Off The Wall: Response to Welding Won’t Make You Rich

Casey Mahon‎ to Mike Rowe
Yesterday at 6:58 PM ·

“Mike, I recently read the below article. It takes a big swipe at what I see as one of your “lines of argument.” Care to respond?”

Hi Casey

Here’s the short version: a writer named Paul Tough has a piece in The Atlantic entitled “Welding Won’t Make You Rich.” The author is worried about something he calls, “the myth of the wealthy welder,” a construct he claims was dreamed up by Republican politicians in order to discourage kids from going to college.

At base, Paul Tough wants you to believe that welding is a poor alternative to college. He devotes a couple thousand words to his cause, and writes as if the general public is suffering from a dangerous misperception that all welders get rich. After reading it twice however, I think there might be another explanation for such a strange assault on a vocation we all rely on.

I hate to repost the entire article, because I think it’s an insult to many thousands of skilled workers who have in fact, prospered as a result of learning a trade. On the other hand, I can’t respond fairly without including the original text. So, here we go, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, one paragraph at a time, in what must surely be the longest post in the history of Facebook…

Paul Tough: A few years ago, a strange phenomenon began to appear in polls that asked Americans for their opinions about higher education: People’s responses suddenly started to diverge along partisan lines. Democrats have continued to describe higher education as a mostly positive force in American life, but Republicans’ opinions of college, beginning around 2015, took a sharp turn toward the negative. This shift didn’t come out of nowhere. Conservative politicians and media figures have in recent years been making a sustained and often vociferous public case against higher education.

Mike Rowe: Hi Paul. I’m not so sure the issue is as partisan as you say. But if you are correct – if most people critical of higher education are in fact conservative – then it’s worth asking why. As you say, the shift didn’t come out of nowhere. Personally, I believe it began with a growing concern over the obscene cost of a four-year degree – a cost that has increased faster than healthcare, food, energy, and real-estate. Along with the rising tuition, many parents today are also worried about the environment on college campuses. The assault on free speech, the general coddling of students, the decline of academic standards, the high dropout rates, the political bias among professors, and the recent parade of admission scandals…all these concerns have led reasonable people on both sides of the aisle to conclude that something is broken in higher education.

PT: Instead of college, their argument often goes, young Americans should pursue a career in the skilled trades. And there is one trade that gets held up more than any other as an example of the opportunities awaiting those who shun college: welding.

MR: For decades, we pushed the idea of “college for all.” We told our kids if they didn’t go to college, they’d wind up turning a wrench or holding a welding torch, or doing some other dirty job that was “beneath them.” In other words, we promoted one form of education at the expense of another. Is something similar happening now, only in reverse? Absolutely not. No one is saying that “everyone should pursue a career in the trades.” What you’re hearing, is a cry for more educational alternatives, and what you’re seeing, are a variety of examples that prove financial success is possible without a four-year degree. These examples – whether they be stories of wealthy plumbers, wealthy electricians, wealthy HVAC technicians, or wealthy welders – all pose a threat to the deeply-held belief that college is the best path for the most people.

PT: If you trace back the history of this idea, you eventually get to a kind of welding ur-text: an April 2014 op-ed column in The Wall Street Journal by Josh Mandel, then the Republican treasurer of Ohio, titled “Welders Make $150,000? Bring Back Shop Class.” Its premise was that in rural Ohio, there was such a shortage of skilled tradespeople that employers were regularly hiring welders at salaries of $150,000 a year and up.

MR: The premise of the article was much broader than that. Mandel argued that removing shop class from high school led millions of parents, students, and guidance to ignore careers in the skilled trades.
I remember the article, because I’ve been saying the same thing since 2008, when I launched the mikeroweWORKS foundation. I found the article powerful, because it included specifics. For instance, Mandel wrote, “I recently visited Pioneer Pipe in the Utica and Marcellus shale area of Ohio and learned that last year the company paid 60 of its welders more than $150,000 and two of its welders over $200,000. The owner, Dave Archer, said he has had to turn down orders because he can’t find enough skilled welders.”

PT: Mandel contrasted the bountiful opportunities available to blue-collar workers without college degrees with the dismal prospects he said many college graduates faced: “Too many young people have four-year liberal-arts degrees, are thousands of dollars in debt and find themselves serving coffee at Starbucks or working part-time at the mall.”

MR: Mandel was right about that, too. Roughly half of all college students who borrow money to purchase a diploma drop out before graduating. Roughly half of those who graduate, can’t find work in their field of study. It’s a scandal.

PT: Mandel’s notion of economic salvation through welding spread quickly, from op-ed pages to cable-news segments to political speeches. In a 2015 Republican presidential debate, Senator Marco Rubio declared, “For the life of me, I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education. Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.” President Donald Trump invited a welder from Dayton to be one of the guests of honor at his first State of the Union address, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has visited welding classes across the country, from a suburb of Fort Worth to Far Rockaway, Queens. Paul Ryan extolled the virtues of a welding career at a summit meeting sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute. Even Ivanka Trump pulled on a welding mask for the cameras and tried her hand with a torch.

MR: Good for them! America needs more welders, then and now, and the industry is in desperate need of better PR. But why are you only highlighting positive comments from conservatives? Obama, Clinton, Biden, Warren, and dozens of other prominent democrats have all said similar things in defense of the trades. Here’s an article from the same period in New York Times, making the same points as the article in the Journal, and quoting President Obama. Why not include this in your piece?

PT: In November 2016, a few days after Donald Trump’s victory, I traveled to Taylorsville, North Carolina, a small town in the Appalachian foothills. Taylorsville is remote and sparsely populated; to get to a Starbucks or a movie theater—or just a town with more than 5,000 people—it’s at least a half-hour drive. Almost everyone in town is white, and only about one in seven adults has a bachelor’s degree. In the 2016 presidential election, three-quarters of the county voted Republican.

MR: In other words, in your unbiased quest to see if welders can get rich, you traveled to a poor county in the Appalachians filled with white Republicans who didn’t go to college and voted for Trump. Got it.

PT: I had come to Taylorsville to try to understand more deeply the relationship between higher education, opportunity, and welding.

MR: Really? It sounds like you went there to find someone who reflected a headline you already wrote. Maybe I’m wrong. Let’s see…

PT: I spent a couple of evenings in the home of a young welding student in his mid-twenties named Orry Carriere, drinking coffee and talking. His journey through adolescence and high school had been rocky, he told me. Orry’s father had left before he was born, and the absence of a stable male role model in his life had led him into some wild and self-destructive behavior, especially in his early teens. He made it through high school, but only barely, graduating 388th in a class of 389. After high school, Orry went to work. He spent a year installing locks for a local company, and then another year doing oil changes at the Taylorsville Snappy Lube. Those jobs paid minimum wage or a little more, and the work wasn’t steady or predictable. At 21, Orry got married, and he and his wife moved into a rented trailer.

MR: I’m not going to judge Orry Carriere. His circumstances sound challenging, and growing up without a Dad puts him at an obvious disadvantage. But I do want to point out that getting married at 21 years of age while working for the minimum wage is not a disadvantage, or a circumstance; it’s a choice.

PT: His stepfather helped him get his next job, drawing wire at a factory. It was hard work, loud and dirty and repetitive, but it paid $13.90 an hour, more than Snappy Lube. After a year and a half, Orry was fired for missing too many days of work, but he soon managed to land a job at another steel-wire factory. Then he got fired from that job as well. It was by that point the spring of 2016, and Orry was 24, separated, and unemployed. He was raising two children with his ex-wife, Katie, and he was living with a new girlfriend named Crystal. Orry had been working hard for five years, and yet he was broke with nothing saved. At every job he’d had, he told me, he’d been made to feel as though he was disposable, like he didn’t really matter.

MR: Again, I don’t wish to judge, or sound unsympathetic. But it should be said that getting fired from your job is not an unreasonable consequence for failing to show up. Also, lest we see him as a completely helpless victim, I’d like to point out that the only person who can make Orry feel “disposable,” is Orry. His employers are not responsible for his feelings.

PT: Crystal was also unemployed that spring, and she suggested they both think about going back to school. At first, college seemed like the last thing Orry might want to consider. But Crystal showed Orry the website for Catawba Valley Community College in nearby Hickory, and he saw that the school offered an associate’s degree in welding. He had done a little welding in high school and liked it, and that made the notion of college a lot easier to imagine.

MR: I really hope Orry doesn’t borrow a bunch of money to go to a school he can’t afford. I hope he investigates some of the many scholarship plans out there, or opportunities through the American Welding Society, or an apprenticeship program with a local employer.

PT: “It dawned on me that by firing me, they had given me an opportunity,” Orry told me, talking about his former employer. “I could go to college to better myself, and I could find a different job, something that was away from all this.”

MR: If “something away from all of this,” indicates his willingness to travel, there’s hope for Orry. Every welder I know whose made north of six figures knows you gotta go where the work is.

PT: When I met Orry on that November night in Taylorsville, he was just a couple of months into his first semester at CVCC. To his surprise, he had come to see college as his route to a better life, not just for himself but for his young family. “I want my kids to have stuff I didn’t have growing up,” he told me. “I don’t want them to have to wonder where their next meal is coming from. I want them to have the chances I never had.”

MR: I’m pulling for Orry. His concerns are the concerns of every parent. His challenges are the same challenges that millions of other Americans face every day. But why do you want us to know the sad details of his life? How are his personal choices and specific circumstances relevant to others who might prosper by welding?

PT: One of the many odd things about the rhetoric that posits welding as the antithesis of college is that in order to become a welder, you actually have to go to college.

MR: That isn’t true. Lots of companies will train you to weld for free. The AWS has a Certified Welder program that’s open to anyone with a talent for welding. The test is strictly performance-based, so there are no prerequisite courses or certifications required prior to testing. If you are able to do the weld necessary to pass the test, then you are eligible to become an AWS Certified Welder.

PT: You can learn the basics in a high-school shop class, as Orry did, but to do it well, you not only have to master multiple precise manual skills, you also need a pretty deep scientific understanding of the metal you’re working with and the electrical and chemical processes you’re using to manipulate that metal.

MR: True, but you don’t have to borrow $20,000 to get started. That’s the important point. There are many other options.

PT: To earn an associate’s degree, Orry would need to pass 12 separate welding courses, plus basic courses in math and English, as well as more conceptual courses in welding metallurgy.

MR: Well, we’ve come this far. Let’s see how he does…

PT: His first year at CVCC went well, mostly. It wasn’t completely smooth—he failed his required English course, which was offered only online. But in his welding classes, he earned nothing but A’s and B’s. After that first year ended, he ran into some bureaucratic trouble with his financial aid, he told me, and he took both the summer and the fall of 2017 off from school. For a while, I wondered whether he might just be finished with college. But then he started up again as a full-time student in January 2018. When I visited him that winter, Orry said he was glad to be back in school, but otherwise, life was not going well. He and Crystal were broke. They had been evicted from their house, and their car was stolen.

MR: Good grief. If it weren’t for bad luck, this kid would have no luck at all.

PT: There was a moment that semester, Orry told me, when he wanted to give up on school, leave his family behind, and start over in a new town. But he kept thinking of his children and the example he was setting for them, and he decided to get back to class, even if he had to take the bus many miles to get there. Still, at the end of that semester, Orry remained 16 credits shy of the 65 he needed to complete his associate’s degree, and those included his required English and math classes, which he wasn’t confident he could pass. Part of him wanted to go right back to school in the fall and finish his degree, but he wasn’t sure how to pull it off. He and Crystal had broken up, and he was back together with his ex-wife, Katie; Orry and Katie and their two kids had moved in with Orry’s mother.

MR: I’m getting the impression you want me to feel sorry for Orry. If so, mission accomplished. I feel sorry for Orry, Orry’s mother, Orry’s wife, Orry’s girlfriend, and most of all, for Orry’s two kids. But I’m still not sure how feeling sorry for a poor family in the Appalachian foothills is relevant to people who have prospered as a result of learning to weld.

PT: That summer, he found a job in Wilkesboro, working in a factory that manufactured doors. It was a good position, but the work was hot and exhausting and his schedule was brutal: 12-hour night shifts for seven days straight, from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., followed by seven straight days off. He knew there was no way he could manage school with that schedule. He was earning $16.75 an hour, which was a decent wage, but it was only a couple of dollars an hour more than he had been making before he started college. And he now had $19,000 in student loans that he would soon have to start paying back. Orry was no longer feeling all that optimistic about the welding profession.
MR: But he’s still willing to travel, right? He’s still willing to go “away from all this,” right? Because if willing to do that, there’s still hope.

PT: Despite the sunny claims of The Wall Street Journal and Marco Rubio, the real-life welding jobs that Orry was able to find in western North Carolina were paying experienced welders between $12 and $15 an hour, which was less than he was making at the door factory. Orry knew that better-paying welding jobs existed, but they were far away and short-term and physically arduous, and if he went out and chased one, he’d have to leave his kids behind. Now that he was back together with Katie and they had what felt like a genuine family, he wanted to stay close to home and be a real father.

MR: Obviously, that’s Orry’s call. But it should be said – in defense of countless dads who travel far and wide to earn a living – that “real fathers” with “genuine families” are men who do what they have to do to provide for their kids. Sometimes, that means leaving home, and going to where the opportunities are.

PT: Besides, even those well-paying welding jobs didn’t pay that well —maybe $30 or $40 an hour, if he got lucky.

MR: Wait a minute. A few paragraphs ago, you called $16.75 a “decent wage.” But now $40 an hour isn’t enough? Seriously? Forty dollars an hour is $83,000 a year! Orry is married, broke, living with his mother, and trying to raise two kids with a big, fat student loan coming due. But he doesn’t want to go where the work is? He’s not interested in “short-term,” or “physically arduous” positions? Maybe, if you’d called your piece, “Why Welding Didn’t Make Orry Carrierie Rich,” I’d be less confused. But that’s not what you’ve done. You’ve turned a poor kid from a poor part of America into a proxy for all aspiring welders. Is that fair?

PT: This is the other glaring flaw at the heart of the case for welding as the ideal alternative to college. The overwhelming majority of American welders are not earning $150,000 a year. Not even close.

MR: Of course they’re not. Neither are the overwhelming majority of college graduates. But where has anyone, other than you, suggested that “the overwhelming majority” of welders are making $150,000? In Mandel’s article, he simply posed the question – “Welders Make $150,000?” Then, he answered it by introducing us to a few dozen welders who do. But nowhere in that article, or any other article I’ve ever seen, has anyone claimed that the “overwhelming majority of welders” make that kind of money. That would be like saying, “the overwhelming majority of actors get famous,” or “the overwhelming majority of writers publish best-sellers.” No serious person would ever make such a claim, and even if they did, no rational person would believe it.

PT: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for an experienced welder in 2018 was a little more than $41,000 a year—which was only about $16,000 above the poverty line for a family of four.

MR: Ok. That’s what an average welder makes. So what? The average rehab counsellor makes $32,000. The average reporter makes $36,000. The average family therapist makes $39,000. These, and many other spectacularly low-paying professions all require a four-year degree. I just don’t see the point. You’ve traveled out of your way (half-an-hour from the nearest Starbucks!) to remind us that poor white people in western North Carolina who probably vote Republican, have children they can’t afford to raise, and refuse to go where the work is, “won’t get rich welding.” How is this worthy of a headline in The Atlantic?

PT: The good thing about welding as a profession is that it has a relatively high salary floor. You’re almost always going to make more than minimum wage, even starting out. But the downside, economically, is that welding has a pretty low salary ceiling. Welders at the 90th percentile of income for the profession, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, earn $63,000 a year before taxes. Those are, statistically, the top earners, and they are usually expert welders with decades of experience.

MR: That’s misleading. The “top earners” in any industry are the people who make the most money. If you want to define welders in the 90th percentile as among the “top earners,” you should be clear that there’s a lot of daylight between those at the 90th percentile, and those at the 95th percentile, and those at the 99th percentile. For instance, Americans in the 90th percentile of income earners, (the bottom of the top ten percent,) bring home $138,000 a year. Sure, $138,000 is a great living, but lots of other people in the top ten percent make a whole lot more than $138,000 a year. Likewise, many welders in the top ten percent of their vocation make a whole lot more than $63,000. Like every other vocation, the top earners in the welding industry can be found at the 100th percentile. And make no mistake, those guys are getting rich.

PT: The salaries that make headlines in The Wall Street Journal are somewhere between rare and apocryphal.

MR: Rare? Of course. But apocryphal? Far from it. Traveling industrial pipe welders earn up to $185,000.00 a year. I know several. Most underwater welders earn at least $100,000.00, a year. Many exceed $200,000.00. I know several of them too. Military support welders can start at $160,000.00 to more than $200,000.00 a year in the Middle East. But again, you’ve gotta go where the work is. No one is paying welders $150K in Taylorsville, North Carolina. Were you really surprised to learn that?

PT: Which leads to an intriguing question: Given the sobering reality that those unbiased statistics convey, why has the wealthy-welder myth become so widely accepted, at least in certain circles?

MR: Because it’s not a myth. Welding can make you rich. Sometimes, as a standalone job, sometimes, as a stepping stone. Many people who own a mechanical services business start their careers as welders. In the skilled trades, welding can be critical rung on the ladder to success. As for your statistics, they may be “unbiased,” but again, they are profoundly misleading, and way out of context.

PT: Why does Marco Rubio believe—or claim to believe—that welders make more than philosophers?

MR: Because many of them do. Look, if you want to make the argument that publishing the top salaries of any profession is a poor indicator of what the average person will make, and therefore a poor way to set expectations, be my guest. But what industry doesn’t do that very thing? Consider your own profession. Last year, James Patterson made $86 million. JK Rowling made $54 million. Steven King made $27 million. I know this, because their salaries made the headlines. But I also happen to know that most books that make it onto the shelves sell fewer than 5,000 copies, and the vast majority of books that do get written never get published. In fact, tens of thousands of aspiring writers live at or below the poverty line, while the average novelist makes little more than the average welder. Many writers struggle, just like Orry, to support a family of four. And yet, you didn’t pen a cautionary piece called, “Writing Won’t Make You Rich.” You went after the welding industry instead. An industry we all rely upon.

PT: Let me suggest three possible reasons, for the wealthy-welder myth.

MR: It’s not a myth, Paul. Saying it is over and over won’t make it so.

PT: The first and most obvious one is that the people making the political speeches and writing the newspaper columns and taking part in the cable-news segments don’t know any actual welders. When you watch a talk-show conversation about the folly of the four-year college degree, you can be reasonably confident that everyone on camera has a four-year college degree. So that is potential reason No. 1: simple ignorance.

MR: That doesn’t track. Who could be better qualified to take issue with the cost of a four-year degree, than someone who actually bought one? Those people, (myself included,) may have no experience welding, but they’re not simply espousing the virtues of the skilled trades – they’re discussing the cost of their own college diploma. Such people are perfectly qualified to weigh in on the dangers of overpaying for a degree that didn’t train them for the job they have.

PT: The second possible reason is wishful thinking, topped with a dollop of nostalgia. Money aside, welding is an impressive and admirable pursuit. It is a burly, physical job, but there is delicate artistry in it as well, fine craftsmanship with a creative spirit. And an economy in which a manual laborer could reliably earn enough money to support a middle-class family—which is to say, an economy like the United States had not too long ago—would indeed be more equitable, more socially stable, and more family-friendly than the actual economy we have today.

MR: “Money aside?” Isn’t money the whole point of your piece? There’s dignity in all work, and you’re right to point that out. But manual labor has never paid enough to support a family of four in this country. Welding however, isn’t manual labor; welding is skilled labor. There’s a difference between a ditch digger, and the person in the ditch welding the pipes together. Today, people who have mastered a skill that’s in demand are often better off than college graduates who are saddled with enormous debt and unable to find work in their chosen field. Pointing this out, however, is not as you suggest, a “conservative attack on higher education.” It’s just a fact. Bad as Orry’s situation is, do you really think he’d be better off with $60,000 of student debt, and 16 credits short of earning his BS from a university in North Carolina?

PT: The third possible reason for the ubiquity of the wealthy-welder myth is less benign: If we are able to persuade ourselves that there are plenty of lucrative opportunities available for young people like Orry who didn’t much like high school, it absolves us of our shared responsibility to address the reality of his limited economic prospects.

MR: Finally, we come to the heart of the matter – the existence (or non-existence) of opportunity – quite possibly the most divisive topic in the country today. Why? Because, as you suggest, if we persuade ourselves that opportunity is alive, we have no “shared responsibility,” to people like Orry. (Hello Republicans!) On the other hand, if we persuade ourselves that opportunity is dead, we can more easily absolve Orry from any responsibility to himself, and see him as the victim of circumstances beyond his control. (Hello Democrats!) Clearly, you believe that we have a “shared responsibility” to improve Orry’s limited economic prospects. That’s fine. But if you want to convince people that your view has merit, you must first convince them that opportunity is dead. And that’s hard to do, in a world where welders can get rich.

So, how exactly does one accomplish that? Well, if you write for The Atlantic, you go to a place where no one has ever paid a welder six-figures before. You find a poor kid who wants to weld but won’t go to where the high paying jobs are. Then, you write an article that claims wealthy welders are a myth. Funny thing is, wealthy welders are the least of your problems. According to the BLS, which I’ve noticed you like to quote, there are 7.3 million jobs currently vacant in America. Seven point three million. None of them will make you rich, simply by filling out an application. But all of them represent opportunities that could put someone on a path to prosperity. And none of them are mythological. That’s a lot of opportunity to deny…

PT: If you are able to define welding training, in the public mind, as something separate from college, rather than what it actually is—a college major like any other—it provides a way to distract public attention from policy shifts that have made it more difficult for young people like Orry to reach the middle class. Over the past decade, as the make-believe story of the rich welder has grown and spread, public spending on the community colleges where actual young people are trying to learn actual welding has shrunk—in some states, quite drastically so.

MR: If you’re going to argue that a welding certification is no different than a sociology degree – and you’re concerned with the cost of learning to weld – then why aren’t you equally concerned by the cost of a liberal arts education? Currently, student loans are north of $1.5 trillion. Why aren’t you writing about the relentless pressure on kids of all demographics to borrow whatever it takes to attend schools they can’t afford? Why are you bent on convincing the country that no one can get rich welding? The answer is worth repeating: I think it’s because rich welders pose an existential threat to your worldview. That’s why you keep denying their existence.

PT: In North Carolina, the amount the state government spends on each community-college student declined, after adjusting for inflation, from $5,830 per student in 2007 to $4,891 per student in 2016, the year that Orry enrolled at CVCC. That’s a cut of about 16 percent, and it took place during a period when state tax revenues in North Carolina actually went up. The state has the money, in other words, but state legislators are choosing not to spend it on institutions like Catawba Valley Community College.

MR: The State has the money, obviously, because the state taxed the people. The people are frustrated, because they’ve seen their money loaned to kids who have no hope of paying it back. This is partly why tuition is so high. We’ve convinced ourselves, and a generation of kids, that they’re screwed without a four-year degree. Then, we freed up a bottomless well of money, and pressured them to borrow whatever it takes. Next thing you know, Orry is $19,000 in the hole, without a certification. Anyone concerned about the cost of a welding at Catawba, should be horrified by the cost of a BA from Berkeley.

PT: What happened in North Carolina mirrors what happened in most other states: When the recession hit in 2008, tax revenues dropped sharply, and state governments cut their spending on higher education. Then the recovery arrived, and tax revenues went back up—but most state governments didn’t replace the funding they had cut from the budgets of community colleges and other public colleges. Those budget cuts in North Carolina had a direct impact on Orry’s experience at CVCC. First, they added to his tuition costs, and thus to his debt: When adjusted for inflation, community-college tuition in North Carolina has increased by 49 percent since 2007.

MR: I get it. The cost of college is nuts. Not just for four-year schools, for all schools. Not just in North Carolina, everywhere. And yet, we keep telling our kids that college is their only hope, no matter the cost. That’s just crazy. But now, as people are finally beginning to see the opportunities in the skilled trades, you try to convince America that welding is a poor alternative. That’s even crazier.

PT: But more important: The new revenue from North Carolina’s community-college students has not been enough to compensate for the cuts in state spending, which means colleges like CVCC have had to cut budgets and cut corners. That is why the English class that Orry needs to pass in order to get his degree is offered only online: because it’s cheaper that way. There is no doubt that Orry would benefit from high-quality face-to-face instruction from a caring and conscientious English professor. But he is almost certainly not going to get it. And that is going to make it much harder for him to pass, and thus to graduate. Orry says he is still determined to finish his associate’s degree, but if he doesn’t manage to do so, he won’t be alone. Right now, only 26 percent of students at CVCC are able to complete a two-year degree in three years.

MR: Cheaper alternatives are not the enemy, especially when the cost is already sky-high. And while we’d all likely benefit from “high-quality face-to-face instruction from a caring and conscientious English professor,” times are changing. I just watched a lecture on You Tube from a professor at Stanford. For free. Ninety-five percent of all known knowledge can be accessed from a smart phone and an internet connection, which Orry clearly has.

In my view, the bottom line is this: we need to find a better way to educate people who wish to learn, in a fashion that we can collectively afford. We need to encourage people to explore the opportunities that actually exist, and inspire them to go beyond the average salaries of their chosen field. My foundation is trying to help. MikeroweWORKS has awarded millions of dollars in work ethic scholarships to people who demonstrate a willingness to learn a skill that’s in demand – skills like welding. We do this, because we believe that opportunity is still very much alive in this country. We do this, because we believe that people who master a trade and work hard can still prosper. We tell their stories, because their stories are powerful, and people need to know it’s possible to prosper without a four-year degree.


Welding Won’t Make You Rich
Welders Make $150,000? Bring Back Shop Class

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