Closing the skills gap isn’t as easy as making work “cool” again

Hey Mike –

I’ve been watching the impact you’ve made over the years regarding the need to close our countries skills gap. From Dirty Jobs, to mikeroweWORKS, to your Work Ethic Scholarship Program – you have clearly become America’s leading proponent of skilled labor and the dignity of hard work. But I’m wondering about your recent comment to Congress. You said, “If we want to make America great again, we gotta make work cool again.”

Can it really be that easy? If so, how do we do it?

Allison Johns

Hi Allison, and thanks for the kind words.

No – closing the skills gap is not as easy as making work “cool” again. But unless we confront the myths and misconceptions around millions of opportunities currently going begging, the gap will never close. But make no mistake – the business of making work “cool” again won’t be easy either. Simple maybe, but not easy. Because for many people in this country, work is far from cool. For many people, work has become the enemy.

I can think of no other subject in modern media that’s more often maligned than the business of working hard. For decades, Work has been portrayed as the proximate cause of our collective unhappiness. From pop culture to most television shows to most of Madison Avenue, there are more negative portrayals of work than I could ever hope to chronicle. Unfortunately, these images and messages are as powerful as they are preposterous. Pushing back against them is a bit like whistling in a twister, but we have to try. Because the skills gap will never close if we don’t show the next generation a new level of respect and appreciation for millions of good jobs that actually exist.

Making work cool means challenging the stigmas and stereotypes that keep people from exploring careers in the trades. There are lots of ways to do that, and no one way is superior to another. Personally, I like to make videos like the one attached, and blast them into the news feeds of my unsuspecting friends. Give it a look, and share it if you agree. (That would be very cool.)


PS. Also, I heard two quotes that really struck me last night.

“True love for our country requires both parties to find common ground.”
– Donald Trump

“We can’t find any common ground we can agree on.”
– Nancy Pelosi

It like to suggest that closing the Skills Gap is the common ground the President and the former Speaker are looking for. Why? Because closing the skills gap helps everyone. It helps people who need jobs. It helps companies who need workers. And most importantly, it helps every citizen who shares my addiction to smooth roads, affordable electricity, indoor plumbing, and all the other niceties made possible by a skilled and balanced workforce. To Democrats and Republicans, I would say this – there is simply no downside to making a persuasive case for 5 million jobs that are currently open. Please – use your office to to identify opportunity where it already exists. Challenge people to pursue those opportunities, and help me make sure those who are willing to work get the training they need.

Toward that end, mikeroweWORKS will announce its next Work Ethic Scholarship Program in the next week or so. I’ve got about $500,000 for anyone willing to learn a skill that’s actually in demand. If you want to apply, keep an eye on this page.

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