Later today, Discovery Channel host Mike Rowe (of "Dirty Jobs" fame) will publicly support Mitt Romney at a campaign event in Ohio.
Rowe wrote a letter to Romney earlier this month in which he addressed the issue that motivates his life's work -- larger appreciation for skilled labor. I read it and found it simple but fascinating.
Dirty Jobs is a great show that celebrates actual work, hard work. Rowe's job is to learn about each of these jobs -- and do them -- week to week. I'm sure many of you are familiar with it. When the economy tanked, he was asked by various media outlets to weigh in on unemployment and skilled labor shortages, manufacturing and infrastructure, currency valuations, free trade and various other work-related problems:
In each case, I shared my theory that most of these “problems” were in fact symptoms of something more fundamental – a change in the way Americans viewed hard work and skilled labor. That’s the essence of what I’ve heard from the hundreds of men and women I’ve worked with on Dirty Jobs. Pig farmers, electricians, plumbers, bridge painters, jam makers, blacksmiths, brewers, coal miners, carpenters, crab fisherman, oil drillers…they all tell me the same thing over and over, again and again – our country has become emotionally disconnected from an essential part of our workforce. We are no longer impressed with cheap electricity, paved roads, and indoor plumbing. We take our infrastructure for granted, and the people who build it.
Today, we can see the consequences of this disconnect in any number of areas, but none is more obvious than the growing skills gap. Even as unemployment remains sky high, a whole category of vital occupations has fallen out of favor, and companies struggle to find workers with the necessary skills. The causes seem clear. We have embraced a ridiculously narrow view of education. Any kind of training or study that does not come with a four-year degree is now deemed “alternative.” Many viable careers once aspired to are now seen as “vocational consolation prizes,” and many of the jobs this current administration has tried to “create” over the last four years are the same jobs that parents and teachers actively discourage kids from pursuing. (I always thought there was something ill-fated about the promise of three million “shovel ready jobs” made to a society that no longer encourages people to pick up a shovel.)
I couldn't agree more. We have somehow gone from viewing jobs requiring skilled labor as noble to them being at the bottom of the pile. Our whole education system is designed to lead everyone away from hard work and skilled labor.
What we value in the workforce is a moral question at heart.Mike Rowe is working to address that question through a non-profit he's started, which includes raising money for trade scholarships and simple advocacy on behalf of skilled labor.I think he's on to something.