Had Mike Rowe been my guidance counselor in high school I might not have wasted the better part of a decade chasing a degree I don’t have. I might not have been saddled with over thirty thousand dollars in debt, which is a pittance compared to what lots of people in the Millenial Generation are looking at. I’m actually one of the lucky ones; I have a career job, a pension, a union, and an endless workload.
It seems to never fail that at least once a week somebody writes a nasty-gram to this blue collar working class hero regarding his stance on some topic. They promptly flounce away from his fandom, swearing to never turn a favorable eye in his direction again. Unlike many celebrity types (I hope he doesn’t mind me referring to him as a celebrity) he likes to offer a reply, laden with a Twain-like wit that sometimes borders on delightful Churchill sarcasm.
To me, this shows not only a quick, critically thinking mind but a profound amount of class. In a recent grumble-gram from a newly defrocked Rowe fan, Mike was able to explain his reasoning for attending a shooting event in Las Vegas this week called the SHOT SHOW. It’s a seminar put on by Navy SEALs that shows novices how to safely handle and utilize firearms in such a way that they become comfortable with them.
Mike went on at some length, imparting his usual sage wisdom, which was both equanimous and humorous, but also incredibly humble. He finishes his even-toned response to a strongly worded letter with,
Obviously, you and I have a difference of opinion regarding the role of the second amendment in modern society. But thanks to the first amendment, we can express our differences in whatever way we prefer. We can criticize those with whom we disagree, or we can try to persuade them. We can make a case as to why we believe what we believe, or we can simply announce our disappointment to the world, as though our feelings alone are enough to justify our beliefs.
As for you Marla – you can either stomp off in a cloud of righteous indignation, or you can accompany me to the SHOT Show as my guest, and see what all the fuss is about.
Either way, it’s nice to have choices, don’t you think?
Working for a county EMS system in Florida allows for a special sort of job stability. Six months out of the year it’s home to Northerners and Canadians, as well as our friends South of the border who come up for work on farms and other labor-driven job fields. Personally, I have my own opinions on the legality of the migrant workforce, but I also like the price of strawberries where it is so I keep my mouth shut. I also don’t see that many Americans clamoring for the sort of labor-intensive agricultural jobs these men and women do and until that happens I suppose that is wise. Regardless, everyone bleeds red, they all feel pain and suffering and whether it’s a Quebecois, a seasonal or transplanted New Yorker, or a migrant worker from Juarez – if they pick up the phone and call I’m going to be there for them. I’ve picked up quite a bit of Spanish, but my French is, how you say, épouvantable.
I think about the way my career life has gone, and it seems as though I was always headed here. Starting out I had wanted to be a teacher. Later I realized I hated teaching, so it was good that I got out before I found that out the hard way. I wish I could say I learned this from school-aged children, but these were adults so take that as you will. I did learn a lot of things in college, such as how to write and do research (I might have some non-fiction pieces coming forth in the coming years) and I think that helps to build a well-rounded person. After all, there’s lots of fake news out there, and it’s good if you know how to cut through the baloney and find out what really is going on.
Mike Rowe has always said that there is nothing wrong with having a college degree. What he laments is that there aren’t jobs for college graduates waiting for them when they take off that cap and gown and put on the heavy yoke of debt with no way to resolve it. What his primary interest now is calling attention to, and closing, the skills gap that is crippling the American job market, and the economy. As it’s been said recently If you want to live in a country that makes things, you have to buy things your country makes.
I myself grew up in a manufacturing household, both my parents and step-parents were products of Texas Instruments, and I suppose you could say so am I. I had a Speak and Spell because my parents knew that it was good for them to invest back into their company. That investment worked out well for me too because it helped me grow into a literate adult. Unfortunately, the plant my parents worked at in Attleboro Massachusetts closed, the jobs there being sent to Mexico for cheaper labor. Fortunately, a new company came in and set up shop, and my father was able to retain employment there. My mom went on to nursing school, which later helped direct me to a related medical field, and my step-father works for perhaps the best example of the Florida Lifestyle; he works for Tervis Tumbler.
My parents all work for places that make things, and those things are made in America. If they aren’t making things, they are making things bearable for those who are suffering. There is no shortage of medical jobs in Florida, and all of us regardless of our political affiliation should recognize that manufacturing jobs belong in America. Job skills are at an all-time low, and if you take a gander at the current course load of the average high school student, you’ll find a remarkable lack of hands-on job training and shop classes. All the stuff I didn’t learn to do in high school I now have to ask my dad, step-dad, or grandfather how to do. If that fails, I hit up YouTube.
Seriously, you can learn just about anything on YouTube.
But like so many fine skills that were standard in our school systems before, kids are growing up and staying kids. Nobody knows how to take apart an engine anymore (I can just about change my oil), how to build a bookcase (Maybe, out of a box from Walmart), or fix a toilet (I’ve had some limited success with this one). Perhaps some of the greatest life skills I’ve learned was from an old fire buddy of mine when he took me on one summer and let me help him cut grass and do various landscaping jobs he had going. Garrett is one of the hardest working people I know, and there isn’t much he doesn’t seem to know how to do. If you’re in the Southeastern Massachusetts area, you should check out his work which he proudly displays on his Facebook page. The number is on the page too. Because of what he taught me I am confident I will have the best-looking yard in my neighborhood.
Mike Rowe’s trademark professional credit was Dirty Jobs a show that aired on Discovery. He would step up and help out professional skilled tradespeople in their daily tasks, doing the jobs that you or I think we couldn’t do. I get the occasional comment “I couldn’t be a paramedic” from time to time. It’s followed by “I don’t know how you do it.” It’s really not that hard “once you get past the smell” as Mike would often say on his show. If anything I’m living proof that you too can be a medic (check out my piece on being an INFJ medic).
These jobs, including mine, are some of the best jobs in the world. The best part about them is that they are seemingly always looking for people to fill them. So before you send your kids to college so they can learn how to be offended by everything they encounter, try encouraging them into a career where they can do something to strengthen our workforce and our domestic production capability. Made in America used to mean something, and it’s my hope that this generation can turn it around and make it mean something again.
So as a final thought, make Mike Rowe’s podcast part of your normal routine. If he can’t convince you to take apart your kitchen sink, he’ll at least charm the heck out of you with his old-soul-style wisdom. Also, if you’re the sort of person with deep pockets, or just a regular Joe or Jane who happens to believe in advancing the domestic workforce, consider donating to the Mike Rowe Works Foundation. Here’s the basic rundown, procured straight from the horse’s mouth:
The mikeroweWORKS Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity that rewards people with a passion to get trained for skilled jobs that actually exist. As CEO of the Foundation, Mike Rowe spends a significant amount of time speaking about the country’s dysfunctional relationship with work, highlighting the widening skills gap, and challenging the persistent belief that a four-year degree is automatically the best path for the most people.
James Windale is the author of a bunch of books about EMS, some circus stuff, equality, and even some zombie stuff. If you like that stuff (and who doesn’t?) you can get his stuff wicked cheap on Amazon. Just click his handsome mug below. Also, he’d love it if you followed his Facebook page… please?