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Mike Rowe Evaluates America's Workforce: "Your Choice Isn’t College Or Oblivion" ( 7/16/22 18:28 PST ) (1 Viewer)


VIDEO: Mike Rowe: How We've Set Up the Workforce for Failure - Dirty Jobs | Praise on TBN Jun 28, 2021

Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs sits down with Matt Crouch on TBN's Praise in Colorado. Listen in as Mike Rowe breaks down what he's learned from "Dirty Jobs" and the impact that taking pride out of hard work has had on our workforce and how it inevitably crippled our younger generations.

“It’s not just that. It’s that we have unintendedly maligned an entire section of our workforce by promoting one form of education, in my opinion, at the expense of all of the other forms. Forty years ago, college needed a PR campaign. We needed more people to get into ‘higher’ education, but when we gave the big push for college back in the ‘70s, we did it at the expense of alternative education.....That attitude led to the removal of shop classes across the country, and the removal of shop classes completed obliterated from view the optical and visual proof of opportunity for a whole generation of kids......The skills gap today, in my opinion, is a result of the removal of shop class and the repeated message that the best path for most people happens to be the most expensive path. This is why, in my opinion, we have $1.6 trillion of student loans on the books, and 7.3 million open positions, most of which don’t require a four-year degree.....We’re just disconnected. We’re rewarding behavior we should be discouraging. We’re lending money we don’t have to kids who are never going to be able to pay it back to train them for jobs that don’t exist anymore. That’s nuts.....”


Direct Headline: Your Choice Isn’t College or Oblivion

Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs and the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, discusses on Good Morning America the need for people to look at all job options, not just college:

“....We have seven million jobs now that are open and the vast majority don’t require a four-year degree. There’s a ton of opportunity that people don’t talk about. What we are talking about instead, unfortunately, is the best path for most people. It’s a cookie cutter approach to how to figure things out. For the last 40 years, that path has been really simple. Get a four-year degree, borrow whatever it takes to get it, and then get out into the world and pursue your dream. What’s happened as a result is the skills gap has gotten wider and the college debt is now approaching $1.6 trillion. And we are still lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back who are training for jobs that don’t exist anymore. It’s madness when there is so much opportunity around us.....

....My foundation looks for people who are willing to hit the reset button, retool, learn skills that are in demand, and get to work. We are in a binary time right now. Everything is this or that. Blue collar or white collar. Left or right. Everything is framed with a false choice. Your choice isn’t college or oblivion. It’s not higher education or alternative education. There are so many ways to go, from apprenticeships to scholarships to fellowships to community college. All of it is equal. When you promote one form of education at the expense of the others you create the problem that we are having right now. It’s fine to push college but you can’t push college by saying if you don’t go over here you are going to wind up with some vocational consolation prize.

...The mikeroweWORKS Foundation evolved out of Dirty Jobs. Part of the reason was the cognitive dissonance that occurs when you see somebody doing something that is supposed to make you miserable but instead is making you joyful. Dirty Jobbers as a group were having a ball. People couldn’t understand, why is everybody laughing in the sewer? Why is everybody having such a good time doing these jobs that I’ve been taught will make me sad and unhappy? The reason is that you’ve been lied to most of your life. A job is not the proximate cause of your happiness. You are....

...We all want to be passionate about what we do. But why would we wait until we’re doing the magical thing that allows us to be passionate? You don’t follow your passion you bring it with you. That was one of the big lessons from Dirty Jobbers. These people were passionate about what they were doing but they didn’t sit down and say what do I have to do to be happy? I need this job. I need this kind of mate. I need to live in this sort of zip code. I need this kind of education. You spend all your life checking boxes that basically give you permission to feel good about the thing you ought to feel good about right now...."

Rich Ord April 17, 2019


"Also – today’s politics being what they are – many people assume that Dirty Jobs is not just a tribute blue collar work, but a subtle indictment of management and bosses in general. Not so. Underneath all the exploding toilets and misadventures in animal husbandry, Dirty Jobs was really an examination of vocational happiness. My show was never about the color of collars, or the role of unions, or the dangers of income inequality – it was always a non-partisan look at individual job satisfaction. Sure – we featured many hard-working employees, but we also profiled just as many entrepreneurs, small business owners, sole-proprietors, and independent contractors who woke up clean and came home dirty. And along the way, we tried hard to never equate the value of a job with the size of a paycheck. Why? Because I know welders who made $45,000 a year, and I know other welders who made $175,000 a year. Likewise plumbers and painters and miners and electricians.

Today – in my opinion – too many genuine opportunities are dismissed or ignored by those looking for work because they believe the job is too dirty, or the hours too long, or the perks too few, or the starting pay too low. It would be useful I suppose, if we could know with certainty what a specific vocation would always afford the worker, but we can’t. Geography matters, as does experience, attitude, work-ethic, and a dozen other factors that often get pushed aside. In Colorado, we met a guy who cleaned septic tanks for $32,000 a year. In Wisconsin, we met another guy doing the same thing for about $250,000. I met maggot farmers and worm wranglers who made more than many tenured college professors. I profiled farmers who were on the verge of bankruptcy, and other farmers who were multi-millionaires. From what I could tell though, they all loved their work.

And where exactly, have you heard me say or imply that “all” graduates are in debt? Sure – I’ve railed against the pressure we put on kids to borrow so much money at such a young age, and I’ve repeatedly likened the student loan bubble to the real-estate bubble that crushed our economy last time around. But where and when have I ever said that all graduates are indebted? If I’m critical of people who buy a house they can’t afford, that doesn’t mean I’m “anti-real-estate.”

And what exactly have I said or done to give you the impression that I’m unaware of “scholarships, grants, and tuition assistance programs?” In the last three years, not a month has gone by where I haven’t used Facebook to highlight a scholarship winner from my own foundation. Do you really want to use my own page to lecture me on the existence of scholarship money, while I’m using the same space to announce the recipients of millions of scholarship dollars? With respect, Michael, it’s just not a persuasive argument.

To be clear – I strongly support education in all its forms. I have a college degree, and as I’ve said many times, it’s served me well. But I believe society is making a terrible mistake by promoting college at the expense of all other forms of education. For instance, the surgeon you reference, (who I would indeed prefer to have graduated from an accredited university,) will never make it to the hospital to successfully remove my appendix without a functional infrastructure, which depends almost entirely upon an army of skilled tradespeople. And yet, our society clearly values the surgeon far more than mechanic who keeps her car running, or the contractor who put in the roads that allows her to drive to the emergency room.

This is the same bias that prompts us to pressure kids to borrow vast sums of money to get expensive degrees that all too frequently do not lead to a job that will pay them enough to service the debt. But again – that’s not an indictment of college; it’s a criticism of our tendency to encourage the same path for everyone, regardless of cost.

Let’s consider your example of the $100K degree in Russian Literature. As you’ve said, such a degree might very well be a wise choice for the right individual. Obviously, that’s undeniable. And I suppose, if the country were now facing an existential crises brought about by an alarming shortage of Russian Literature experts, I might very well be using this page to encourage more people to read Chekhov and Dostoevsky. But that’s neither the case, nor the point. The point, is that our culture does not make such nuanced distinctions when it comes to pushing the value of four-year schools – we push them on EVERYONE. We’ve got it into our heads that a college education is SO important, that the cost is irrelevant, along with the actual demand for whatever major a kid might wish to declare. “How dare anyone question such things!” Thus, we’ve encouraged an entire generation to borrow whatever it takes to get whatever degree they believe will make them happy. Is it any wonder tuition has risen so quickly?

Meanwhile, the kid who apprenticed to be a plumber or an electrician is looked at as something less. Even if he has no debt! Even if he makes six-figures a year! Even if he hangs out his own shingle and hires other plumbers! This year, American Standard donated $100,000 to my scholarship fund. It was a massive struggle to find anyone willing to learn the plumbing trade – even when the training was free! That’s because collectively, we still value that Russian Lit degree more than a plumbing certification! Honestly, it’s enough to make me rely on exclamation points way more than usual!!!

What I’ve opposed – consistently – is not the importance of higher education, but rather, the relentless drumbeat of “college for everyone.” That’s the real problem, and it’s worth repeating. Because this cookie-cutter approach to education presupposes that all worthwhile knowledge can only be attained from a college or a university. That’s the most dangerous myth of all, and the unintended consequences are now self-evident – the vanishing of shop class in high schools, ....trillion dollars of student loans, and ....million vacant jobs that no one is trained to do. That’s the skills gap. It’s real, and it’s a massive problem for anyone who shares my addiction to smooth roads, cool air, and indoor plumbing.

Finally, Michael, at the risk of protesting too much, let me assure you that those who actually follow this page know that my message is deeply pro-education. However – the best path for the most people should never the most expensive, and as long as the government is in the business of lending billions of dollars to college students, I’ll continue to challenge the idea that college is the only place to get a worthwhile education. Likewise, as long as ... million (of)  jobs sit vacant – the majority of which do not require a four-year degree – I’ll encourage you to join me...."   - Mike Rowe's response to a fan letter on the value of a college education


"Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." -  Theodore Roosevelt

"When your work speaks for itself, don't interrupt."  - Henry J. Kaiser

Given the current controversy of the demands for Joe Biden to use Executive Orders to give widespread student loan forgiveness to buy votes and the deep ugly questions about the institutions that pushed young Americans, many of whom were extremely vulnerable, to essentially take a lifetime mortgage on their educations, what is often left out of the conversation is the viewpoint of those like Mike Rowe.

Is Rowe correct in his viewpoints on a deeper examination of America's workforce and work culture? I would say like many other complex social/cultural/political issues, there are many cases where he is right and many cases where he might not be totally correct, but he has some strong points to make that are worth introspection. I do think though he has a clear bias from his own life experiences and even from his limited funnel of "exposure" through Dirty Jobs, and that colors some context that he won't and can't expand upon.

As an employer myself, I look at my own employees across time, but not just them, but I've watched many of their children grow up. Some were clearly suited for college as their best chance to make their way into the world. Some were clearly suited for a certain type of career, college oriented or not. Some had physical limitations that restricted some kind of work. Some were, tragically, in special needs situations where their practical future roles would be very constrained but there was still some opportunity to be productive in our society. And some of these kids, I would have just sent them right to boot camp and hard labor work farms from the age of 12 because they needed some strong hands and discipline around them. There is no one size that fits all for all people. That denies the basic human condition.

What does Mike Rowe say that is worth merit no matter what and for everyone in our workforce and would good lessons for America's youth?

1) Lending countless young Americans, in the trillions of dollars, many whom were vulnerable and understandably had a poor conception of finance, money management and how the working world actually operates, was a business model where the bubble was clearly going to burst. Roughly 1.75 trillion is about the total amount of outstanding student-loan debt in the United States. About 92% of that debt, over $1.6 trillion, is essentially owed to the federal government. America's student loan debt approximates to about 6.5% of U.S. gross domestic product. That's staggering in scope. The question exists if this "business model" is and was designed to be solely predatory on the hopes and dreams and confusion of America's youth is hotly debated topic.

2) There are millions of "essential jobs",  though clearly not high status ones, that America needs filled to keep our society functioning and moving forward.  For every "status position", it can only survive as part of a complex web where many more perceived mundane jobs and careers keep the wheels turning. If America is expected to survive and thrive, particularly for our children's futures, there needs to be a more practical pathway ( Rowe cites the value of high school classes that lean this way), with good public policy, good public administration and functional logistical support,  to match many young Americans into these areas.

3) Your job and your career should not be the basis of your life happiness and sense of self worth. What you do for a living does not define you as a person. However I want to be fair and say that's easy for a wealthy guy like Mike Rowe who only dabbles into brutal work to say that. If you are living in poverty or are one of the many Americans who are paycheck and a half away from being homeless, the concept of job satisfaction is a luxury. But I think Rowe has a good point in that things are often what you make of them, you can bring "passion" to anything, how you choose to react is part of your own agency and there are always more opportunities out there if you are willing to push yourself towards them.

4) Mike Rowe asks the hard question that many won't say out loud. Is the current American process about - Lending money we don’t have to kids who are never going to be able to pay it back to train them for jobs that don’t exist anymore?

Certainly in current times, the widespread social acceptance to question on if college is for everyone has been normalized. But what about all the decades where it was seen as Rowe puts it, the choice between going to get four year degree or more and some kind of oblivion and the deeply held perception of an unavoidable fate soaked in total poverty?

What Rowe doesn't cover is the increased pressure, most particularly and especially, for young men in America to be defined by their careers and earning power and how that impacts dating, mating and marriage rituals that have caused a free fall in the overall birth rate. ( Consider how the looming and brutal birth rate crisis in Japan will likely destabilize and wipe out their entire society) And the impact of Third Wave feminism across the entire country that has made an aggressive structured attack against masculinity, nuclear families and traditional male bonding environments/rituals as a whole. There are many young men in crisis in this country, many have been abandoned and left without structure, guidance and mentorship, and these social and cultural factors also create a push/pull in how our modern workforce operates. 

This is a very complex topic because it deals with parenting, what young Americans ( especially teenagers) are exposed to and the saturation effect there, the broken machinery of the Big Education system, the widening gap between the wealthy and the poor, the erosion of the middle class, the choice by elected officials to serve their big donor corporate overlords over the every day hard working tax paying citizen, idiotic economic policy that impacts and punishes our children's and even our grand children's financial futures, and the trends and dynamics of our economy and where some predictive models say this will all go in the long term.

I'll leave this here for others to discuss.

Great topic.

Pretty easy to make $50-$65 an hour painting right now.  You don't need a college education for that, but the skills from a good education will help you get the work and run your business.  Many plumbing companies are getting $1500 labor only for 3-4 hours work replacing a H2O heater.  Cleaners are making $40-$60 per hour.

While the money is good, how long does your body hold out?  The other issue with these types of businesses is health insurance.  Given or current employer based model where the solo individuals gets tossed into the dirty pool.  That's going to cost you $12k a year if you're older plus another $5k deductible.

Note: Southeast prices  

Great topic.

Pretty easy to make $50-$65 an hour painting right now.  You don't need a college education for that, but the skills from a good education will help you get the work and run your business.  Many plumbing companies are getting $1500 labor only for 3-4 hours work replacing a H2O heater.  Cleaners are making $40-$60 per hour.

While the money is good, how long does your body hold out?  The other issue with these types of businesses is health insurance.  Given or current employer based model where the solo individuals gets tossed into the dirty pool.  That's going to cost you $12k a year if you're older plus another $5k deductible.

Note: Southeast prices  
Agree, but one can get the business skills from a JUCO rather than a four year college.  If high schools offered life skills classes that offered money management, those would help also.


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