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Mike Rowe Speaks To Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee

Mike speaks to the Senate and shares his views on jobs, the skills gap, manufacturing and he announces the “Discover Your Skills” initiative and more.

Click here to watch Mike’s speech.

Read Mike’s Oral Testimony here.

Locate links to more articles and videos here.
Read Mike’s article “Get Ready to Get Dirty” here.

  • Robin V.

    I fully agree with all you said. I am talking to my son now about the future. He has a while to go but he needs to start thinking about what he wants to do. Thanks for taking this to the Senate.

  • RAM

    Mike, today you made all the tradesmen and women very proud of their nobel professions. Not that they weren’t already proud, but you brought to light all that skilled trades are about, and for that, we are grateful. Keep fighting the good fight, and maybe, just maybe, someday, skilled trades in the U.S. will regain the status it once had when this country was being built brick by brick.

    Thank You!

  • Tim

    Mike, those were the best words spoken in DC in quite a while. When you are finished with TV please consider running for office.

  • mark the coach

    Great job Mike,

    This message needs to get out throughout the nation. You are spot on that our schools have abandoned the trades. The residential construction inustry is under seige from the EPA, OSHA and other regulatory agencies and contractors are not prepared to meet this new environment. There is so much that they need it is daunting. Academia has little interest in those who are not aspiring to earn the 4 year degree. Some guys and gals just are not interested in what academia thinks is right for them. They want to work with their hands and buidl things. A concerted effort to teach and train residential contractors is long over due. Their is a career path for those that want to become commercial contractors, Where is the career path for those who want to become a remodeler, a plumber, roofer, painter,or any other trade that works in the residential construction market? The answer is no where.
    I coach residential contractors on how to run their business and I see the concern in those who are past 40 about how they are going to learn the new skills needed to run a business today.
    Thank you for your candid comments to the Senate.
    mark the coach

  • Pat Sarvella

    Congrates Mike in making it to the senate to voice your opinion for the hard “Dirty” working people in America. That would include myself here from Alababma.If I were still living in VA,it would have been great to see you speak in person but I was glad to just read the clip and watch the video. Best of luck on how it turns out. You are doing such a great job. You make me and the world smile. If not roll on the floor in laughter. Keep up the good work and hope to meet face to face someday.

  • Larry Rawley

    Mike,
    Guys like you, make guys like me, Very proud. I have been in the HVAC field for 30 years and I went to one of those trade schools and got out and made a good living. Just like your grandfather did many years ago. My grandfather was a Boilermaker, another hands on guy. He told me to work with your hands and you will be proud and he was proud of me. That was 25 years ago. Your right, the trades are going by the way of the DoDo, We need more tradesmen BAD. Thanks for bringing this to hopefully everyones attention. Time to go get dirty.

  • Jan

    Well spoken, Mike! My brother-in-law was like your grandfather — he just knew how stuff worked, and could build or fix just about anything by what looked to me like magic. He and my sister owned rental properties and, when he went to fix things up, he’d take my very young nephew along and have him “help”, teaching him without it feeling like teaching him. He taught him to paint by giving him a bucket of water and a paint brush; it changed color on the wall and showed my nephew how to do trim outs, etc. He taught him to hammer by challenging him to make a perfectly round circle with the hammer on a piece of scrap lumber – no nails at first, just get the hang of swinging the hammer. The two of them worked together when the family decided to add a great room to the house and later to add an entire second story, complete with functional balconies for each bedroom.

    Fast forward about 18 years and my nephew took a job on a construction crew; fast forward another couple of weeks and he was the foreman. He’s not quite as gifted in fixing things and building as his dad was, but he’s young yet, not even 30, and the gene is there.

    I went through that story so you’d know that there are people out there who are passing their skills on to their kids. Not as many as there could/should be, but it is still happening!

  • Kathy

    For those of us who cannot fix anything and appreciate the gifted tradesmen and women who “save” us – thank you for these remarks… and a special thanks for saying what so many in the education field have been talking about for some time – that kids need to hear about opportunities in skilled trades – crafts – vocational training- jobs many would love but feel they should steer away from since the system tries to track them into a college career even if they have no interest in it… Many of these children are talented and want to work with their hands and are gifted in ways not best suited to an academic career but would be stand-outs if they are allowed to develop their natural talents. Perhaps we can figure out a way to help these kids realize their full potential and maybe they won’t be stuck in careers they hate for the next 40 years.

  • Fraser Howe, PE

    Mike,
    I have been a fan and watched Dirty Jobs since the first show! I think your testimony should be required viewing for every legislator, school board and parent. As a professional civil engineer for more than 30 years, I have always depended on skilled laborers to actually build what I design. I spent more than 10 years in public works where we had to maintain much of the infrastructure on which we depend for our modern life. This fueled my efforts, through the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), to call attention to our deteriorating infrastructure in Florida, where I have lived for the past 23 years. I am now focused on efforts to Raise the Grade by advocating for increased funding, at all levels, to repair and improve our infrastructure. But we can’t do it without skilled labor!
    So thank for speaking simply and eloquently to the Senate CS&T Committee. I hope they are listening, because we all need, and must respect, those tradesmen who will get the job done.

  • Kimberly

    I teach. My degree is in education of the cognitively impaired. It’s interesting that developmental delays were not recognized in children until the 19th century, when industrialization required some formal education that was no longer available through apprenticeships. Until then, children were seen as “apt” for this field or that. There were some, it’s true, who lacked all aptitude, but these children died young. Medical care was primitive, and there weren’t yet safety regulations to prevent tragic accidents. All other children were able to work doing something.

    I have an uncle who is developmentally delayed. He grew up on a farm and is knowledgeable about animal husbandry. He can’t tell time, but he knew when it was time to milk the cows. In an agrarian environment, he was a productive member of society. But in a manufacturing industrial society, he has often been seen as a burden.

    That’s what’s going on with the current emphasis on preparing every child for a Liberal Arts college education. When you weed out those who, for whatever reason, do not have an aptitude for college, you take a group of formerly productive citizens and create burdens to society.

    I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with studying the Liberal Arts. I am saying we can’t all do the same thing and expect to make a living at it. Law of supply & demand predicts that a workforce population consisting entirely of college graduates dilutes the pay scale for college grads.

    A healthy society needs a variety of skill sets. To have a population of college educated workers at watered-down wages is a way to create a new type of Third World Nation: one that is well-educated, but impoverished. And this new poverty is made greater by the burden of having to support those who would have been able to be productive in the skilled trades.

    Thanks for speaking out, Mike.

  • Tony the Engineer

    You da man!

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  • Anthony Tester

    Mike,

    I am a 42 years old, married, two children, and worked with my hands early on to put myself through College. I have never stopped learning and have become very much like your grandfather. My wife calls me an”old soul”. I have learned to do almost everything because I had to. Now, like you, I write a check (but only if I have to). You are spot on and we are at a critical crossroads here in America. A major city fire department had to change its training curriculum because its recruits had never used hand tools growing up, however they were familiar with video games. I have seen large scale commercial trade work that was so poor, it had to be done over more than once. It seems there is this notion of if I go to college, that is all I need, and I should be paid for my four years of hard work. From my own experience,trying to find someone to work on my own home, who can “do the job” and do it correctly seems to becoming more difficult. I rather take the time off and do it myself rather than risk a shoddy job. That’s a stark reality here. For now, I will invest the money and just buy the tools. Although, to be honest, I would rather invest the money into a good skilled tradesmen. Hopefully, these time will change. Thank you for your voice.

  • Dr. John Boronkay

    I supervise two technical high schools in Upstate NY. THANK YOU. Careerand Technical Education is more important than ever.

  • Jackie

    Mike, thanks so much for this. You honor not only your grandfather and father, and all the Dirty Jobs guys you’ve met for the show—but you honor all of my working-class family, my friends and neighbors, and many of us here in Milwaukee, WI.
    I agree that we need to do something to encourage more young people to enter Vocational education programs, apprentice, and become tradesmen and women. By the same token, I encourage you to speak up for Trade Unions; there is an alarming movement across the U.S. to strip unions of their right to collective bargaining. This is happening not only in my home state, but in OH, MI, FL, PA, and OR. We value trade unions in WI because they are one of the last remaining protections for American workers. And if we lose them, workers will have no voice.
    Thanks Mike—love the show!

  • William Ward

    Thank you Mike for being a real guy and speaking the truth to people that would never normally hear us regular working folks ! William Ward

  • Ginamarie

    Mike,
    After viewing your testimony to Congress, I was left speechless- something my family will tell you NEVER happens.
    I’ve been a fan of yours for as long as you have been on the air. When my boys were little, I told them there were only three guarantees in life-death,taxes and college. As they got older I kept repeating this Mantra until my oldest finally asked”What kind of college?” I told him that I didn’t care what they wanted to be when they grew up-but they had to do something beyond high school- whether it be vocational or a four year college- I didn’t care. I told them that whatever they did they had to learn how to be the best they could be at it. I am the granddaughter of 2 immigrants- one from Italy- one from Ireland. In their own country- neither one of them made it to high school. My grandfather taught himself English and raised a family. He totaled all of the groceries in his head- and was always right. My grandmother worked as a baker in hotels in New York City. To their credit, they survived The Depression with plenty of food and a house that they owned outright.
    Both of his children became college graduates- but never forgot what their parents did. Thank you for reminding all of us how important skilled labor is. It really doesn’t matter how fast the Internet’s Super Highway is- if the traffic lights and roads are falling apart.

  • jim flanagan

    Mike thanks so much for putting it out there, I myself work in a little town called Woodbury, New Jersey, where I am am very happy working in the water /sewer dept, day after day I get calls from the office to go and investigate someones sewer service backing up , or perhaps the main is clogged, but that’s not the issue, what I find amazing is the residents have absolutely NO IDEA on how to release the jam , but 60 years ago just about everyone in the city was a professional at getting things like this done with little or no effort at all, the same goes when a water main breaks in the winter, people just have no idea what to do and it’s sad, how is it that just a few decades ago a person like me wasn’t even needed to repair a break or clog, and today without us to restore service the city comes to a complete crawl? Now I don’t expect people to go out and start digging up the yard and risk hitting a gas line or nothing like that, but It’s become appallingly clear that we’ve lost our good old fashioned American know how somewhere along the line.
    Thanks Mike we need more men who think like you do – love the show.

  • Joshua O’Brien

    Mike I am one of those men that starts the day clean and winds up dirty by the end of the day I have been working since I was 6 years old for my dad then my grandpa and like you both my grandpa and dad were laborer my dad will be sixty and he is still a welder me I run a ranch for the time being because Oregon is very hard hit by the recession and most of the jobs in this state have gone away I can start my day working on feeding cows and in the end I am fixing some thing I work very hard to put a roof over my family’s head and the kids of this new generation don’t want to work and don’t know what hard work is when i was growing up I was tough to work and work hard the saying is jack of all trades master of none I am proud to say that I am a working man and I am teaching my son that is six years old that you have to work to get somewhere in life it used to be that a hand shake and meeting the person or place that you were applying for a job now you don’t get that chance any more well I hope that your message gets a cross even thought I don’t have sat to watch you any more I still love your show thanks and keep up the good work.

  • Lewis FISHBONE Johnson

    Mike,
    I salute you my friend for being a voice of blue collar reality. Thanks for keeping it real and in the minds of our over insulated techno oriented youth and their mentors. A Middle/High School without a general shop class to offer is a travesty in and of itself. I agree that when the poo contacts the fan, the ability to work with your hands in a quality fashion trumps 4 years of Political Science any day!Thanks again and take good care!

    RIP Phil Harris

  • SD Construction Season Widow-Jill

    Mike you hit it out of the ballpark bud !
    My honey is a heavy equipment operator..meaning, he can operate anything with a lever, and ironically has the 3-D vision after looking at a blueprint. He did not graduate high school, nor have any “formal” training. He learned everything he knows about ‘workin the dirt’ from his father, and has passed down his knowledge to his three sons. These crews build our roads, highways, neighborhoods, ethanol plant sites, airport runways, and anything else that requires tons of dirt to be moved. They take miles of hills and valleys and scape them into what we all take for granted. This skill absolutely can not be taught in the classroom, it’s called get on the machine and work ! He loves his work, and I am very proud of him for doing something he loves and doing it well! (plus it’s much easier to live with a HAPPY hard workin man)

  • J. Stefanac

    Bravo, Mike! Your story about your Grand Dad struck home with me. My Dad was the same way. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t fix. If he couldn’t do it one way, he’d think up another, until it was done! I was always so amazed at how he knew how to do these things. Even more so now, as I’m married to a guy who’s not so nearly mechanically ingenious and we tend to be “leave a check” kind of folks now. This only proves your point, that people like my Dad and your Grand Dad are a dying breed. I’d never thought of this before. Thanks for opening my eyes.

    J. Stefanac

  • tina mooney

    time to slow down and be thankful for the little people that make this country run.
    Mike has hit the nail on the head on this one.thank you Mike.maybe the people of this country will open their eyes and take time to do the right thing……………..

  • Vince Sanders

    *Salutes* to you Mike. I am writing this today to honor 3 men that have enriched my life and are responsible for the things I am able to accomplish today. First my grandfather who was a auto body repairman for over 50 years. My Father who worked beside him almost everyday for 45 or those 50 years. Together I watch these 2 men take something that most of us would consider “unrepairable” and make it new once more. Also to my Father-in-law who has been a farmer for over 60 years. Because of these 3 men I am thankful everyday that I have the skill sets I have. I can weld, carpenter, plumb, and even fix the dent in my car. I can grow my own food, and make things from almost next to nothing. They never asked for thanks or to be honored in anyway. I really think they are deserving of everyone’s gratitude. Without people such as these in our daily lives, I shutter to think what our world would be like?

  • allison rehor

    Mike, your presentation and the hearing itself were something that’s been needed for a long time. Thanks for bringing attention to the men and women who work the hardest in our country, the ones that build it and keep it running. I couldn’t agree more about the perceptions of our working class and I hope these programs can help turn those opinions around. I want my son to grow up and do a job he loves, don’t care if it’s behind a desk, behind a truck, behind a machine or behind a broom. We need them all to make this country run.

  • Chris Slate

    Mike:

    Today, I ripped apart my boiler to run a full service on it (filters, nozzle, screens, and a major cleaning.)
    I ripped apart one of my trucks to fix it (and did so.)
    I removed, cleaned, and re-installed a carburetor on my 1946 forklift to get it running (which I did.)
    I finished off a set of custom wood/lattice gates to prevent my Beagle from going places he shouldn’t be going (he is an evil little monster….but cute as a button!)
    Finally, I re-wired the brake lights on my tandem trailer.
    Now I am off to the firehouse for a 24-hour shift. This was atypical day for me!
    The reason why I am telling you this? Simple, I come from a very large blue-collar family. Having a tradesman come to the house (when we were growing up) to repair something was unthinkable (never mind the fact that we could not afford to hire someone!) My father and grandfather were both ironworkers during the week, and “Mr. Fix it men” on the weekends. This is how I got my base knowledge in “how things work”, and I am truly grateful. I am a professional firefighter in New York and the owner of a small slate roofing and contracting company.
    My wife says that I come home dirty, tired, and happy! Not so much that I make good money, but I really enjoy helping people out of a bind, and I receive great satisfaction after a project is completed knowing that I created it, built it, or fixed it! My longest employee has been with me for 12 years (what does that tell you?)
    The backbone of America is small businesses like mine! The backbone of America is the people who create, repair, and build tangible things. We have gotten away from that by allowing everything to be imported. We are now a nation of consumers. So sad!
    I love your show Mike. Keep up the good work! Anytime you want to learn about repairing a slate roof (truly, a dirty job), just send me an email.
    God bless.
    Dr. Slate

  • Stuart

    I heard long ago that a real worker is one who has to wash his hands BEFORE he uses the bathroom. Excellent as always Mike!

  • Sandra

    BRAVO!!! This badly needed to be said!!! Thank you!!!

  • Pia Y.

    Mike, anything I write would be terribly redundant, so I won’t waste your time.
    Instead, with your kind consent, I would like to take this spot to express how amazing are the people who have left comments and anecdotes here. The expertise and artistry exhibited are so far beyond anything I could ever dream of attaining.
    You are right to say that those who possess manual skills and knowledge of true labor do not need a voice to advocate for them… they can be heard loud and clear on their own.

  • Steve

    I’m a High School Technology Education Teacher (Industrial Arts). I’ve been teaching High School students for the past 11 years metal shop, wood shop, small engine repair, home repair, energy systems, just to name a few. Recently my district has failed to realize the importance of these hands on classes and has slowly been cutting away at them. This year my district has decided to do away with the majority of these classes and after 11 years of making a difference in my students lives, I find myself looking for a new job. My district was one of the last in our area to offer such a wide variety of these work based programs and I’m very saddened to see them go.

    Well said Mike and keep up the “Dirty Work”

  • Pablo Fuentes

    Right on point, Mike!

    I am the CEO and Founder of WorkersNow.com, a company that aims at the exact issues you mention.

    We are also located in San Francisco. It would be great to meet up.

    All the Best,

    Pablo
    @WorkersNow

  • Bill W.

    Well said, Mike. It’s something that, obviously, needed to be said: I cannot think of a better person than yourself to have said it. Keep up the great work with all that you do!

  • Jim K

    For the last year I had the opportunity to be an adjunct professor at a local university. Interacting with the students was fascinating for me and I came to realize that some students should not be in college going for a 4 year degree. I flunked 3 students out of 30. Why are they there? My taxes pay part of their tuition, it was a huge waste.

    One hobby of mine is welding and I love metal fabrication. Dabbling in this means I’m exposed to the industry, and exposed to the huge need for qualified welders as Mike mentions. Where are the high school guidance counselors? Why do they not have knowledge of the skill labor jobs, good paying jobs, available to students? Why is the path college degree, college degree, college degree. People are individuals, we need to encourage each person to fulfill their maximum potential, sometimes that means white collar, sometimes that means blue, but we need to make it a choice again.

    Keep up the good work Mike, I hope your wise words didn’t end up falling on dumb ears as I’m suspecting they did.

  • Mike Rowe

    Ladies and Gentlemen –

    Thanks.

    The desire to be taken seriously in public is something I view with considerable suspicion, so going to such a serious place to talk about such a serious topic (in a tie no less) gave me more than a few second thoughts. These comments make me feel very good about that decision.

    What will ultimately come of one trip to DC, no one can say. It’s just another attempt to put a point on the themes that have always run through Dirty Jobs, and hopefully, nudge the needle in the right direction. Your stories and your thoughts are no less important to the conversation, and on a personal level, most encouraging.

    Thank you for sharing both.

    Mike

  • John Branson

    Mike,
    Absolutely great. Right on the money. You should run for office …I’d vote for you even though my wife has an unnatural desire to watch your show… I don’t think she really likes messy jobs…. so I’m not sure what’s up.

    Thanks for speaking up for us forgotten types.

    JohnnyB

  • Richard Vargo

    Mike,

    As I watched your speech to the CST Commitee I became an even bigger fans of yours than I was before, I have a hard working Son who has chosen to go the trades route and it was amazing to me as he progressed through high school the amount of parents who would look down their noses at him because he wasn’t going to college. I have always been a fan of hard working people and that is probably why your show is such a pleasure to watch….BUT when I saw your speech my level of respect for you grew 100 fold, you feel and see things exactly as I do, I believe for the most part the days of an honest days work for an honest days pay are LONG gone, the amount of people willing to work is shrinking and as a result I feel our nation is suffering tremendously. I am HUGELY proud of my Son he is working 6 and sometimes 7 days a week EARNING his way through life and I hope through your efforts more people begin to see that HARD work is what will ultimately get this country back to it’s glory days. In addition working for a Ford dealership I am equally as happy that you are our #1 spokesperson, and wish I had the opportunity to sit down and have a chat with you sometime over a cold beverage!
    Thanks for all you do and keep up the good work!
    Sincerely,
    Rich Vargo

  • Ray Kustush

    Mike,
    Thank you for getting out in front of Mr Rockefeller, I really hope he and his politicos get the point. Our country was built on a foundation of hard work and pride in what we do.With the economy in the ditch, we need more college educated computer junkies like we need more politicians. Manufacturing is what a country needs to grow and survive!

    As a one man remodeling company, (I do electric, plumbing, drywall, finish trim, painting, tile setting, the whole nine yards) I truly appreciate your show. I always learn something new, Thank you for that.

    One of my clients is a doctor. He can’t do what I do and it amazes him that I don’t have a degree in order to do what I do. Funny really, when you think about it. Maybe I should charge him $400 an hour. Nah, I’m too honest for that.

    Okay, my wife loves your show too, something about your offbeat humor, the twinkle in your eye…I really can’t recall. She says I don’t listen like I should.

    Great show, great speech and good luck.

    Ray Kustush

  • Gynene

    Hi Mike – thanks for articulating this for us. You were as eloquent and spunky as usual. My father is still what you call a “shovel ready” worker, and I’ve learned almost everything I know – from changing a flat tire to replacing a motor on a log splitter – from him. Am now thinking of leaving my desk job and getting into the trades, something my dad and husband both applaud.

    Hope to see some new Dirty Jobs soon!

  • Jen T

    Mike,
    Thank you SO much for taking on this cause. I am a huge supporter of Career and Technical education-I work in a career center as an education coordinator and know we are making a positive difference for the many students that choose to learn a skill at my school.
    The current emphasis on assessments and test scores are shallow and unrealistic. These measures simply don’t try hard enough to include all of our students and all of their strengths. It is frustrating that the ‘College for All’ mentality just won’t go away.
    I also find it interesting when we look comparatively at other countries, those with strong education systems and those who educate ALL of their students- they don’t utilize assessments as much as they do skill sets. Applied skills, soft skills and hard skills aligned with career pathways are exactly what our students need, but unfortunately, these lose out to the mandates that require test after test after test in only core academic subjects. And we wonder why we have a high drop out rate in this country…some students cannot get access to any vocational courses until their Junior or even Senior year in high school.
    Voc Ed has been perceived as the ‘ugly step sister’ of american education, when in fact, it has provided millions of students with the skills they need to be successful in the workplace. I stand with you to change this perception and make it a strong part of every student’s education.
    Sincerely,
    Jen

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  • Dwayne Rice

    Thank you for taking a stand for our industry. I work for Turner Construction Company and I’m also the Co-Chairman of a mentor program in Louisville called ACE Mentor Program. ACE stand for Architecture Construction Engineering. We get volunteers from our industry and go into high schools and promote the construction industry by working with them every other week throughout the school year. Our goal is to encourage students to look at the construction industry as a possible career. Whether its going to college to become and architect/engineer or construction manager or going to trade school to learn a skill position. Thank you again and hope you continue to push for skilled trades to get a better name.

  • Michael Evanchik

    Mike, thats exactly why I went to Lincoln Tech. They gave me the training i needed to get a job where a 4 year degree was not necessary. thier site is http://www.lincolntech.com

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  • Ronnie S.

    Mike,
    I am a Commercial High rise Building Facility Engineer in Texas. I came up through the electrical trade and wound up being responsible for a whole lot more. I appreciate you bringing to the forefront something I have noticed happening for years in our young adults and even older ones. Where has the desire to learn and understand technical issues gone. Where is the drive to achieve what is so very achievable. I do not hear the questions being asked sparked by the curiosity of a mind that wants to understand. I think it has allot to do with our training institutions. With the decades old fixed curriculum that does not work. Training should include a focus on what was encountered through your work day or work week, coupled with the right explanations would in my opinion have a much more profound and lasting understanding. Questions should be asked regarding the explanations to give the instructor a better understanding of his method and weather or not it is working. The focus needs to be more on really understanding the objective vs. the grade. Of course the grade is impotent (yes impotent)but that will come with the understanding. The ” Jack of all Trades ” as we know him/her is headed for extinction and quickly being replaced with just, well, ” Jack “.
    I have so much knowledge to share but hardly anyone to share it with and can solve many problems but this is one that I can’t even start to figure out.

    Thank You,

    Ronnie

  • Harrell

    Mike,
    I help manage a specialty construction business in Florida. I need to hire at least two persons that want a future and not just a paycheck. I will go thru at least thirty people to find maybe one.

    I do a lot of work in the school systems. I see we do to even teach our children the basics to survive in life after school and moving out from the parents. Teachers keep teaching and are required to teach a bunch of useless information than teach them skills.

    Harrell