Mike Rowe has an impressive resume, but he's probably best known for hosting "Dirty Jobs," a show that profiles the unsung American laborers who make their living in the most unthinkable and disgusting jobs so the rest of us can lead clean, civilized lives. Working with people on the show from all across the country has really opened Rowe's eyes to the poor state of business opportunity in America today and he's trying to bring it to Washington's attention.
In a letter published on his non-profit's website over the Labor Day weekend, Rowe offered his expertise to help Mitt Romney should he become president. He even added: " If you read the whole [letter], I’ll vote for you in November."
It's a strong letter which highlights an important issue -- the skills gap in the American labor force. With everyone stressing the importance of a four-year degree these days, Rowe reminds us that this country was built with skilled labor, not college diplomas. Instead, Mike suggests that the problems our economy faces today are mere "symptoms" of a larger problem -- the devaluation of a hard day's work:
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 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.) [...]
Certainly, we need more jobs, and you were clear about that in Tampa. But the Skills Gap proves that we need something else too. We need people who see opportunity where opportunity exists. We need enthusiasm for careers that have been overlooked and underappreciated by society at large. We need to have a really big national conversation about what we value in the workforce, and if I can be of help to you in that regard, I am at your service – assuming of course, you find yourself in a new address early next year.
Rowe sent a similar letter to then-Senator Obama in 2008 but says he never received any kind of response. He's also dabbled into the political arena. Last year, Rowe took his message to the U.S. Senate and testified on the importance of skilled labor. Here's a look at some of the essential jobs Rowe is referring to:
For more on America's skills gap, click here.