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2017 Work Ethic Scholarship Announcement

Mike Rowe - mrW Logo - Scholarship AnnouncementFor the last several weeks, The mikeroweWORKS Foundation has been evaluating a towering pile of applications for this year’s Work Ethic Scholarship Program. I’m happy to say the selection process is finally complete. I’m even happier to announce that we’ll be able to assist more individuals this year than ever before. Thanks to the incredible support of several companies, the tireless work of my own staff, and the amazing generosity of the people on this page, we’ve amassed over $900,000 to reward the kind of work ethic my foundation aims to encourage. I’m trying not to gloat, but I couldn’t be more proud.

In the coming days, 259 people will receive a letter, congratulating them on being selected for a Work Ethic Scholarship. This is a tremendous increase over last year, and I want to personally thank everyone who applied, as well as those companies and individuals who allowed us to assist so many. Specifically, I want to thank The Charles Koch Foundation, Federal Mogul, The PA Chamber, Universal Technical Institute, and Koch Industries. Your support has been invaluable.

The real surprise this year was This Old House, who told their sponsors about mikeroweWORKS, and encouraged them to give us a look. Their response was immediate and humbling. American Standard, Insinkerator, Masco, Carhartt, Home Advisor, Wolverine, Marvin, Unico, and NKBA, coughed up a total of $500,000. Awesome. (And, they let me crash the filming of a future episode, where I think I broke a chimney. Stay tuned!)

The rest of this year’s scholarship money came from friends of this page, and if I mention all of you by name I’m afraid I’ll exceed Facebook’s capacity for characters in a post. The list is long, and includes gifts from $5 to $50,000 – all of which are equally appreciated. Thank you.

A quick word about money – since I appear to be dwelling on it. While more is always better, (and much more is best of all!) our intention at mikeroweWORKS is not to compete with other scholarship programs that fundraise year round, or attempt to serve everyone who applies. Obviously, the more money we raise, the more people we can help, but as I’ve said in the past – this particular pile of free money is not for everyone. There are strings attached. Moreover, we receive a lot of financial support that’s not earmarked specifically for the scholarship fund, and that money is every bit as important to the task at hand.

In other words, mikeroweWORKS is not a scholarship fund – it’s a PR initiative whose prime directive is to shine a light on several million jobs that don’t get a lot of attention. Our Work Ethic Scholarship program has proven to be an effective means of doing that very thing. So while I’m thrilled for this year’s recipients – and encouraged by our own growth – I want to stress the importance of the larger objective – changing overall perceptions around the skilled trades. That’s really what we’re focused on here, and I know for a fact we’re making an impact. Because I hear the stories constantly. Consider these two notes on my wall today.

· David Timmerman‎ writes… I just wanted to let you know my son, age 21, saw one of your videos and he realized that he loves working with his hands so decided to not go to college next semester and has gotten a job learning HVAC. Personally I feel bad because he was nervous about telling me he wasn’t going to school. Like you I am a firm believer that not everyone is a college person. I think they should start teaching the trades in High School.

· ‎Chelsea Meeks‎ says… Thanks for the inspiration! It’s taken since March, but as of Monday I will be one of the new welder apprentices at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. I had been taking welding classes for the last year while working a part time job. After working at a few dead end jobs when I finished my liberal arts degree back in 2010 I can finally say that I have a job with a purpose that pays significantly better, and offers room for growth with raises and benefits. Again thank you for making trades important again. I can’t wait to start working hard as a welder at one of the best naval shipyards in the Hampton Roads area. (Plus, my active duty husband is incredibly proud of me.)

Every month, hundreds of similar notes appear, and that tells me our message is finally getting out there. Apprenticeship programs are on the rise, and sensible people are finally beginning to question the insane notion that a four-year degree is the best path for the most people. This is very positive. However, I’m still concerned about the future of our workforce.

The skills gap is wide, and getting wider. Six million available jobs currently exist – most of which don’t require a four-year degree. Two years ago, that number was 5.4 million. Back in 2008, when I started mikeroweWORKS, the number was 2.3 million.

Meanwhile, tuition is higher than ever, student debt is approaching $1.4 trillion dollars, and millions of people continue to ignore opportunities right in front of them. It’s gotta stop. Attitudes have to change. Policies have to change. We have to close the skills gap, but that will never happen if we keep rewarding behavior we don’t want to encourage, or push back against the myths and misperceptions that dissuade so many people from exploring so many legitimate opportunities.

In the coming year, we’ll continue to do what we can at mikeroweWORKS, and I’ll continue to badger my friends on this page to assist as best they can. For now, I’ll simply thank you in advance for your patience, understanding, and generosity.

Also – a big thanks to everyone at mikeroweWORKS and Scholarship America for getting us over the finish line. Jade in particular, who probably didn’t realize she’d be sleeping in her office when I hired her a few years ago. (I warned you!!)

Thank you all for your hard work.

Let’s do it again.

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Mike’s Blog – Off The Wall: Sharing Foundation Support and Gratitude [Sampson Richter]

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