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CNN Viewer Has Questions

Mike appeared on Piers Morgan’s show on October 30 and a viewer had some questions for Mike.   Read his response here.

Today’s question comes from Jennifer Bailey. Jennifer posted over at CNN.com, but I’m answering here because … well, because I need more room.

JB: While Mike makes a valid point I have a few questions for him.

MR: Hi, Jennifer. I love questions. Fire away.

JB: How can the middle class send their kids to college for “four or more years” when the Republicans have made it far too expensive with raising interest rates on school loans and wanting to end federal grants?

MR: Your question implies that the middle class should be borrowing money to send their kids to an expensive four-year college. You also imply that college is far too expensive because interest rates on student loans are too high. Might I respectfully challenge both implications?

Since 1985, college tuition has increased at nearly 500 times the rate of inflation. (See: College tuition has jumped by 500% since 1985) Can you imagine the same jump in any other area? Food, housing, medicine, energy? If everything we need to live increased in price at the same rate as college tuition, there would be a national riot in about 10 minutes. So what really happened in the marketplace to allow college to get so expensive? Is it really all because Republicans want to raise the rates on student loans?

Think about it. Universities get to decide how much money to charge their students. Likewise, parents and students decide if they can afford to pay it. It’s a pretty simple proposition. But when the government suddenly makes hundreds of billions of dollars in student loans readily available — under the popular (and voter-friendly) theory that “everyone should go to college” — we see an unintended consequence. We see colleges suddenly motivated to charge more money. A lot more. And so they embark on their own PR campaigns to boost enrollment. They hire ad agencies and publicists and lobbyists and go about the business of persuading people to “invest in their future.” And most importantly, they provide an admissions department to help arrange for an affordable student loan. This is what’s been happening for the last 40 years.

If blame is your thing, there’s plenty to go around. Republicans and Democrats have both allowed a trillion dollars of public money to flow freely between students and colleges with no real accountability for the results. And millions of well-intended parents and guidance counselors are still pushing the idea that a four-year degree is the only viable path to happiness. This in spite of the fact that the vast majority of available jobs no longer require a diploma — they require the willingness to learn a useful skill. And that kind of training does not demand the type of massive borrowing that has put college graduates a trillion dollars in the hole.

To be clear, I’m not anti-college; I’m anti-debt. If you can afford it, by all means go for it. But I reject the idea that a four-year school is the best path for the most people. I went on Piers Morgan Live because I have a scholarship fund that trains people for jobs that actually exist, while rewarding the kind of work ethic I think we need to encourage. I want to spread the word.

JB: Vocational training has been taken out of most high schools. Would you not agree that they need to be brought back and kids be given the equivalent of a 2yr certification to apply to a trade school: Carpentry, welding, electrician….?

MR: Of course. The current skills gap has unfolded in part because vocational education vanished from high schools. I’m all for reinstating those programs, but I’m afraid that won’t be enough. There are hundreds of thousands of jobs available right now that people simply do not want. This is not because the jobs are “bad,” or the pay is lousy. It’s because we’ve raised an entire generation to view these opportunities as subordinate to a four-year degree. Good jobs are going begging because hard work and skilled labor are no longer valued in the same way as they were 50 years ago.

JB: Do you realize how many jobs would be available if the greedy corporations kept manufacturing and technical jobs here?

MR: Yes, I think I do. But what makes you think they would be filled?

Consider this: Right now, in the manufacturing sector alone, 600,000 jobs are currently available. That’s 600,000 open positions that American manufacturers can’t fill. You’re right — if all the American corporations moved all their manufacturing facilities and factories back to the United States we’d have a few million more openings. But then what? Do you really assume that millions of unemployed Americans would run to fill those positions? I’m afraid it’s not that simple. If it were, it would already be happening. We wouldn’t have a skills gap. But we do, and it’s getting wider every year. The fact is — according to the government’s own numbers — 3.7 million jobs are available right now. Doesn’t it make sense to fill those positions before we start demanding that companies create more opportunities that people don’t aspire to?

Like it or not, we’re in a global economy, and it’s not the politicians or the corporations calling the shots. It’s us. What we do as consumers matters far more than what we say as citizens. Right now, for instance, I’ll wager you’re reading this on a device made in China. It’s not a criticism – just an observation. Every single thing in our world, from Honey Boo Boo to your iPhone to your local Congressperson is a reflection of the things we value and the choices we make. At the cash register and at the polls.

JB: The list goes on, but I would say to you that the GOP won’t even pass the Jobs Bill and does nothing to help the middle class and our active military or veterans.

MR: Yes, Jennifer, your list does go on. And on the other side of the aisle there is another American with a different list. And their list goes on as well. This is the problem. Everyone is so focused on making their own list and keeping track of how screwed up the other side is, they can’t acknowledge a good idea unless somebody on their side tells them how to feel about it. Funny thing is, most of the Republicans I know want the same basic things as most of the Democrats I know. They all want more jobs. They all want a healthy planet. They all support our veterans. And they all want to help people who are in genuine need of help. But they disagree on the method, and on the role of government. And because they can’t get past their methodology, they just keep adding more things onto their list. And so it goes.

JB: They talked JOBS,JOBS, JOBS and all they’ve done is help their rich cronies, obstruct job making bills, make higher education unaffordable for everyone BUT their rich supporters!!

MR: I get it. The Republicans are bad. (I know this because you have use both CAPS and exclamation points!!) You have identified the GOP and their rich friends as the cause of a great many problems. You are certainly not alone. But frankly, I don’t find your analysis to be all that persuasive. For one thing, millions of conservatives are far from rich. And millions of liberals are far from poor. Does the government have a huge role to play? Sure. But ultimately, the way out of this is not through D.C. The buck no longer stops there. It stops with us. It has to.

JB: Why don’t you look at THOSE facts and ask the GOP to get off their collective derrières, help create jobs and quit jeopardizing the future of the American people!

MR: Because honestly, Jennifer, I don’t believe that the GOP or the Dems or the president can actually “create” jobs. The best they can do is encourage an environment where people who might be willing to assume the risk of hiring other people are more inclined to do so. That’s what I’d like them to do. And to the extent that either party would ever listen to a guy that used to have a show on cable TV — that’s about all I would ask of them.

JB: Btw, people WILL work their butt off, Mike, if paid a fair living wage and have affordable healthcare.

MR: From what I’ve seen of the world, most people (including me), would rather work eight hours instead of 10, six hours instead of eight, four hours instead of six. Most people prefer more vacation time than less. Most people want their gratification as soon as possible. Given a choice, most people would rather be comfortable than uncomfortable.

Again, this is not a criticism — it’s just the human condition. As a society, we can either encourage or discourage this basic tendency. In a very general way, I think we’ve encouraged it. I think we’ve encouraged people to withhold their very best efforts and their very hardest work until certain conditions and expectations are met. And I think those conditions are both relative and ever-changing. So when you suggest that people won’t work their butts off unless or until they feel that they are fairly paid and provided with affordable health care, I think you’re absolutely right. That’s exactly where our expectations have brought us.

On Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, though, I got a chance to meet a different breed. I met hundreds of men and women who proved beyond all doubt that hard work didn’t necessarily have to be conditioned on anything other than a personal decision to bust your own ass. By and large, the workers I met on that show were happy and successful because they were willing to work harder than everyone else around them. And in doing so, they thrived. Not right away, perhaps, but over time, most of them prospered. They distinguished themselves on the job by outworking the competition. And they advanced. In fact, many of the Dirty Jobbers we featured were millionaires. You just wouldn’t know it because they were usually covered in grime or sludge or shit or something worse. During the show, I also spoke at length with employers in every state, and in every industry. And no matter where I went, the biggest challenge was always the same – finding people who were willing to learn a new skill and work hard. I hear the same thing today.

Last week, I spent a few hours with the head of labor relations for one of the largest engineering firms in the world. He has thousands of positions open right now. Literally, thousands. After Katrina, his firm poured many millions of dollars into workforce development down in the Gulf. They trained — for free — hundreds of workers in a variety of positions that offered all kinds of opportunities to advance. The pay was fair. The benefits were solid. But the program ultimately failed. Why? Because virtually every single trainee decided it was just too damn hot. I’m not even kidding. They just didn’t want to work in the heat. And so … they didn’t.

In the next few years, this company anticipates 15,000 new openings for welders and pipe-fitters in the southeast. And the head of recruitment has absolutely no idea where the workers will come from. That should scare us all.

JB: Getting their hands dirty isn’t the problem. Being paid minimum wage with no Health Care IS the problem!

MR: But, Jennifer, how then do you explain the skills gap? These are not “minimum wage jobs.” These are not “jobs with no health care.” Again, you seem to assume that any time that a job becomes available that meets your criteria, a qualified and willing candidate will swoop in to fill it. But why do you think that? All the evidence suggests the opposite is true. Three and half million jobs are available right now. As in … today. What’s up with that?

If you tell me the pay is not sufficient, I’ll respectfully disagree. I’ve personally seen thousands of jobs go begging that start around $55,000, and offer a straight path to a six-figure salary. If you tell me it’s due to a lack of training, I’ll respectfully disagree some more. I haven’t seen one training program or trade school in the country that’s maxed out. Not one. I started mikeroweWORKS because I’ve personally met with dozens of employers who have hundreds of opportunities they can’t fill. Not only do these positions offer healthcare and fair pay, many offer free training. The catch? The work requires real, actual skill, and the conditions are often … uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s hot. Sometimes it’s cold. But the opportunities are there, and include the criteria you want. And yet, companies can’t fill them.

Every month, the trade schools I work with tell me about companies that are desperate for more welders. They simply can’t train them fast enough. Tulsa Welding School, Midwest Technical, The Refrigeration School, UTI … Believe me, there is no shortage of training. No, the skills gap reflects more than a lack of ability or a lack of opportunity — it reflects a disconnect between what we want, what we study, what we can afford, and what’s actually available.

Last point: Two weeks ago, I talked with a heavy equipment technician up in Butler, N.D. Jack’s 26 years old. Started welding part-time in high school. Got a job at the local CAT dealer working on big machines. Had a knack for it. Took a training program. Started around $65,000, with a 25% “Impact Signing Bonus.” Went to work in earnest. 60-hour weeks, mostly outside. Tough work, but he was good at it, and willing. Doubled his pay in a year. Met a girl. Got married. Bought a house. Had a kid. Got a raise. Paid off his house. Had another kid. Just quit his job to freelance. Why? Because he has a trade that’s in demand and real-world experience. He can work when he wants at $150 an hour anywhere on the High Plains. Jack is debt-free, highly trained, good at what he does, and absolutely thriving. Why? Because he combined a useful skill with a solid work ethic, and welcomed a chance to be uncomfortable.

A few months ago I wrote something called The S.W.E.A.T. Pledge. It stands for “Skills and Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo.” (So sue me — I like acronyms.) All mikeroweWORKS scholarships require the recipient to sign this pledge — among other things — before we spend $15,000 to $20,000 training them. If I we’re a betting man, Jennifer, I’d wager that you will not approve of this 12-point promise. But maybe I’m wrong? Give it a read: “The S.W.E.A.T. Pledge” (Skill & Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo)

Tell me what you think. And thanks for the questions.

Happy Sunday,

Mike

  • Holly Maynard Martin

    Thank you for getting this out there. There is a lot of misinformation and I hope people read this and are inspired to see for themselves. I was. By the way, I loved Dirty Jobs and miss watching it. I thought you were funny and we got to meet some pretty unique people.

  • Wolfyhound

    Wow, one thing I love about you is how you use cold hard facts to show the real picture rather than spouting off the media talking points of one or the other of the main parties. There’s jobs, people just don’t want “those” jobs. Too many people want to sit at a desk using a college degree and too many young people want to spend ten years at a college having fun and not moving on into the “adult” working world. Not all people, not all young people, but way too many that could be working a job. And I WANTED to learn to weld and drive tractors and such, but ended up working in the pet industry, another hard job with not super great pay, but I pay my bills and stay happy! Woot for jobs! And Much love to you Mike Rowe. Inspiring, dude. simply inspiring.

  • blair houghton

    I kind of flooded this in reply to Mike’s tweet, but I’ll repeat it here as well. The statistics on the number of jobs open are incorrect. The “600,000″ number is at least two years old. The current data from BLS is here: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/jolts.pdf

    What it says is that manufacturers is having no trouble at all filling open jobs.

    You can tell that because the turnover rate is about the same as the number of open jobs. Manufacturers are hiring about as many people each month as they have open jobs, and firing about the same number. That’s not a lack of skilled labor, it’s a functioning piston engine.

    And the table says that’s happening in all sectors, not just manufacturing. Employers are churning the system, not creating new jobs to take up the excess of available workers. 4 million jobs are available, but as those 4 million jobs get filled, 4 million other people get let go, leaving 4 million jobs open again.

    But there are, as of now, over 11 million people considered unemployed. So 7 million people have no hope of getting one of those 4 million jobs. And focusing on training won’t help because 4 million of them are skilled people who were just put into the street.

    So it’s clear that we need to move some economic goalposts to get cash-rich corporations to take some of this “risk” they keep talking about. They don’t seem to understand that it’s that cash that reduces their risk. They seem to think it’s more important to protect the cash, and not important to protect the humans. It should be made more risky for them to do what they’re doing now; less risky to hire people than to hoard their cash.

    • toolman78

      Blair, I think you may be misinterpreting the data. I have no problem believing the numbers, but companies generally don’t want employee turnover. In every company I know it happens because of poor work performance. If they have an employee whose doing his or her job well they tend to try and keep them. Training new employees is costly. I think it fits fine with what Mike was describing, a lot of unmotivated and unqualified people hopping job to job. I seen it happen all the time when I was working in an automotive plant. Guys would come in claiming to have the skills and would leave a couple weeks later when it became obvious that they didn’t.

      • blair houghton

        Most workers aren’t being churned. 93% are employed, and there’s about 2% turnover a month, for whatever reason. But there’s only about 2% empty jobs at any one time, and that seems to be continuous, but it’s not the same job every month. It’s not like 250,000 manufacturing jobs (4 million overall) have just been waiting for someone to create a training program. There are 11 million people not working, and 4 million of them will be working next month, and will be replaced by 4 million losing their jobs (for whatever reason). The other 7 million have nowhere to fit in even if they get trained. We’re simply 7 million jobs short of putting everyone back to work. And that will persist if we focus on the wrong things. If we start up training programs for the existing openings, we’ll just be cross-training people and creating more competition for those existing openings, and that will drive wages down without putting more people to work. And when did employers decide they didn’t have to foot the bill for OJT? They invented the job, they should be the experts in how people should do them. But really, we need to focus on creating more openings. Then everyone gets work and demand for labor goes up and that will bring wages up and start pulling some of those record profits out of the bursting vaults and back into circulation where they belong.

        • toolman78

          For the most part I agree then. But I still maintain that there is a shortage of skilled tradespeople. Take the trade I apprenticed in, tool and die maker, as an example. They are the people who make and maintain the tooling for manufacturing. They are essential to manufacturing practically any product. And yet there are no trade schools left in the US that train them. I was lucky enough to do an apprenticeship in Germany. But in the US the guys ending up in this trade anymore tend to by “accident”. They worked in a shop where they picked a few things up and the next place a little more, till they knew what they were doing. They make great wages due to the shortage of tool makers. Which is great till you realize that it’s cheaper to have dies built in Germany and shipped the US than to build them there in the first place. And that was exactly what the company did where I worked.

          I’m sure that the same scenario holds for many other trades that require an above average level of intelligence. The people who would be suitable as apprentices all go to college instead because that’s what we’ve been told is the “smart” thing to do.

          Training for new fields is important, but we’ve neglected to make sure we have skilled tradespeople for many existing trades as well. As it is, tradespeople tend to be the people who fell through the cracks of the existing educational system.

    • Sarah Adkins

      I tried the CNC route and the machinist route only to realize those jobs were tied to supply and demand. As soon as the demand drops you are out of a job. The hours just aren’t steady enough and people eventually get tired of having to move and apply elsewhere. The pay isn’t that great and they only want people with a minimum of five year’s experience.

      Sure there may be jobs that need to be filled but how many are part time? He never mentions that the newest hires are the first to be let go too as soon as demand drops.

  • Marcelyn Skold Wylie

    Clear, concise and concrete. Nice comeback..but as we know, Rublicans and Democrats alike, many rabid democrats will discount all you say as long as you are in their eyes “consorting with the enemy”
    Keep up the good work!

  • temp user

    Thank you. I am pleased to hear some one say shop class has value and a college degree is not the end all be all of everything. A degree in history is nice (and it is good to be educated) but paying 100k for it and expecting to payoff your student loans is not realistic. A good plumber or electrician is worth their weight in gold. Just look at what they can charge for their valuable work.

    And I have found that tradesmen are often times “better read” people than many college graduates.

  • turpen1

    Truth Mike! In Indiana, AAR corp, an aeronautic company currently has over 50 openings- they have teamed up with Vincinnes University(our college level vo-tech leader) offering 2 year courses that result in 60K careers…4yr courses 100K+ There are hundreds of businesses that have hundreds of openings, Look at NorthernTrust.com out of Chicago’s job listings, like 500 openings. Buisness owners like myself and those I serve can’t find an educated work force for their specialties and spend fortunes on training so called “educated people”. If we geared training at the high school/university level for existing jobs, good paying jobs, then would we really care if we had a degree? I spent 4 years in college and didn’t get a degree, i have run a home based business that has allowed me to stay home with my 3 kids and allowed me to put a home cooked meal on the table most nights(barring soccer, swim,etc nights.) My husband also self employed, does not have a degree though he went to college, but is brilliant in his field and thriving, and we are managing to put 2 kids through college without loans. These are the important topics and until we get some of the lawyers out of Washington and the scientists in, the doctors, engineers, and business owners who are the true thinkers and planners, then it’s status quo. Get th feds out of one size fits all education. I would rather a certification that allows me to earn 60-100K than a f-king liberal arts degree, any day of the week.I was very close to having one and what little difference it would have made.

    • Sarah

      Personally I think it’s not just about degrees anymore, it’s how well one communicates and works with others in addition to the skills they bring to the table. Congrats on your success and your husband’s success. I wish you all the best!

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  • rrchesnutt

    I see this every day I am 58 and own a Mobile Auto Repair Service. And So many cars I repair are owned by young men that are having to have their Mom or Dad pay the bill. And most of the things I am doing are very simple. They are getting nothing but computer training now days. I do not know why we allowed the schools to drop the vocational classes. Not everyone can or wants to be in front of a computer all day. It is very sad, I would love to find some help in my business, but no one wants to put in the time and work now days to make a living. They think go to school, get out, get this high paying job, buy the big house it took years for their parents to get, the car, the boat. They want it all today. I tell people all the things I have now, most of the fun of having them is the work, time, I put in to getting them. And just so you all know I have no formal training and my first job out of high school paid a whooping $2.65 an hour. And that was at IBM . But I knew If I worked hard and kept with it I would move up in pay and I did. I worked there for 20 years and left to do what I am doing now. And I would love to get some help and train some people in this field to just be able to make a good living. But I have none of the ASE patches to show what I know. It is all learned On The Job not in a class. A lot of kids now days do not want to put in the work, the hard long hours of work it takes to succeed for life in the work force. I love your show and know you will always do well.

    And one other thing all the people you talked to keep saying the government needs to do something. Well not ONE government job program, or person, or agency has done anything to help me out. All they want to do is stop me any way they can. Government cannot create a job that will do anything except take tax money to pay for. A government job will not ever make a product that will make a profit. And some one will buy without being forced to.

  • Shannon Marie Conley

    There are no mirrors in my Nana’s house. There are no debts to be paid. There are no scars to hide. No broken bones or broken hearts. Only a spirit that soars. There are no mirrors in my Nana’s house. There are no mirrors in heaven.

  • Michelle

    Thanks Mike. The world needs this kind of inspiration! If we don’t revive the courage to work for a delayed reward in our culture we have much to lose. My sons did countless “dirty jobs” to buy their first cars, pay insurance, pay tuition etc. They are all disciplined, successful and accomplished in their fields as a result. Success is the reward given to creativity and very hard work. On the other hand I cannot picture a world in which Jennifer’s line of reasoning leads to success. Her excuses, anger and hyper focus on propaganda haven’t left her any room for hope or inspiration.

  • Sarah Adkins

    Not to be rude or ungrateful here but Mike, but those jobs are considered “men’s jobs”. Since I was teenager I’ve been turned away from those jobs and treated pretty poorly by those looking to hire for such a job. I was more than willing to work my way up. I can MIG weld and arc weld, I’ve used a ridiculous number of hand tools, and learned mold making and casting. Everywhere you look they only hire men, not women for the jobs you list. Here in the South the pay is a joke, you deal with competition from those who hire illegal immigrants and no, I can’t afford the cost of training for these jobs let alone get hired for one. In fact, I can’t find a place that even offers welding certification or CNC courses anymore. They continually changed the requirements for any vocational classes so I could never take one in high school. Would I move for a better job? Sure but I can’t afford it and no one wants to pay more than $10/hr. When you have student loans you can’t just up and move when you feel like it.

    Those manufacturing jobs pay very low wages here (average is $10/hr for someone with at least 5 yrs experience in Texas) and there is no insurance or retirement package. Your work schedule is entirely dependent on demand. You’ll go from 60 hrs/week to 22 hrs/week easy. You’ll get laid off and have to go through the entire process to get rehired all over again. If you want to work in the oil industry in Texas they refuse to hire women period (unless you want to be a secretary). I’ve personally gone to the CNC/Welding companies in the city I live in only to be turned away rudely. I’ve asked about entry level positions, written and rewritten resumes and cover letters, thank you notes, all to be told I’m “overqualified” or lack a certain certification. I’ve even been asked “Why aren’t you married with a buncha kids?”, “Shouldn’t you be doing your husband’s laundry?”, and more insulting ones I don’t care to mention. I used to do landscaping and did beautiful work. I used to work in a nursery but had to work two other part time jobs just to make ends meet. I got sick of working seven days a week and left for college.

    I applaud your efforts sir, but when you get sick of being told what you can and can’t do you say “screw it!” and cope with a dead end low paying job instead because there are no other options. I went to college because I thought it was my only way out since hard work doesn’t pay off when you can’t even get your foot in the door.

    I thought I’d “work smarter” since I’m not allowed to work harder. Then the recession came and I was back to square one with a lot of debt. No thanks, ambition just gets you in more trouble. Nice try though because I bought into those kind of jobs paying well, but when you read the fine print or you’re not a man you realize they won’t let you in the door anyway. Aren’t there any jobs that these people will hire women for? I’m sick of my gender being viewed as a disability by employers! I might be 5′ 6″ and 130 lbs but I’m not a weakling. I’ve worked inside a greenhouse at 120 degrees (F) and moved Christmas trees off of trucks at ten below! What was I paid to do this for? A lousy $6.50/hr (I negotiated a $1/hr more pay rate because I knew my plants, trees, and shrubs)! I just couldn’t justify doing this job anymore when my employers froze pay raises and stopped bonuses. Who is going to risk heat stroke with no insurance for minimum wage? Snake bites? Broken bones? Skin cancer? Any takers? Just to get in to SEE a dermatologist was $400 all up front and testing or biopsies were easily triple that. That was more than what I took home in a month from one job.

    You paint a pretty picture – but I have yet to see it where I live. I keep applying for jobs that pay more but it’s the same old excuses time and again. I’m “overqualified”, or the wrong gender and just don’t know the “right people”. Good luck in your endeavor getting guys all those jobs. I have no problem learning new skills but when working hard pays nothing you pick yourself up and move on. That may be the case with some of the jobs you mention and instead of automatically dismissing those who talk about what really happens on those jobs maybe you should listen. I’d take the S.W.E.A.T. pledge if it meant I got a real paying job with opportunity but I know I’ll be paid less than a guy and I won’t be promoted no matter how hard I work. Why you ask? Because that’s how it has always worked out for me.

    • Karen

      Nothing works for you, brains or brawn. Sounds like you want to just get an endorsement to give up altogether. There are parts of the country, this country where those jobs Mike was talking about are available. Perhaps it just doesn’t seem ideal for you to move to where the work is. Moving doesn’t stop people with four year degrees and it shouldn’t stop you either. What you describe sounds like entitlement. While there may not be a rich job market in your community or training, you and men looking for the same things(skilled labor jobs and training for fair pay) are obviously available somewhere to the degree that your gender won’t matter. If you used your internet to find those places rather than complain that nothing ever works for you, you might find that you have to start working for yourself. Authors don’t
      get paid until the book is written.

      • Sarah

        It’s not an endorsement because I don’t want to be a welfare parasite but everywhere I look I see people working like mad and getting nothing out of it. It’s not entitlement. It’s plain old REALITY. I see people getting more money working the system than they do working any job they can get. I’m sorry you have poor reading comprehension skills.

    • JeremyStreich

      My mother is an engineer now (a “man’s job”), but she got there working for a ground water sampling company (read: she would show up, drill into the ground and take ground water samples) and HASMAT remediation (digging out contaminated soil wearing a space suit so she didn’t get sick from any matter of soil contaminates [radon, gasoline, natural gas, radioactive materials, etc.])…. Which by the way, is a “mans job” also.

      She never joined the Society of Women Engineers, because, as she would say, “I studied civil engineering, not women engineering.”

      “cope with a dead end low paying job instead because there are no other options”
      – There are always options. Start your business.
      – Go throw pizzas at night while go to trade school or community college during the day.
      – Find a way a company can save or make a non-trivial amount of money and walk in ask to talk to the manager. Say, “I can make/save you $X dollars a year. Let me prove it, and you pay me 10% of the savings/earnings.”

      “I have yet to see it where I live.”
      You choose to live there. If there are not opportunities in your city, move. But, I’d wager there are opportunities there that you don’t see because you’ve lost hope, and think “The little guy just can’t ahead… Always gonna have a car payment… ”

      “[I]nstead of automatically dismissing those who talk about what really happens on those jobs maybe you should listen”
      Did you watch any of his TV series “Dirty Jobs”? I think he has listened to real workers doing some of the hardest, grossest and messiest work that few would ever aspire to.

      “but I know I’ll be paid less than a guy”
      In many areas the wage difference for the same type of work is gone. The current disparity is women in management and cabinet positions, and even that is getting better; although too slowly.

      Suggested reading:
      48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller (get a day job)
      Quitter by Jon Acuff (work toward a dream job)
      No More Mondays by Dan Miller (start your business)
      Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey (pay off that debt, and stay out of debt)

      • Sarah

        Starting my own job is laughable at best. I have a negative net worth and my income will not qualify for a bank loan of any kind. You sit there and judge someone who has FIFTEEN YEARS of firsthand experience of being discriminated against. I have no collateral for a bank loan either. I have no way of leaving as I’ve said my student loans are eating me alive. Can you afford the cost of moving if you don’t have a job lined up first? I’ll wager that answer is NO. I’m willing to live out of my car (which is old and paid off) but not for $10/hr.

        I’ll look up the books though and no, I don’t have options because I’m back to working seven days a week AGAIN. I can guarantee you where I live (Texas) I’m paid less. I found out a male coworker makes $2/hr MORE than I do and I can’t afford a lawyer to represent me. Equal pay isn’t happening in the South and the northern parts of the US are more expensive. I thought if I just worked harder, learned more skills, I’d break through but after 15 years of working like a dog my health is finally failing – and I can’t afford insurance.

        • JeremyStreich

          I was not juding or attack you. I was trying to show you that the world is still at your finger tips. Here, lets start this all over…

          If you could choose any company in the world that you’d like to work for, that is doing something you are passionate about, what company would you choose?

          Where are you currently working?

          Let’s see if we can get from A to B.

    • SandyLester

      Oh, baloney. Tech firms are desperate for anyone who can arch weld.
      Good grief, if you are getting jobs its because you have a piss poor attitude

      • Sarah

        Wow, I share what really goes on here and you have nothing else to say but that I have a “piss poor attitude”. How many jobs have you applied for as an arc welder? I’ve applied for ten. Even with certification it was temp-to-hire at $8/hr. Where’s YOUR research on this? Do you just like blasting people who are working their butts off to make ends meet while you’re cowering behind a computer screen?

        • SandyLester

          Really, you are still bitching about thus gory months later? Proved my point.

    • Jenel Hazlett

      Sarah; There are jobs available to women in manufacturing (refining) sign up and look for jobs labeled “Operator” https://sjobs.brassring.com/1033/ASP/TG/cim_home.asp?partnerid=6961&siteid=5675
      and for the slightly more experienced
      http://www.indeed.com/q-Refinery-l-Chalmette,-LA-jobs.html

      • Sarah

        Thanks Jenel! I’m looking today. I’ll keep applying, but who knows – maybe I’ll get a call. ;-)

  • Nick Baker

    As my Kids get older I will encourage them to read your articles and the S.W.E.A.T. pledge. There are lots of opportunities if you are willing to work for them. Thanks Mike.

  • Scott

    Agreed. I learned the mechanic trade in the Air Force, and it has taken me well beyond where I ever figured I would be. Be that guy who always strives to outwork everyone until the job is done, do the work others won’t do, and go where others are not willing to go. I have done all of the following and I have found myself all over the world working. Currently in Afghanistan making three to four times what my four year degreed friends back home are making with most of my earnings tax free. Traveling in my off time anywhere I want to go, being able to take care of my mother with no worries. You pay the price in the trades with your body and your time, but if you aren’t willing to pay the price, why should you benefit? The sense of entitlement is a topic Mike Rowe has mentioned in other articles, and I have seen it in action over the years. Give me a hungry high school graduate over an entitled degreed individual any day and I will teach him how to do everything I know in order to succeed. The rest is up to them. The question these days is who are the ones willing to put in the work? One group of people that are willing to do it and that are often overlooked these days are the veterans returning from the wars. They have all of the traits: trade skills, drive, mental toughness, ability to operate in high stress environments, the list goes on and on. Hopefully employers are taking this into consideration as they attempt to address their skilled worker short falls. Trades have been good to me, I worked in the IT world for a few years but in the end I came back to trades. The money was surprisingly better and the satisfaction I got in completing my work was more fulfilling. Don’t think I would ever go back to a computer based job again.

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  • Robert Johnson

    I largely agree with you – there is one point I disagree with – I have found that companies are not willing to train, they want you to have the experience coming in the door, or not get it at all. You end up with the chicken/egg problem. They cant find qualified candidates because no one is training for that field, but wont train for it themselves.

  • John

    I agree with most of what Mike says, but…

    Did he seriously say “Since 1985, college tuition has increased at nearly 500 times the rate of inflation”, and then as his reference, link to a MSN Money article that says college tuition since 1985 has increased by 500%?

    I could make a joke about college, but I won’t. Knowing about percentages is middle school math. Good luck getting any manufacturing job if you don’t know the difference between “500 times” and “500%”. My nephew knows that, and Mike is like 500 times older than him — or so he would say.

    • G. Michael Williams

      1985 AZ State $450 a semester….Google it now. Oh $5,000 That would be a 1,000% no? Applied Ignorance degree? Don’t know, don’t check…just assert someone is wrong.

      • John

        I’m not sure what you’re trying to say here.

        Instead of looking at the actual sources he provided (which provided an average of the nation’s education prices), you are picking one school, and stating a price for 1985 (with no source, and none that I can easily find).

        Even if your numbers are correct, how is that relevant to his misunderstanding of percentages? Your own example is not 500 times more costly than it was in 1985.

        • Mark Johnson

          I don’t think you read what Mike said, either. Increased at 500x the rate of inflation, not increased 500x over the original price of tuition.

      • Dallas Gutauckis

        John’s point was merely that Mike mistook 500% for meaning 500 times. 500% is actually only 5 times, as 100% is the full single entity. For example, $2 is 100% of the amount I just said. 500% of that is $10.

        And for posterity, a 500% increase would be $12, as a 100% increase would mean it doubled as we’re talking about the increased portion when we use the percentage.

        Just sayin’

    • Christopher Lee Hartsock

      You’re not in a position to joke until your reading comprehension improves. MR clearly wrote ’500 times the rate of inflation’, and compared that particular relative increase to other commodities. He did not compare tuition to then and now for a percentage. I see that you did not read this article well, or Mike’s reference article completely.

      Read the rest of the article he sourced, not looking for bogus gotchas, but with an eye toward learning something.

      • Ben Winchester

        Well, inflation since 1985 is cumulatively about 117%. So 500 times that would be 58,500% – meaning, if tuition cost $1000 in 1985, it’d cost $585,000 today. That clearly hasn’t happened.

        John is correct; it looks like the original post mixed up a percent increase and a times increase. It’s a quibble worth making.

        If something goes *up* by 2x, then it triples, in other words it has a 200% increase. An easy way to remember it is that a 100% increase is the same as a 1x increase. So, divide by 100, when switching from “percent” to “times”.

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  • billhay

    In my homestate of Washington, tuition increased due to a voter approved cap on taxes, exactly the opposite of what Prof. Rowe describes.

    • JeremyStreich

      Er, What?

      Capping state or local taxes doesn’t affect what students are willing and able to pay for college. The federal student loan program does. Mike is right about the education bubble the federal student loan program creates.

      • Ben Winchester

        I think he’s saying that tuition can *also* increase because universities had to get funding from students instead of taxes.

        Remember, universities were typically not exactly market economies, with a lot of funding typically coming from state governments. And 30 years ago, universities weren’t run so much with an eye on making a profit or expanding, so it wasn’t exactly supply and demand that dictated price.

        If you change both of these — if you run universities for profit, and change their source of money from taxes to tuition — then you set the stage for the scenario of rising tuition.. at least, so long as there’s sufficient amount of demand (for education, from students), and that’s what is helped along by the easy student loans.

        • JeremyStreich

          Prior to the 50′s the only federal support for universities was occasional land grants for buildings. The 50′s brought in all sorts of investments in higher education from the federal government and local governments. We have not fallen to pre-50′s level of tax support, but we have seen them dial back their investment in higher education. But, why wouldn’t they, with as much as we charge our students, shouldn’t we be more self sufficient? With our endowment and grants? The role of universities grew, and the results are the large monolithic institutions.

          Working for a state university system, in the second largest university in the state, I have looked up the state investment in our state system (that I work for) and it turns out that the “budget crunch” a few years ago wasn’t so much a real cut in our state (though many would have you believe it was), it was a decrease to the rate of increase. We could have just as easily limited enrollment and decreased staff to control costs (you know, what for profit companies did), which would have increased the ROI for our degrees. Unfortunately, we’ve become addicted to tuition from “at risk” students, being an “access college.”

          This I think is causes immoral side effects from the best of intentions. We take on students who aren’t at the level required to start college, and we give them remedial courses. They take student loans to attend. If they really aren’t cut out for it, they drop out in the first semester or first year. As soon as they leave, they are responsible for starting to pay back the tuition costs they borrowed. Moreover, it isn’t just the cost of tuition they are able to borrow, it is also the cost of books and housing (if they stay in the dorms). Our 6 year completion rate is 60%. That means after 6 years of school, 40% have not completed their degree yet (or have dropped out).

  • hihoze

    Another excellent reason why America needs SCHOOL CHOICE & SCHOOL VOUCHERS. The money for school taxes belongs to the people. It’s time to take that money away from the School Monopoly owned and controlled by the Government and their Unionized Voters and send it back to the students its intended for with a VOUCHER redeemable at the school of their CHOICE. That will liberate millions of students stuck in the Public run ghetto “schools” and suburban “indoctrination camps” and escape to the Charter and Private Schools attended by the elites who would never attend those crap schools. SCHOOL CHOICE. SCHOOL VOUCHERS. FREEDOM.

    • mmercier0921

      The money goes to the pensions of retired Marxists.

      Suck it up buttercup.

    • Sarah

      In Texas we do have school choice – as long as you live in the right zip code. The high schools in my area offered jewelry making, flight lessons (yes flying a plane), and agriculture. The high school I was FORCED to go to because I lived in the wrong zip code and couldn’t move had teenage girls getting pregnant and dropping out. They offered nothing to the students and I was told that the competing school district only wanted black or Hispanic students. As a white student with a 4.0 GPA I was enraged.

  • aurorabo

    GW Bush reclassified fast food workers jobs as manufacturing jobs. So sure there is thousands of “manufacturing jobs” out there

    • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

      Where are those $55k fast food ‘manufacturing’ jobs? Your criticism doesn’t fit what the article was talking about, high paid jobs that are going begging for workers.

  • pfesser

    After med school, when I was in a radiology residency, I took a machinist class at night at a local vo-tech school. Three hours a night, three nights a week for six months. My son lives in that same town now and went to check about the machinist course. The secretary told us it had closed not too long after I took the class, thirty years ago. “Lack of interest.”

    We have looked all over the town, adjoining towns, even several large towns out of state. Nothing. What classes ARE available? Nurse aide, veterinary assistant, office manager, IT manager. Nothing in welding, machine work, bricklaying, nothing.

    Why are the Chinese eating our lunch? Because we deserve it.

    • SandyLester

      Then move to where the jobs are for you are trained for.

      • pfesser

        You are missing the point. Read again and then try again.

        • SandyLester

          No, the point is you are complaining about not getting a job after training, I am saying go where the jobs are.
          If your training is not a fit and you do not want to move, get training in a field which will allow you to work where you live.

          • pfesser

            No, I did not. You did not read it. Try again. Actually, your response DOES shore up the argument about how poor reading comprehension is taught in American schools, though. Thanks.

            Now, be a good boy/girl and go back and try again.

          • SandyLester

            You trained as a machinist – you can’t find a job and bitched that you were trained for the wrong sorts of jobs available.
            Move to where the jobs are.
            If you are unhappy with your training, get more training.

          • pfesser

            Read it again. That is NOT what I do. That is a class I took thirty years ago. Slow down and read for comprehension this time.

            Now be a good boy/girl and go do your homework.

            Over and out. I think you have made my point far better than I can.

          • SandyLester

            Then what are you bitch’n about.

          • Megapril

            She’s saying that her son wanted to take the same machinist course she did but it was retired 20 year ago due to lack of interest. They even looked for a similar course in other states… She was trying to make a point that some of these trades don’t have the training as available as claimed in the article.
            She wasn’t “bitch’n” so much as trying to make a statement about her own personal findings. You seem to be the one “bitch’n”…
            Though I’m sure the search could be broadened further… I moved three states away to get my training as a mechanic.

        • Sarah

          We have the exact same problem here which is why I went on my rant. I want to know where those training courses went to was well. I’ve been looking and can’t find them in larger metropolitan areas. What’s more annoying is that many of the salaries for those jobs have dropped too.

          I was a pharmacy technician for four years and then the state starting tacking on fees while employers stopped reimbursement for everything. Pay dropped to $10/hr from $13/hr on average. They’re now upping the ante on certification qualifications and making an Associate’s “degree” mandatory. All of the jobs you mention have seen wages drop, and I’ve witnessed some first hand.

  • Kevin

    Mike Rowe; dropping atomic truth bombs on the heads of the ignorant again.

    • Sarah

      Or, Mike Rowe, an older white guy oblivious to the fact that his programs can’t reach 100% of the people he’s trying to help while blaming those who get passed over even if they don’t mind sweating for a paycheck.

  • http://crumleyblog.com mrscrumley

    Heck, I’m 37 and this makes me think I should get trained in welding!

  • SuzyQue

    Mr. Rowe, that was excellent.

  • mmercier0921

    I like Mike.

    I have a dirty job, too.

  • Sumetra

    Word!

  • Megapril

    What’s your point anyway? You picked out one sentence the guy said, which I don’t even believe was his main point, and try to disrespect him? Really?
    And by the way, you don’t “reformat” a computer, you reload or rebuild them (in “computer speak” anyway). Reformatting is used in reference to hard drives or other types of storage media…
    And no, I myself wouldn’t take a “reformatting” issue to someone else.

  • Jenel Hazlett

    With this as background:
    “Last week, I spent a few hours with the head of labor relations for one of the largest engineering firms in the world. He has thousands of positions open right now. Literally, thousands. After Katrina, his firm poured many millions of dollars into workforce development down in the Gulf. They trained — for free — hundreds of workers in a variety of positions that offered all kinds of opportunities to advance. The pay was fair. The benefits were solid. But the program ultimately failed. Why? Because virtually every single trainee decided it was just too damn hot. I’m not even kidding. They just didn’t want to work in the heat. And so … they didn’t.”

    and with the disclosure that I am a Native New Orleanian (with a good job and healthcare):

    Sometimes it is too damn hot. And this has to be recognized. Not saying that folks shouldn’t work hard, just saying that assuming processes and procedures and timelines that work in say Peoria might need to be adjusted due to climate: working in the early morning hours, more frequent breaks, camel packs to ensure hydration…. The sensitivity to “work conditions” do matter. Not because “people are lazy” but because of our basic biology. The longer one works (smart, not hard) in the heat, the better one gets at working in the heat. Workers new to the heat need to be acclimated. Even those “Safety 1st” training sessions indicate this. It’s the same with extreme cold. But for some reason folks more easily accept that cold weather requires adjustments and hot weather not so much.
    Perhaps these workers were pushed too fast too soon? Perhaps hot weather jobs do deserve adjustments in compensation? Offered the option to work in 70 degree weather with 30% humidity or 90 degree weather in 90% humidity what would you choose? Especially if the pay was “the same”?

  • Meredith Putvin

    While there are a lot of High Schools that do not have Trade Schools, Mr Rowe forgot to mention that there are also Vocational-Technical High Schools. These are the schools that at 50% academics, 50% Trade. So he may wish to include that in his answers.

  • d. pope

    Good God, Gertrude! I’ve read all comments and can only conclude few have really thought out what Mike has presented. Me: 65 years old, and with a whole lot of college ‘education’, I ended up a self-educated electrician in the Pacific Northwest in the end of 1980. No apprentice program, no mentor. I had enough ‘time in’ to qualify to take the Journeyman Electrician exam in my state, and after failing it once, was able to pass it a year later. I now have approximately 38 years in the electrical trade and have spent the (almost) last decade and a half as an electrical inspector. I earned my Journeyman licence, General supervising Electrician licence and multiple certifications to become an Electrical Inspector on my own. No help. How much faster I’d have been with the training Mike makes available with his program! To all you nit pickers: Pull your horns back in! If you are motivated to succeed, a bit of help is truly valued and appreciated. Stop whining and sniveling about why you can’t and figure how you can. If you can’t figure how you can, ask. Those who have accomplished are happy to help you succeed. But, quit with the ‘victim’ crap! Prove you’re deserving of what you wish to do. Help is available if you only ask. Oh, BTW, I’ll probably work to 70+., as long as I enjoy what I’m doing (probably), i’m physically capable (I hope!), and my employer is happy with me (I expect). You make your life what it is. Only you. It might take time, but only YOU decide what your life will be. Fail, blame yourself; succeed, take the credit!!

    • Sarah

      The “victim” crap is not what I was ranting about so I’ll clarify. My generation is simultaneously getting screwed over by old people who offer abysmal wages while calling us “lazy”. I have no problem with working or being a productive citizen of my country. However, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that YOUR generation is seriously out of touch with the realities of those coming into the workforces decades after you.

      We have to learn more in a shorter time (I had ten week quarters not semesters), work longer hours for less pay, deal with inflation, more bills than your generation, and yes, higher taxes. We have to compete on a GLOBAL scale while your generation competed against the neighbors. Spare me your lecture you uninformed senior citizen.

  • Josh Zeman

    Mike makes a lot of good points, but he severely contradicted himself at the end. He talked about the engineering firm with “fair” wages and “solid” benefits, but can’t keep people due to the heat. He then mentioned someone making $65k to start, but doubled his pay and he is successful. $65k+ is not “fair”, but good. Given his salary, he probably doesn’t have “solid” benefits, but great. I work hard and everyone should work hard, but the economics aren’t there. Why do a job in tough conditions when you can make the same in good conditions. Why work a job with little or no health coverage when an equivalent worker makes the same (or more) in a neighboring country that offers universal health coverage? We don’t make more money because we are Americans, we make more money because everything is more expensive. A fair wage is all relative. The last example by Rowe is a great one: A guy with great wages working hard was able so succeed primarily because of the great wages, not because he decided to work hard. How do I know? If he had the exact same job, but made half as much, it still might be considered a fair wage. Would he have been as successful? I highly doubt it. We should work hard and be rewarded for it. Usually, workers are expected to work hard without as much rewards. I am glad that Rowe found the hundreds of dirty workers compensated well for their hard word; too bad there are millions that aren’t. The system is broken. Rowe wants to fix it with workers. It might work. Convince the manufacturers to pay an American 60k a year when they can pay Chinese workers less than 20k. Will they get triple the output? Doubtful, but that is an argument to make to the manufacturers.

  • GranJan

    The SWEAT pledge is inspiring, Mike. I love how you take the politics out of the discussion and insert common sense. Wish we could have a whole lot less politics in government (hint hint)

  • ridebackwards

    WOW! Thank you for saying so clearly what many of us working people practice. I have tried to guide my son using the very same model through high school and beyond. Our goal was to provide him with an employable, living wage skill set while not incurring thousands of dollars of (unaffordable) educational debt. He is currently in paramedic school after finishing a High School vocational ed program, Fire Science AS and a two year internship. He will complete all of this with under $4,000 of student debt. In our state his skill set commands at decent 45k/year starting wage. I am proud to have taught vocational ed. in our local high school for the last 4 years.

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