Off The Wall: Brief “Bad Job” Rant

Jane Ellen Brooks Smith writes…

“I was able to encourage one of my son’s friends in his quest to become a trained welder. He seemed embarrassed to tell me that he was doing that instead of college, but I told him that I was proud of his desire to become excellent in a trade. I sent him to Thank you for supporting our future tradesmen…tradespeople…trades.”

You’re welcome, Jane. And thanks for sending the kid our way. You have inspired in me, the desire to rant, briefly.

Our country is currently obsessed with determining the difference between a “good job” and a “bad job.” It’s hard to imagine a more absurd and self-defeating conversation, but there’s no denying the fact that we’re having having it. Indeed, we’re obsessed with it. Why? Because we have become convinced that the road to “job satisfaction” is dependent on the job itself.

This absurd fear of landing a “bad job,” (as though there is such a thing,) is affirmatively discouraging kids from pursuing a glut of good opportunities that actually exist. It also discouraging parents and school counselors from enthusiastically recommending those same opportunities. Even kids with the good sense and fortitude to ignore the noise – like your friend’s son – are still impacted by our stubborn refusal to pull our collective head from our collective ass.

Seriously – how is it possible with an economy this screwed up, for a kid to feel “embarrassed” by ANY career choice? How is possible, with 1.2 trillion dollars of student loans on the books, to feel “embarrassed” for NOT borrowing money to purchase a four-year degree? How is it possible, with so many able-bodied people not working, to feel “embarrassed” by choosing to learn a skill that’s actually in demand? We simply MUST eliminate the stigma currently attached to a host of worthwhile careers. If we don’t, we’ll get exactly what we deserve – a workforce with no balance, a crumbling infrastructure, a widening skills gap, and a country that can’t make or fix anything.

That’s the extent of my rant, and the reason my foundation exists. Aside from awarding scholarships and some modest financial assistance, mikeroweWORKS mostly tries to challenge the thinking that would lead a kid to conclude that ANY job should lead to any measure of “embarrassment.” I have no interest in discussing “dream” jobs or someone else’s idea of what a “good job” might be. We’re only interested in talking about real jobs and real work that still lead to real opportunity. And there is no better example of that today than a career in welding.

Please congratulate your friend for me, and their son. He should be on a recruiting poster.


WEMCO - Mike Rowe receiving awardPS. I’m not much for trophies and awards, but this one goes on the mantle for sure. Got it last week from the folks at Gas and Welding Distributors Association. I think it’s called The Excellence in Welding Award, which is both ironic and flattering. Ironic, since I can’t weld for shit. But deeply flattering, given the importance of the craft, and the prior recipients. Thanks GAWDA – I really appreciate it, and the time we spent in Scottsdale.

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