Mike Rowe, widely-known from the hit TV show "Dirty Jobs" and a series of Ford commercials, appeared on The Glenn Beck Program Wednesday to discuss his efforts with the mikeroweWORKS Foundation in challenging "the absurd belief that a four-year degree is the only path to success."
"We're lending money we don't have, to kids who will never be able to pay it back, for jobs that no longer exist," he explained, echoing what he told TheBlaze TV's Andrew Wilkow earlier this month. "That's crazy, right? That's what we've been doing for the last forty years."
Rowe's motivation for the work largely began with what he described as "the worst advice in the history of the world" - a poster he saw in high school challenging students to "work smart, not hard." The picture of the person working "smart" was holding a diploma, and the person working "hard" looked miserable performing some form of manual labor.
"Today, skilled trades are in demand. In fact, there are 3 million jobs out there that companies are having a hard time filling. So we thought that skilled trades could do with a PR campaign," he said with a smile. "So we took the same idea, went ahead and vandalized it. Work smart AND hard.'"
And with that, he unveiled a similar photo -- but with the person working hard now more successful than the person simply holding a degree.
When Beck thanked him, saying that not everyone needs an Ivy League education and he would recommend you shy away from it, though, Rowe said he wanted to make something clear.
"I'm not against a college education. I'm against debt," he said. "That was the only four letter word in my family..."
What he's against, Rowe added, is that we started promoting college "at the expense" of the vocational training that, in many cases, is what's actually needed for the career.
"It's not about, this is good or this is bad," Rowe said. "It's about, when did it make sense to say one size fits everybody? It never ever ever made sense to do that, and yet we're still selling education the same way we sold it when you and I were in high school."
Of the roughly three million jobs that companies are struggling to fill, Rowe said only 8 to 12 percent require a college degree.
"That's not me saying don't go to college. I'm saying, to start your life [$150,000] in the hole, [$80,000] in the hole with your art history major...that's why you've got a trillion dollars in debt. These kids can't find a job that they've been trained for, and the expectation is, it should be waiting for me. It ain't."
At mikeroweWorks, they're flipping the traditional notion of scholarships on its head by aiding students who demonstrate a solid work ethic, not financial need or academic or athletic merit.
"Why don't we reward kids who are willing to learn a new trade, a useful skill, and...prove that they're willing to get up early, stay late, and volunteer for every crappy task there is?" he said. "Let's reward the thing we want to encourage. Long story short, we raised $800,000 for work ethic scholarships for this one school [Midwestern Technical Institute]."
And he said that's only the beginning. Be sure to watch the full clip, below:
Rowe said there's a difference between work and labor, explaining that "work is the thing you admire, [and] labor is the thing you have to do."
"This whole topic always boils down to management vs. workers...the blue, the white collar. Enough with the color of collars," he declared. "The way to talk about work is through the context of, what are you addicted to? Are you addicted to smooth roads? ...Cheap electricity? Indoor plumbing? I am. So if you share my addiction to the fruits of skilled labor, you've got skin in this game. So I think if you start to engage a bigger hunk of people, not just management and not just labor, if you really start to have a conversation about work and education, about affordability, everybody can take a micro-macro look at this thing."
When asked to summarize what he needs to continue the effort, Rowe directed people to mikeroweWORKS.com, saying it's a "PR campaign for hard work, skilled labor, alternative education, entrepreneurship and invention - but most of all, hard work."
He added that he's uncomfortable asking people for money outright, but if you buy a "work smart and hard" poster, not only does it further the scholarships, but you can "hang it up at a high school...a factory floor, a construction site, just to get people talking about the idea that not all knowledge comes from college."
Beck said he believes in what Rowe is doing, and concluded the program by giving him a $20,000 check from his Charity, Mercury One.
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