Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs and I have a Message for Young People

Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs and I have a Message for Young People

For most of history, very few people have gone to college or universities.  If you were to be a lawyer, doctor, engineer or a handful of other trades you went.  There was a strong apprentice system where you would learn most trades first by learning the family business, whatever that was, second, by apprenticing to someone making a living in the field you desired.  As your skills increased, you became a journeyman and later a master crafter.  Guilds or trade unions regulated themselves, provided training and kept up certain price and quality standards.  These were the backbone of nearly every advanced society.  We were told – “Get a job and support your family.  Work sucks, but you act like an adult and get it done.  You work to support your family and take care of yourself.  That is why it is called work.”  That expectation made working easy because if you happened to enjoy it at all, it was a nice surprise.


Now, we have embraced a doomed system where everyone “has to” go to college.  We tell our kids they need to enjoy their jobs and do what they love.  We are creating a generation that is told to do what they love, get a degree and things will be great.  They are burdened with student debt and no jobs in their study field.  If everyone has a BA, who will dig the ditches and serve the food in the restaurants or clean the toilets?  Someone with a BA will.  The academic world has left behind the concept of an education directed at a job.  Instead, we are raising a generation that works hard in school, builds up massive debt, and at the end are left with no more than they started.  It was true if you had a BA you would get more earnings when only 15% had them, but as we approach 80% it is not true.

The student debt statistics – http://www.asa.org/policy/resources/stats/

Electricians, air conditioning repair, plumbers, masons, roofers, builders, fire fighters, policemen and so on are all great jobs.  They provide good wages and are pillars of the society.  I cringe when I see ads asking if they have a degree.  I applaud the ad I saw on TV by the electrical workers talking about the amount of training they receive being equivalent to a Masters.  They learn on the job and support their families.  Why does everyone have to go to college?  When did we instill this idea that education for its own sake, at the cost of four to six years and a hundred thousand dollars is better than learning and working on a valuable career?  I am not against education at all, but in all its forms, not just a university.  Universities, apprenticeships, on the job training, technical schools, mentoring, let’s bring them all back.

When I hired people I never cared about their education or lack thereof.  I cared about their abilities and experience.  Several asked in their interviews – “don’t you want to hear about my college work?”  And I told them no.  I care about their personal confidence, abilities, and work ethic, not much else.

My Story – When I was born, fewer than 5% had a college degree.  No one in my family had ever gone past high school, with the exception of some seminary training.  You needed hard work, a good mind and little else to be a success.  Welfare and unemployment were virtually non-existent.  You were ashamed to be on welfare.  My father was a dairy manager and we lived in a nice house and drove in a Lincoln Continental.  When my father was permanently crippled on his job, he refused welfare.  We lived off SSDI and free cheese and did what we could on disability money and my mom cleaning houses of “rich” people.  We grew our own food, made our clothing, even built our own house from reclaimed wood and supplies.  We knew we were poor, but it we were proud nonetheless.

I was born in 1963.  I graduated school in the class of 1981.  When I graduated with my degrees in Electronic Engineering, Computer Science, and my Masters Degree in Economics it was 1989.  At that time I was in the top 1-2% educationally in the United States.  Around 30% had some college up to a BA, and only 2% had post graduate degrees as in a Masters or PhD.  Only certain professions asked for a degree and once you got your first job, no one cared after that.  As an Economist, I was offered a fellowship to be paid to get my doctorate at the University of Oklahoma.  I turned it down because: 1) I was poor and the head of a four person household; 2) I was frankly tired of working and going to school full-time; and 3) in Economics, as a Master’s level you went into business and finance, but as a PhD I would have been stuck in academia or a government agency job.  As a finance advisor, CEO, and CFO during my career, I actually used most of my economics training and some of my computer science.  I had no debt because I was in the United States Air Force and they paid 75% while I paid the other in hard won cash – from my wife supporting me through college.  Later, my wife decided to be a teacher, and I returned the favor while she got her BA and went on to her Masters.  Her job and my job required you to check the box to work.  Hers needed a BA and a teaching certificate, mine needed a Masters or people would not trust me with millions of dollars.

For my children I gave them this advice – Make sure you can support yourself with your job.  If you want to do something in particular, see what requirements they have for entry and meet them.  It might not need college.  Work hard, show up on time, don’t bitch or gossip and you will do fine. You are competing against other humans, not perfection.  Never leave a job in a bad way no matter how much you hate it, just go.  If you want to dig ditches for a living great, if you want to cure cancer great, I support you no matter what.  Don’t think people will pay you to do whatever you want.  All jobs, even ones you love, have things that suck about them.  Other people, put together in a work environment, always sucks.  Leave your work at work, be good to your friends and family.  Try to live without debt and if you can, save up three years salary in the bank.  There is no greater feeling than to know you can quit any time you want and have money to last you until your next job.

be nice

Help me, and Mike Rowe (story below) stop forcing our young folks to go into debt for degrees that won’t help them.  Support our colleges to have real world applications and our youth to get their start.  Hire those veterans, hard working youngsters and mentor them.


Oct. 23, 2013 8:30pm

Mike Rowe, widely-known from the hit TV show “Dirty Jobs” and a series of Ford commercials, appeared on The Glenn Beck Program Wednesday to discuss his efforts with themikeroweWORKS Foundation in challenging “the absurd belief that a four-year degree is the only path to success.”

“We’re lending money we don’t have, to kids who will never be able to pay it back, for jobs that no longer exist,” he explained, echoing what he told TheBlaze TV’s Andrew Wilkow earlier this month. “That’s crazy, right? That’s what we’ve been doing for the last forty years.”

Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs and Glenn Beck Speak About Hard Work and mikeroweWORKS

Rowe’s motivation for the work largely began with what he described as “the worst advice in the history of the world” – a poster he saw in high school challenging students to “work smart, not hard.”  The picture of the person working “smart” was holding a diploma, and the person working “hard” looked miserable performing some form of manual labor.

“Today, skilled trades are in demand. In fact, there are 3 million jobs out there that companies are having a hard time filling. So we thought that skilled trades could do with a PR campaign,” he said with a smile. “So we took the same idea, went ahead and vandalized it. Work smart AND hard.’”

And with that, he unveiled a similar photo — but with the person working hard now more successful than the person simply holding a degree.

Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs and Glenn Beck Speak About Hard Work and mikeroweWORKS

When Beck thanked him, saying that not everyone needs an Ivy League education and he would recommend you shy away from it, though, Rowe said he wanted to make something clear.

What he’s against, Rowe added, is that we started promoting college “at the expense” of the vocational training that, in many cases, is what’s actually needed for the career.

“It’s not about, this is good or this is bad,” Rowe said. “It’s about, when did it make sense to say one size fits everybody? It never ever ever made sense to do that, and yet we’re still selling education the same way we sold it when you and I were in high school.”

Of the roughly three million jobs that companies are struggling to fill, Rowe said only 8 to 12 percent require a college degree.

“That’s not me saying don’t go to college. I’m saying, to start your life [$150,000] in the hole, [$80,000] in the hole with your art history major…that’s why you’ve got a trillion dollars in debt. These kids can’t find a job that they’ve been trained for, and the expectation is, it should be waiting for me. It ain’t.”

At mikeroweWorks, they’re flipping the traditional notion of scholarships on its head by aiding students who demonstrate a solid work ethic, not financial need or academic or athletic merit.

“Why don’t we reward kids who are willing to learn a new trade, a useful skill, and…prove that they’re willing to get up early, stay late, and volunteer for every crappy task there is?” he said. “Let’s reward the thing we want to encourage. Long story short, we raised $800,000 for work ethic scholarships for this one school [Midwestern Technical Institute].”

And he said that’s only the beginning. Be sure to watch the full clip, below:

Rowe said there’s a difference between work and labor, explaining that “work is the thing you admire, [and] labor is the thing you have to do.”

“This whole topic always boils down to management vs. workers…the blue, the white collar. Enough with the color of collars,” he declared. “The way to talk about work is through the context of, what are you addicted to? Are you addicted to smooth roads? …Cheap electricity? Indoor plumbing? I am. So if you share my addiction to the fruits of skilled labor, you’ve got skin in this game.  So I think if you start to engage a bigger hunk of people, not just management and not just labor, if you really start to have a conversation about work and education, about affordability, everybody can take a micro-macro look at this thing.”

When asked to summarize what he needs to continue the effort, Rowe directed people tomikeroweWORKS.com, saying it’s a “PR campaign for hard work, skilled labor, alternative education, entrepreneurship and invention – but most of all, hard work.”

He added that he’s uncomfortable asking people for money outright, but if you buy a “work smartand hard” poster, not only does it further the scholarships, but you can “hang it up at a high school…a factory floor, a construction site, just to get people talking about the idea that not all knowledge comes from college.”

Beck said he believes in what Rowe is doing, and concluded the program by giving him a $20,000 check from his Charity, Mercury One.


Filed under Humor and Observations

2 responses to “Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs and I have a Message for Young People

  1. Nicely written and I have to agree with the college debt is killing us. I worked full time and went to school full time to earn my BA. However, I have quite a few friends that are doing just fine without a college degree and are happy.

    I also enjoyed your comments about work being work. Heck, it is a job and it isn’t supposed to make you happy. Honestly, if I didn’t have to work I wouldn’t! I still enjoy my job but the choice between working and not having to work? Uh, no work please!


  2. Pingback: What do you do for a living? - Page 7

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