Keynote: Mike Rowe

Posted by Cheryl Jones on

Mike Rowe says the last time he was on Mackinac, he was working with a guy named George to pick up "horse exhaust" and to visit the composting facility on the island.   The clip – from 2012 -- plays on the Grand Hotel's in house guest channel.

As Rowe took the stage, MITalentConnect unveiled a new video promoting health care careers, anchored by Rowe.   Rowe says they shot about six different videos on "good jobs" available in Michigan that require training and skills after high school that will be distributed following the Mackinac Policy Conference.

Rowe told a richly detailed story about his inspiration for “Dirty Jobs”.  He described in detail a mishap-filled tour of the San Francisco sewers opened his eyes to the dignity and importance of the work done by the sewer worker who accompanied him. 

Rowe said the program provided a continuing education for him, meeting people who were remarkable tradesmen.   He says most of them are passionate about what they do, but are frustrated because people just don’t understand what they do.   At the same time, he said everywhere he went, there were “help wanted” signs – businesses looking for people who were interested in learning a trade or acquiring a skill. 

Rowe says over the past 40 years, popular culture has turned “work” into a four-letter word believed to be at the root of our unhappiness.  Instead, the idea of “work smart, not hard” has resulted in billions of dollars in student college debt while thousands of good jobs go begging for qualified workers.  As a country, he said, we are loaning money we don’t have to college students who can’t afford to pay it back and training them for jobs that don’t exist. 

He says what is needed is a new campaign to make people look at work differently and stop demonizing a whole category of good jobs.  Otherwise, he believes the skills gap will only get wider … and America will not have the talent it needs to fill critical positions.

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