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Dirty Jobs’ Host Mike Rowe and His Mission to Support Skilled Trades

Welder with American flag faceguard workingMike Rowe is likely best known as the host of the show Dirty Jobs, a series on the Discovery Channel that had Rowe perform difficult and often messy jobs alongside the folks who do them day in and day out.

You might also know him as the spokesman for brands like Viva paper towels. But what Rowe would likely want to be known as is as an advocate for skilled labor. For years, Rowe has been warning us of what he refers to as a growing skills gap: each and every year there are fewer and fewer skilled tradesman (HVAC installers, welders, plumbers, etc.) because more people seek a traditional four-year college degree as the preface toward (hopefully) a viable career.

But as Rowe has been quoted as saying on various occasions, a four-year degree isn't for everyone, nor is it the formula for guaranteed happiness. Rowe's goal is to help people realize that they very well could find a viable career - and happiness - doing a job that needs to get done (similar to the jobs he performed in Dirty Jobs).

To achieve this goal, Rowe launched the Profoundly Disconnected website (in connection with his charity, the mikeroweWORKS Foundation), aimed at rewarding "people with a passion to get trained for skilled jobs that actually exist."

The foundation provides scholarship programs to provide financial assistance to people who want to learn an in-demand skill, just as welding, which is a program we offer here at Compass Career College. To date, the foundation has granted more than $3 million in education for trade schools across the country.

So why has Rowe committed his life to supporting skilled trades? Well, the numbers don't lie. Traditional four-year schools no longer offer a guaranteed path to success or happiness, nor are they the right fit for everyone. Traditional four-year schools are raising tuition, leaving students in debt that exceeds tens of thousands of dollars.

These students - who typically don't start building their career until their four years of schooling is complete - do so already in debt that limits their choices: where they can work, where they can live, what kind of car they can drive, etc. Couple that with the fact that these graduates are competing for a finite number of jobs in the workforce, and there's no wonder why so many traditional graduates are left disappointed by the true value of their degree.

When you look at skilled labor, however, the prospects are much different. According to the Department of Labor, America now has 5.6 million job openings. Many of these jobs don't require a diploma; they require a specific type of skill (such as plumbing or welding).

People who pursue an education (and career) in skilled labor benefit from lower educational costs, less time in school (vs. earning an income and building a career) and far more opportunities in the workforce than folks who pursue a traditional four-year degree.

Of course, while it can be said that a 4-year degree isn't for everyone, the same can be said about pursuing a skilled trades job. However, if the prospect of earning a viable income from a solid day of work - without having thousands of dollars in student debt hanging over your head - is attractive to you, then your future is just one click away.

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