“Your choice isn’t college or oblivion. It’s not higher education or alternative education,” says Mike Rowe of the TV show Dirty Jobs. In 2008, Mike created the mikeroweWORKS Foundation to launch a national PR campaign for skilled labor. “There are so many ways to go, from apprenticeships to scholarships to fellowships to community college. All of it is equal. When you promote one form of education at the expense of the others you create the problem that we are having right now.”
Your Choice Isn’t College or Oblivion
We have seven million jobs now that are open and the vast majority don’t require a four-year degree. There’s a ton of opportunity that people don’t talk about. What we are talking about instead, unfortunately, is the best path for most people. It’s a cookie cutter approach to how to figure things out. For the last 40 years, that path has been really simple. Get a four-year degree, borrow whatever it takes to get it, and then get out into the world and pursue your dream. What’s happened as a result is the skills gap has gotten wider and the college debt is now approaching $1.6 trillion. And we are still lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back who are training for jobs that don’t exist anymore. It’s madness when there is so much opportunity around us.
My foundation looks for people who are willing to hit the reset button, retool, learn skills that are in demand, and get to work. We are in a binary time right now. Everything is this or that. Blue collar or white collar. Left or right. Everything is framed with a false choice. Your choice isn’t college or oblivion. It’s not higher education or alternative education. There are so many ways to go, from apprenticeships to scholarships to fellowships to community college. All of it is equal. When you promote one form of education at the expense of the others you create the problem that we are having right now. It’s fine to push college but you can’t push college by saying if you don’t go over here you are going to wind up with some vocational consolation prize.
A Job is Not the Proximate Cause of Your Happiness
The mikeroweWORKS Foundation evolved out of Dirty Jobs. Part of the reason was the cognitive dissonance that occurs when you see somebody doing something that is supposed to make you miserable but instead is making you joyful. Dirty Jobbers as a group were having a ball. People couldn’t understand, why is everybody laughing in the sewer? Why is everybody having such a good time doing these jobs that I’ve been taught will make me sad and unhappy? The reason is that you’ve been lied to most of your life. A job is not the proximate cause of your happiness. You are.
We all want to be passionate about what we do. But why would we wait until we’re doing the magical thing that allows us to be passionate? You don’t follow your passion you bring it with you. That was one of the big lessons from Dirty Jobbers. These people were passionate about what they were doing but they didn’t sit down and say what do I have to do to be happy? I need this job. I need this kind of mate. I need to live in this sort of zip code. I need this kind of education. You spend all your life checking boxes that basically give you permission to feel good about the thing you ought to feel good about right now.