25 Ways to Jump Start the Auto Industry – Mike’s Alt Version

Mike often writes articles for magazines but because of issues like space constraints, his work is often edited down. We thought it might be interesting to post what Mike actually wrote for this one in particular a few years’ back for Fast Company.

25 Ways to Jump Start the Auto Industry (unabridged)

Mike Rowe is the Executive Producer of Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, and the CEO of mikeroweWORKS.com, an on-line resource dedicated to reinvigorating skilled labor. He is also a spokesperson for Ford Trucks.

Regarding the specific issues facing The Big Three, I’ve got too little expertise and too much bias to weigh in with a straight face. (Trust me, that new F-150 really does kick ass.) However, after 200 Dirty Jobs and five years of unintended social anthropology, I do have a theory regarding our overall relationship with Manufacturing and Skilled Labor. Here it is.

I believe the majority of people in this country are deeply disconnected from the Americans who still make our stuff. I think our fundamental relationship with Work had dramatically shifted, and as a consequence, we are no longer sure what we really value.

Forty years ago, it was easy to “Buy American.” Not just because our stuff was better than theirs. We bought American goods because we actually knew the people who were making the stuff in question. We knew them through a common relationship with work, and a shared understanding of what it meant to have a “good job.” In those days of course, our economy was dominated and defined by manufacturing, and work had a recognizable, albeit dirty face. As consumers, we knew that face. In many cases, we were that face. It was a powerful and personal connection that tied us to the products we bought.

Today, that connection is gone. The seismic shift from Manufacturing to Financial Services has not only changed the composition of our Gross Domestic Product, it has changed our national mindset toward Work. We no longer celebrate the way things get made. We are more interested in the way things get bought. In this global economy, we focus only on the finished product, which makes the Americans who still make them largely invisible.

Tradesman and Craftsman, once depicted as role models, are now pointed to as examples of “alternative education.” Popular portrayals of working people have slowly devolved into caricature and hyperbole. The Skilled Worker has become a distant drone, laboring away in some soon-to-be-closed factory, disconnected from any current definition of a “good job.” Is it any wonder that Trade School enrollments are down? Can the state of our infrastructure really be that much of a surprise?

Much has been written about the drama between Management and Organized Labor, but the bigger struggle is our own dysfunctional relationship with Work. The symptoms may be in Detroit, but the problem is elsewhere.

The problem is everywhere.

7 thoughts on “25 Ways to Jump Start the Auto Industry – Mike’s Alt Version

  1. Short, sweet and clearly stated. Mike, my uncle worked at Caterpillar for his whole life. They did not want him to retire because he was an outstanding machinist. Not one of those new type that only do things in a CAD setting but one of those guys who got his hands dirty and could fix the things the CAD designs could not account for. I have worked all my life to be the best at what I do just like my uncle was the best at what he did.
    Mike, I truly believe that you are the BEST at what you do and I think you will be a role model for generations to come.
    P.S. I still have a hard time thinking of a classically trained opera singer doing many of the things, and going to some nasty places, like you have! I am a 51 year old disabled veteran and if I still had two good legs, I could really see myself doing many of the crazy jobs you have brought attention to! One caveat, I would NEVER climb any of those bridges to change light bulbs. I have jumped out of aircraft and climbed rock walls even gaffed some very tall trees, but I can not imagine myself doing that. Even with or without a helicopter, still ‘when pigs fly…
    You are an incredible individual!!!

  2. How many of the brightest and the best will companies lose due to their no smoking policies? Pharma spends billions to influence public opinion and lobby elected officials in nothing but an albeit brilliant marketing scam for boxes of chiclets with a drop of nicotine for $50 a pop. Don’t believe it? http://tobakkonacht.com/

    1. Seriously! Go have another smoke and think about it – you may just come to your senses – that is, if you don’ die from cancer first. PROVEN – smoking DOES add to healthcare costs(as well as obesity). Don’t tread on me with your second hand smoke – NOT interested.

  3. Thanks Mike, your awesome. I love it when people aren’t afraid to speak out about the problems in this country. How else are you suppose to change anything? Keep up the great work!

  4. Somewhat insightful and somewhat ignorant BS, Mike. We didnt all become disconnected from Manufacturing. I have been in manufacturing for all of those forty years you mention and I have always stayed connected and recognized importance of all American manufacturing. You and most americans became disconnected and flocked to asian vehicles even after american cars reagained equal or better quality. You and others rejoiced when you could shop at walmart for cheap products made in china because you could get more stuff. Now you want to pat walmart, yourself and other unloyal americans on the back and celebrate because after helping close american factories and local stores, walmart will now promise to buy some certain amount of american products. So how wonderful that walmart wants to help correct the problem they played a large role in creating. Get your head outa the sand and recognize the negative effects of walmart, yourself and others who became disconnected from american manufacturing.

  5. Hi Mike,
    I will introduce you to the ASE Family of organizations


    We are working hard across the US to bring young people into the industry with good careers.

    I will invite you to take a look and join us at our summer conference


    Let me know if you are interested autoteacher.sonny@gmail.com

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