No Longer a Lone Voice in the Skilled Trade Wilderness

Off The Wall

Ron Dixon writes…”Found this meme in my newsfeed this morning. It appears you are no longer a voice in the wilderness…”

Hi Ron – My feelings in 2011 weren’t exactly original either. A lot of people over the years, more qualified and more accomplished than I, have stressed the importance of maintaining a skilled workforce. Consider this from the Montana Senator, W.A. Clark, in 1907 – “Our colleges and other institutions of learning are going too far, in my opinion. I think 50% of those attending educational institutions, having the professions in view, would be better off with a common school education that would enable them to earn a living, rather than sit around in offices and wait for clients.”

Personally Ron, I think closing the skills gap is a matter of national security. If I ever see that on a meme, I’ll know they’re really listening…

Carolyn Davids McKinney‎ writes…”Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the new executive order from the Trump admin regarding apprenticeships. Will the changes have any real effect? Or do you think our problem of unfilled jobs is more cultural than political?”

Hi Carolyn – I believe the key to a healthy workforce is balance, and right now, I think we are way out of balance. For decades, we’ve been promoting one form of education at the expense of another. We’ve positioned dozens of vital professions as “vocational consolation prizes,” and drilled into the social consciousness an abiding belief that the best path for the most people is a four-year degree. This fixation on “college for all” has led us directly to absurd tuition costs, 1.3 trillion dollars of student debt, 6 million unfilled jobs, and a generation of well-educated people with no skill, no prospects, big debt, and a mountain of misperceptions about the millions of great opportunities that actually exist. Those misperceptions simply have to change.

To answer your question, yes – I support the president’s executive order, and I absolutely believe it will have an impact. To what degree, I do not know. But I’m certain that right now, as we speak, thousands of parents and kids are having serious conversations about a myriad of opportunities they hadn’t previously considered. And that, in my opinion, is the single most important component of closing the gap. The solution starts with basic awareness, and the president has just made the country aware that opportunity is not dead. And I think that’s a very good thing.

Joel Paine‎ says… “When did you become a speech writer for the White House? This morning’s Apprentice speech sounded like it could have come mostly from your desk! “

Hi Joel – As I wrote earlier this week, I’m flattered by the notion that our efforts at mikeroweWORKS might have impacted the current media blitz, but I can assure you, this whole conversation has been simmering for a very long time. Over the last few months, I’ve met with a few dozen CEO’s of major companies, all eager to discuss a variety of ways to challenge the many misperceptions that have enabled the current skills gap to widen so dramatically. Actually, not just eager – anxious. Over and over again, I hear about the same calculus at work – a skilled but aging workforce, retiring soon, with no one waiting to take their place. That’s bad news not just for the companies who employ the workers, but for anyone who shares my addiction to smooth roads, sturdy foundations, affordable electricity, heating, air-conditioning, and indoor plumbing. The skills gap affects us all.

Next week, I’ll be at The Skills USA Championships in Louisville, watching thousands of kids compete for national recognition in their chosen skill. I try to attend this event every year, because frankly, Skills USA is one of the best ways I know to close the skills gap. No organization makes a more persuasive case for the trades, and if someone over at 1600 really is actually reading this page, I’d encourage them to get familiar with Skills USA, asap. Currently, 400,000 kids are paving the way for the very same apprenticeships the president is touting. With a little more awareness, Skills USA could easily expand to a million participants, and that would have a real impact on our workforce in just a few years.

Carry on,
Mike Rowe

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