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Mike Rowe on How The ‘War Against Traditional Work’ Led to the Country’s Financial Crisis

Photo from Mike Rowe’s Instagram

Mike Rowe on How The ‘War Against Traditional Work’ Led to the Country’s Financial Crisis

By Movieguide® Contributor

DIRTY JOBS star Mike Rowe recently spoke about the importance of skilled labor in today’s world. 

“In the mid-late 70s, we decided as a culture that more people needed to get an advanced degree,” Rowe said during an appearance on PRAISE ON TBN. “We were probably right. We needed more people to enthusiastically pursue a university education, but in order to convince people that their best chance of success was a four-year degree, we began promoting four-year degrees at the expense of all the other forms of education.”

He shared a moment in his own life that demonstrated this change: a counselor called a young Rowe into his office to talk about his future. The counselor started recommending universities that Rowe said he “couldn’t afford” and wasn’t sure what he would study if he did attend them. 

“A liberal arts degree was expensive!” Rowe explained. “It would have required me to go into debt, borrow money…so my strategy was to go to a two-year school, take all the different courses I could find, and see if something sparked.”

When he told his counselor this, Rowe said he pointed to a poster on the wall with a picture of two men on it — “one, a young graduate from a college…and next to him was a skilled worker in a dirty environment” — and asked Rowe which one he wanted to be. 

“The war against traditional work began around the same time,” Rowe said of this moment in his life. “We started telling a whole generation that the best path was a four-year degree. We also started telling them that if you don’t go in that direction, you’re going to wind up like the guy in the photo, looking dirty and miserable and doomed.”

He continued, “Flash forward to today: 1.6 trillion dollars in outstanding student loans, seven and a half million jobs that don’t require a four-year degree that require training and skill. The skills gap and the cost of college are not problems, they’re symptoms of a larger disconnect with work.”

Rowe is attempting to combat this “skills gap” with his foundation, mikeroweWORKS.

“We simply try to show the country examples of people who have bridged that disconnect by learning a skill that’s in demand, by figuring out how to operate that thing or whatever it is, and by not making skilled training the enemy.”

Movieguide® previously reported on Rowe’s foundation:

Mike Rowe recently talked about alternatives to a four-year degree as tuition prices continue to skyrocket and fears of a recession loom. 

“Here we sit, we’ve got eleven-and-a-half million open jobs, most of which don’t require a four-year degree. We’ve got $1.7 trillion of student loans outstanding that we’re being asked to pick up the slack for and we’ve got a generation of kids who are simply not trained for the opportunity that exist,” Rowe said.

“At my little foundation, mikeroweWORKS, for the last fifteen years we’re been talking about this. And I’m telling you, I’ve never seen the headlines catch up to us as the way they are right now. The word has gotten out and people are really taking a hard look at learning a skill that’s in demand,” he continued. 

Rowe points out that the most expensive path is the one that is sold to everyone as they grow up, something that he is working hard to change. The mikeroweWORKS foundation was started in 2008 as a resource to support those that are seeking careers outside of the traditional college path. 

“Our scholarship program is based on work ethic,” he said. “We just finished this program, we gave away a million bucks, we’re gonna do it again in six months. But we do it in a really specific way. These aren’t scholarships for people who want to go get a four-year degree. They are scholarships for people who want to learn a skill that’s in demand. We’ve helped about 1,700 kids so far,” Rowe said. 


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