Mike Rowe: Society Has Declared a ‘War on Work’

A sheep farm. It was one of many experiences Rowe has had with the show Dirty Jobs, where he goes into an industry as an apprentice for the day, watches a worker do the job and then he does it himself. There’s no scripting, no rehearsing. There’s one take for him to do the job.

Before going to this particular sheep farm in Colorado, Rowe did research because he knew castration was going to be part of his experience. He called the Humane Society and PETA and other groups to determine the “normal” and “correct” way that was to be done.

But when he got to the farm, his mentor put a lamb on a stand, whipped out a knife, cut off the tail and then BIT OFF the parts. Rowe said he was blown away. Rowe then insisted on doing it his way (with a rubber band that takes a week to do the job). He watched the rubber banded sheep as it skulked around in misery and the other sheep as it was prancing around.

He said if he was wrong about something like that, what other “normal” ways of thinking could be challenged? First is that hard-working jobs are undesirable.

“People with dirty jobs are happy,” he said. “As a group, they are the happiest people I know. Roadkill picker-uppers whistle while they work, I did it with them!”

Another, something he calls “the worst advice he ever got,” was to follow his passion. He questioned the catchphrases of corporate America that everyone agrees equal success: “team work, determination.” He questioned “safety first”: “What if OSHA got it wrong and it’s really ‘safety third’?”

His ending theory: “We’ve declared war on work as a society. We have waged this war on at least four fronts. Certainly in Hollywood, the way we portray working people on TV, it’s laughable. Madison Avenue, what’s the message coming out of there? ‘Life would be better if you didn’t have to work so hard, if you got home a little earlier, if you could retire a little sooner.’ Washington – I can’t even begin to talk about the deals and policies in place that affect the bottom line reality of jobs because I don’t really know, I just know that’s a front in this war. And then Silicon Valley, how many people have an iPhone or Blackberry right now? We are plugged in and connected, but innovation without imitation, the ability to produce it, is virtually worthless.”

Now, Rowe has a campaign to talk about manual labor and skilled jobs and to erase the stigma associated with this kind of honorable work. Check out his current initiative, Profoundly Disconnected.

And you can watch Mike Rowe’s full TED talk on this subject:

‘Dirty Jobs’ Host Brings Trade Scholarships to Indiana

You’ve probably seen “Dirty Jobs” on the Discovery Channel at some point, or at least know the basic gist of the show: People call up host Mike Rowe and challenge/invite him to join them for some of the dirtiest, wildest and often incredibly interesting jobs in America.

And he (and a camera crew) joins in on those jobs for a day, giving the rest of us just glimpses into some of the “dirty” jobs that make the world go round.

With experiences from his show as inspiration and first-hand knowledge of the good jobs that come from hard work and skilled trades, Rowe created mikeroweWORKS in 2008 as a Trade Resource Center for people seeking skilled trade employment. The initiative has since grown into a PR campaign promoting hard work and skilled labor. Today, the mikeroweWORKS Foundation is a non-profit organization that gives scholarships and assistance to people seeking skilled trades.

Rowe has testified in front of Congress about the growing skills gap and the student loan crisis plaguing the country. We’ve heard time and again from Hoosier employers that they’d hire for the (sometimes hundreds of) open positions they have available if they could just find employees who have basic skills and show up to work.

An Indiana Chamber-commissioned study from 2009 points to 900,000 Hoosier adults that are in need of adult education and training because they a) don’t possess a high school diploma; b) don’t have a college education and earn less than a living wage; and c) have no college education and speak little or no English.

In early October, the mikeroweWORKS foundation announced a unique scholarship opportunity in partnership with the Midwest Technical Institute – 49 scholarships for full tuition to students who work hard and want to learn a useful skill.

“The only way to close the skills gap is to reward those who exhibit the qualities we want to encourage – the willingness to learn a useful skill, and a solid work ethic. That’s what these scholarships are all about. They’ll have an impact not just on the kids who receive them or the companies that ultimately hire them, but on everyone who benefits from their work. In other words … all of us,” Rowe said in the press release announcing the scholarships.

Applicants submit a 500 word essay on why they are pursuing such a career; a copy of the S.W.E.A.T. pledge (Skill & Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo); proof of high school GPA; three letters of recommendation and documentation of the need for financial aid.

And then, the top 100 applicants for each of the school’s seven campuses – there is a campus in Brownsburg – will be asked to submit a short video about why they deserve a scholarship. Via Facebook, the public will vote to choose the winners by who they believe to be the most deserving. Seven applicants for each of the seven schools will be given full-time tuition scholarships.

Rowe’s web site, www.ProfoundlyDisconnected.com, has more information on the scholarship and the mikeroweWORKS Foundation.