Morning Cup O' Joe

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Mike Rowe’s Testimony on Skilled Labor

Mike Rowe Testifies

Dirty Jobs creator/host Mike Rowe testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation recently on the widening skilled labor gap in the United States.

A few months ago in Atlanta I ran into Tom Vilsack, our Secretary of Agriculture. Tom told me about a governor who was unable to move forward on the construction of a power plant. The reason was telling. It wasn’t a lack of funds. It wasn’t a lack of support. It was a lack of qualified welders.

In general, we’re surprised that high unemployment can exist at the same time as a skilled labor shortage. We shouldn’t be. We’ve pretty much guaranteed it.

In high schools, the vocational arts have all but vanished. We’ve elevated the importance of "higher education" to such a lofty perch that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled "alternative." Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships and on-the-job-training opportunities as "vocational consolation prizes," best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree. And still, we talk about millions of "shovel ready" jobs for a society that doesn’t encourage people to pick up a shovel.

In a hundred different ways, we have slowly marginalized an entire category of critical professions, reshaping our expectations of a "good job" into something that no longer looks like work. A few years from now, an hour with a good plumber — if you can find one — is going to cost more than an hour with a good psychiatrist. At which point we’ll all be in need of both.

I came here today because guys like my grandfather are no less important to civilized life than they were 50 years ago. Maybe they’re in short supply because we don’t acknowledge them they way we used to. We leave our check on the kitchen counter, and hope the work gets done. That needs to change.

When Rowe spoke of his grandfather, I couldn’t help but think of my own dad and his preternatural ability to figure out all things mechanical. I do agree with Rowe’s point that we, as a society, have greatly undervalued skilled labor.

I can imagine that in a few generations, all we’ll have in the U.S. is middle management. It’ll be like a large rowboat with 10 guys w/bullhorns shouting at the 1 guy doing the actual rowing.

via Discovery Channel via BoingBoing


May 13, 2011 - Posted by | Events, General, News | , , , , ,

1 Comment

  1. Amen. America has forgotten how to work.

    When I was training to be an engineer, I’d tell classmates that your ability to do something was only as good as your ability to communicate it. Now I’m wanting to tell my lofty design colleagues the opposite. Too many talkers, not enough walkers.

    Don’t blog it, make it. Skip the restaurant and enjoy a home-cooked meal. Put down Guitar Hero and pick up a guitar. Spare us the PowerPoint deck and show us the prototype.

    If it takes you longer than 30s to explain to the average Joe what it is you do for a living, start asking yourself some serious questions.

    Comment by EP | May 13, 2011

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