Mike Rowe earned national recognition for sharing stories of hardworking Americans doing their dirty jobs.
And even though Americans clearly think Congress is dirty — polls gave the elected officials an approval rating in the single digits at the end of 2013 — when asked by one representative when viewers could expect to see a “Dirty Jobs” episode about a member of Congress, Rowe said he’d never do a show about it.
“With respect, some jobs are just too hideous to contemplate,” he said.
The blue collar-friendly television personality was invited to speak to the House Natural Resources Committee about the nationwide skills gap. While unemployment numbers still linger in the double digits, several technical industries are having a hard time recruiting enough employees.
“In all 50 states, everybody I talked to who owned a small business said … ‘the single biggest challenge we’re facing right now is finding people who are willing to retool, retrain, reboot and learn a truly useful skill from the ground up — and work, show up early, stay late and work.'”
Rowe continued “I know that sounds old school… but it really did become a recurring theme.”
Democrats on the committee, including Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) said the skill gap is a mobility problem. He said low income workers don’t have the money to move to states where there are an abundance of jobs — North Dakota being one. The shale industry has created such a boom in that state, businesses like McDonald’s are actually offering hiring bonuses to get employees in the door.
Democrats suggested one solution is comprehensive immigration reform and a government subsidy to help families move to find jobs.
“Comprehensive immigration reform, are you kidding me?” Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) asked. “The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that in 2013 … that one in five American families aren’t working. Let’s focus on putting Americans to work, and lets get them the training that might be necessary.”
Rowe pushed back, saying the biggest problem isn’t necessarily a shortage of skilled laborers, but an overall attitude in America towards “dirty” work.
“It’s social anthropology … we want our kids to have something better we did … and that’s perfectly normal,” he said. “The question is, what is that? What does that even mean?”
He continued: “That maybe is the most subjective question there is but it informs the way we present opportunities to our kids. For all the talk around the issue, the biggest conversation that I’ve seen, the one that really gets resonance, happens around the kitchen table.”
Rowe suggests one solution is a massive public relations campaign, modeled after the “Keep America Beautiful” campaign. He wants parents to rethink the idea of “what is possible” with their teenagers.
“You’ve gotta make skill cool,” he added.
Check out TheBlaze’s exclusive interview below:
Dominic Salvatore contributed to this report.
Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter.