“Dirty Jobs” Host Makes Compelling Case for Investing in Skilled Trades
May 27, 2011

Mike Rowe, the creator, executive producer and host of Discovery Channel’s popular “Dirty Jobs” TV show recently testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to make a pitch for a “national PR campaign for skilled labor.”

In his May 11 testimony, Rowe noted that there is a skills gap in the country; even as there is widespread unemployment, some employers are struggling to fill jobs because there are no workers with the necessary skills for jobs in transportation, construction, utilities and manufacturing.

“In general, we’re surprised that high unemployment can exist at the same time as a skilled labor shortage. We shouldn’t be. We’ve pretty much guaranteed it,” he said.

Rowe added that with an aging workforce, the skills gap between what young workers know and what employers need is only going to increase.

He also noted that high schools have pretty much eliminated what used to be called vocational education, and is now known as career and technical education (CTE). “We’ve elevated the importance of ‘higher education’ to such a lofty perch that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled ‘alternative.’ Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships and on-the-job-training opportunities as ‘vocational consolation prizes,’ best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree. And still, we talk about millions of ‘shovel ready’ jobs for a society that doesn’t encourage people to pick up a shovel.

“In a hundred different ways, we have slowly marginalized an entire category of critical professions, reshaping our expectations of a ‘good job’ into something that no longer looks like work.”

Although Rowe was testifying at a hearing titled “Manufacturing Our Way to a Stronger Economy,” he is also serving as the spokesman for the Alabama construction industry’s Go Build Alabamahttp://www.gobuildalabama.com/ campaign, a joint effort of several groups, including Alabama AGC.

He closed his testimony by telling the senators: “I encourage you to support these efforts, because closing the skills gap doesn’t just benefit future tradesmen and the companies desperate to hire them. It benefits people like me, and anyone else who shares my addiction to paved roads, reliable bridges, heating, air conditioning, and indoor plumbing.”

The complete testimony is available online.

Mike Rowe’s foundation is accessible online at: mikeroweWORKS.