Mike Rowe: ‘We Have to Make Working Cool Again’

Mike Rowe, host of Dirty Jobs and Deadliest Catch, is known as the “dirtiest man on television.” He teamed up with Breitbart over the weekend on SiriusXM Patriot Channel to talk about a new show he has coming, Returning the Favor. It will work to combat the stigma surrounding blue collar work.

Rowe’s new show Returning the Favor aims to highlight positive stories of people helping the communities across the country, and is now in its fourth season on Facebook. Rowe rose to fame on the Discovery Channel with the show Dirty Jobs, where he highlighted different blue collar jobs around the country, and narrating the network’s Deadliest Catch and other shows.

Rowe, who also runs the Mike Rowe Works Foundation, explained that stigmas and stereotypes against blue collar work in America are “tipping” in the right direction but that there is a lot more work to be done with American workers. Rowe said he thinks it is important parents and kids consider trades, apprenticeships, fellowships, and technical degrees instead of the standard path of debt-crushing four-year university degree that does not always promise employment upon graduation.

When asked if he feels the perception of blue collar work is improving he said, “It’s tipping. It’s tipping. It takes time, but it’s starting to.” Rowe continued, “Remember, for the last 40 years, what we’ve been telling parents and kids is that if they don’t get a four-year degree they’re essentially screwed and they’re going to wind up stuck turning a wrench. So, we promote one form of education at the expense of all the others. Never mind apprenticeships or fellowships or two-year schools or community college, the four-year degree is the gold standard. So what are the results of doing that?”

”A couple things: First off, shop class is gone from high school. It’s by and large gone. We’ve removed optically just about every visualization of those kinds of jobs from the eyes of an entire generation. How about debt?” He asked, ”$1.6 trillion in student loans is currently on the books because we’ve lent money we don’t have to kids who can’t afford to pay it back to train them for jobs that don’t exist anymore. This is crazy, right? But while that is all unfolding, we have 7.1 million open positions at a time of near full employment. This is the real thing: If you had 7 million open jobs most of which don’t require a four-year degree, and were still telling kids they’re screwed if they don’t sign on the dotted line to borrow vast sums of money, you can see the disconnect.”

”Right now, we have 3.5 percent unemployment and 7 million open jobs. It’s not just a skills gap—it’s a will gap. Because we have a generation of people who don’t look at entire categories of jobs as the opportunities they are. You mentioned before the stigmas, the stereotypes, the myths, the misconceptions.” Rowe added, ”Those things are real, they’re huge, and they’re discouraging vast numbers of people from pursuing opportunities that exist.”

Then he said the most important part of his whole interview: America’s leaders need to “make work cool again.” This is what’s going to help get people back in the game and out of poverty. 

“What we need to do, by hook or crook, is change the prevailing definition of a good job,” Rowe continued, “How we do that is a multi-front battle. It involves guidance counselors thinking differently, and by the way it requires us compensating guidance counselors differently—many are bonused out on their ability to get kids into a four-year school. That’s crazy, right? We’re just encouraging the wrong behavior.”

He said, “We have to talk to parents more candidly about what’s possible when they’re sitting around the kitchen table with their kids and of course, we have to make work cool again. How do you do that? It’s in part PR, messaging—companies need to do a better job of recruiting. So many companies get in their own way when they start to talk about the opportunities that exist within their own corporations. So, it’s bad PR, it’s forty years of stereotypes and nonsense and when you combine all of that together it’s just a hot mess of discouragement and misinformation that’s hurting the country in my humble view.”