Every once in a while, we come across someone – either in the media, on TV or YouTube, or right next door – who captivates our attention because of their passion and love for what they’re doing. They radiate excitement about the possibilities, enthusiasm for life and what they’re focused on and learning, and a deep commitment to helping others create more success (and fulfillment) doing work they love.
Mike Rowe is one of these individuals. Ever since I discovered his show Dirty Jobs, I was hooked on his messages, vibrant energy, and his overall approach to living and working better. Mike is the Creator, Executive Producer and Host of TV’s Dirty Jobs and Somebody’s Gotta Do it. He’s also the founder and CEO of the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, which awards scholarships based on work ethic to students pursuing a career in the skilled trades. He also has a new podcast called The Way I Heard It, which is a five-minute mystery designed for people with a curious mind and a short attention span.
Mike has a new webisode series Hot Under the Blue Collar with Mike Rowe, created in conjunction with Direct Energy’s home service brands, to dispel myths about skilled trades jobs and highlight the surprising truth about the benefits, rewards and opportunities that blue collar careers provide.
Check out Episode No. 1:
I caught up with Mike recently to learn more about five of the damaging myths we’re taught today about blue collar work and workers. These myths include:
• There are no good jobs left in America.
• The best path to a good job is a four-year degree.
• Trade jobs are dead-end jobs.
• You can’t make six figures.
• There’s no room for women in the trades.
Here’s what Mike shared:
Kathy Caprino: Mike, if college graduates can’t find a job, they assume there are no good jobs left to be filled. What’s wrong with this idea, and what’s your advice to high school and college-bound kids?
Mike Rowe: If you spend the day fishing but don’t get a single bite, it’s not because there are no fish left to catch; it’s because you haven’t gone to where the fish are. I know that sounds glib, but the truth is, fish are abundant, and so is opportunity. But that doesn’t mean the job you want to retire from is waiting for you in the zip code you want to live in. We have forgotten, on a very fundamental level, that jobs are not supposed to come to us — we are supposed to go to them. That’s the first issue with the idea that “all the good jobs are gone.” The second, and more serious problem, is the constantly evolving definition of what a “good” job actually is. Collectively, we’ve discouraged our kids from pursuing a whole category of perfectly good jobs, because we don’t see them as aspirational. This kind of bias is real and dangerous and completely without merit. And it’s a great way to guarantee a widening skills gap, a massive pile of student debt, and a workforce that’s completely out of balance — which is precisely what we have today.
Caprino: What’s your advice to parents of these kids?
Rowe: I try and avoid giving advice to people I don’t know, but if my kids showed any level of mechanical aptitude, or expressed any enthusiasm for tinkering or repairing or fixing things, I’d encourage them to investigate every opportunity in the skilled trades. Likewise — if they had a four-year degree and a mountain of student debt and couldn’t find work in their chosen field and refused to relocate — I’d make any future support conditional upon their willingness to mastering a useful skill.
Learning how to weld, or how to run electric, or how to install a toilet — these skills can and often do lead to fulfilling careers, balanced lives, and better than average pay. Even if you don’t spend the rest of your life working in the trades, there’s simply no downside to learning a skill. None whatsoever. Kids who are floundering today should be encouraged to hit the reset button and start learning a useful skill as soon as possible. Studies show that welders pay off student loans a lot faster than baristas…
Caprino: Many people think trade jobs, like those in plumbing, HVAC and electrical professions, are dead-end jobs that provide no upward mobility. Why is this untrue?
Rowe: It’s untrue because it’s statistically, practically, and undeniably false on every level. The mastery of a trade doesn’t just give you a skill you can fall back on — it gives you an opportunity to start your own business. There’s certainly no shame in working for someone else — most people do. And today, a skilled tradesperson has a great shot at earning a six-figure salary. But people forget that skilled tradespeople form more small businesses than any other kind of entrepreneur. So — not only is there upward mobility — there’s widespread, limitless, and unprecedented opportunity.
I’ve been working on a recruiting campaign with One Hour Heating and Air, Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, and Mister Sparky — and the more I talk with these franchise owners, the more I hear the same story over and over. Someone starts by mastering a trade, works hard, and begins to prosper. Then they decide to start their own business. They buy their own vans. They hire their own people. They create opportunity not just for themselves, but for the thousands of others who are literally keeping our lights on and our toilets flushing and our indoor temperature just the way we like it. Skills lead to careers, but they also lead to real businesses, and real prosperity. We forget that at our peril.
Caprino: Americans have been taught that white collar jobs provide more financial stability and security than blue collar jobs. In your opinion, is this true, and why do you think so many people believe this?
Rowe: It’s absolutely true that we’ve been taught to equate success with white collar jobs, more so than blue collar. Were it otherwise, we would have never permitted public schools to erase the vocational arts from their curricula. But the truth is, the color of collars has very little to do with a person’s salary, their likelihood of success, or any meaningful measure of job satisfaction. We like to believe otherwise, because it gives us something definitive to tell our kids. It gives us a “play book” of what to pursue and what to avoid. A “road map to happiness.”
That’s why we push college so hard, at the expense of all other educational models — cost be damned. But in reality, blue collar jobs and white collar jobs are not opposites; they’re two sides of the same coin. And the most critical thing to our country is a workforce that’s trained for jobs that actually exist. That’s why it’s a mistake to push a one-sized fits all approach to education and work. But — back to the first point: You gotta go to where the jobs are — regardless of the color of your collar.
Caprino: The skilled trades industry is a male-dominated field. What are the benefits of women working in the skilled trades, and how can women succeed in the trades alongside their male counterparts?
Rowe: At the risk of generalizing, there’s probably no better opportunity for women than those opportunities in the trades. The reason is simple — women have not traditionally been encouraged to pursue these careers, and companies have not traditionally gone out of their way to recruit women. Those days have ended, but the general population hasn’t gotten the memo. At present, 95% of tradespeople are still men — but companies are now eager to change that. Partly because they’re desperate for skilled workers, and partly because it just looks bad in 2016 to have one gender so heavily represented. I know several very skilled, very ambitious tradespeople who just happen to have two X chromosomes. They can pretty much write their own ticket.
Caprino: What are the requirements for somebody who’s interested in a career in the skilled trades, and how do they get started? Where can they learn more information?
Rowe: I wouldn’t be too quick to assign requirements beyond those sought after by any employer. A solid work ethic, a willingness to solve practical problems, a curious mind, a desire to succeed. Bias aside, check out mikeroweWORKS.com, or FindSkilledJobs.com. Remember too, that many companies provide training in house, and many others will subsidized your training elsewhere.
Caprino: Finally, for young adults who want to pursue a skilled trade but get serious pushback from friends and family, what should they do?
Rowe: Ignore them (with great respect).
Read the original article on Forbes.