades, special needs, resources for vets and the military, apprenticeships, and more.
Mike also impugns the mindset that created the Skills Gap in the first place with Profoundly Disconnected.
The site states, “A trillion dollars in student loans. Record high unemployment. Three million good jobs that no one seems to want…..The Skills Gap is here, and if we don’t close it, it’ll swallow us all….”
The page refutes the old saying, “Work smart not hard” complete with a picture of a clean and well groomed guy in cap and gown next to a picture of a guy wearing dirty coveralls from a day of work as a tradesman. PD contains articles by Mike, Trade Resource Center, job applications, a store, scholarship opportunities and a large donation button to help the cause.
There is also the S.W.E.A.T. Pledge – an oath signed by high schoolers looking for financial assistance to learn a trade. The acronym stands for Skill & Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo. Its twelve tenets challenge the egocentric mindset held by many today that includes narcissism, pretentiousness, greed and personal irresponsibility.
The pledge begins with:
“I believe that I have won the greatest lottery of all time. I am alive. I walk the Earth. I live in America. Above all things I am grateful.”
There are eleven more tenets that build upon this first conviction.
These principles prevailed in years past. They are the values that characterized the “Greatest Generation” that won the Second World War. If they had had the whiney, “I’m too good to get my hands dirty” attitude of today God only knows how scary the world would be now.
Mike is spreading the word about this mission every chance he gets. He’s appeared before Congress, written President Obama and Mitt Romney (Romney answered,) went from Real Time with Bill Maher to Glenn Beck on his Blaze TV program. He’s raised money on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and continues to travel the country spreading the word.
Hopefully the next several years will see the fruits of his labors proliferate many times over. If so maybe unemployment and our crumbling infrastructure will be a thing of the past.
To paraphrase a much quoted saying, “Apathy and denial flourish when good men do nothing.” And until the problem is fixed Mike Rowe will keep up his crusade until the job is done.
To help Americans get back to profitable and worthwhile careers donate here: MRW Foundation.
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