Mike Rowe Testifying Before Senate Committee

"The skills gap is a reflection of what we value. To close the gap, we need to change the way the country feels about work."
Mike Rowe

Working is part of our genetic make-up in the United States. One of my personal goals producing for this program is to present the many forms of grittier intelligence that exist in the world — reminding myself and our audiences of the intellectual integrity and the nose-to-the-grindstone beauty of people in this land I call home.

The value of work and how we work and how we become civic beings is embedded in this concept of everyday living. I ask myself, "Why did so many people love the story about the oldest living man from Montana who just recently died?" I don't think that it was just about longevity, but that he was a railroad man who had practical advice and obvious wisdom. He distilled the complexity of life into practical advice that I believe he formed by working the lines and the farms. I think all of us long to know more about people like that, the quiescent majority.

Reading the following testimony from Mike Rowe, the creator and host of Dirty Jobs, before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has reignited my urgency to find more of these voices in the months to come. Here’s his speech in its entirety; it’s well worth the time:

“Chairman Rockefeller, Ranking Member Hutchison and members of this committee, my name is Mike Rowe, and I want to thank you all very much for the opportunity to testify before you today.

I’m here today because of my grandfather.

His name was Carl Knobel, and he made his living in Baltimore as a master electrician. He was also a plumber, a mechanic, a mason, and a carpenter. Everyone knew him as a jack-of-all-trades. I knew him as a magician.

For most of his life, my grandfather woke up clean and came home dirty. In between, he accomplished things that were nothing short of miraculous. Some days he might re-shingle a roof. Or rebuild a motor. Or maybe run electricity out to our barn. He helped build the church I went to as a kid, and the farmhouse my brothers and I grew up in. He could fix or build anything, but to my knowledge he never once read the directions. He just knew how stuff worked.

I remember one Saturday morning when I was 12. I flushed the toilet in the same way I always had. The toilet however, responded in a way that was completely out of character. There was a rumbling sound, followed by a distant gurgle. Then, everything that had gone down reappeared in a rather violent and spectacular fashion.

Naturally, my grandfather was called in to investigate, and within the hour I was invited to join he and my dad in the front yard with picks and shovels.

By lunch, the lawn was littered with fragments of old pipe and mounds of dirt. There was welding and pipe-fitting, blisters and laughter, and maybe some questionable language. By sunset we were completely filthy. But a new pipe was installed, the dirt was back in the hole, and our toilet was back on its best behavior. It was one of my favorite days ever.

Thirty years later in San Francisco when my toilet blew up again. This time, I didn’t participate in the repair process. I just called my landlord, left a check on the kitchen counter, and went to work. When I got home, the mess was cleaned up and the problem was solved. As for the actual plumber who did the work, I never even met him.

It occurred to me that I had become disconnected from a lot of things that used to fascinate me. I no longer thought about where my food came from, or how my electricity worked, or who fixed my pipes, or who made my clothes. There was no reason to. I had become less interested in how things got made, and more interested in how things got bought.

At this point my grandfather was well into his 80s, and after a long visit with him one weekend, I decided to do a TV show in his honor. Today, Dirty Jobs is still on the air, and I am here before this committee, hoping to say something useful. So, here it is.

I believe we need a national PR Campaign for Skilled Labor. A big one. Something that addresses the widening skills gap head on, and reconnects the country with the most important part of our workforce.

Right now, American manufacturing is struggling to fill 200,000 vacant positions. There are 450,000 openings in trades, transportation and utilities. The skills gap is real, and it’s getting wider. In Alabama, a third of all skilled tradesmen are over 55. They’re retiring fast, and no one is there to replace them.

Alabama’s not alone. A few months ago in Atlanta I ran into Tom Vilsack, our Secretary of Agriculture. Tom told me about a governor who was unable to move forward on the construction of a power plant. The reason was telling. It wasn’t a lack of funds. It wasn’t a lack of support. It was a lack of qualified welders.

In general, we’re surprised that high unemployment can exist at the same time as a skilled labor shortage. We shouldn’t be. We’ve pretty much guaranteed it.

In high schools, the vocational arts have all but vanished. We’ve elevated the importance of “higher education” to such a lofty perch that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled “alternative.” Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships and on-the-job-training opportunities as “vocational consolation prizes,” best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree. And still, we talk about millions of “shovel ready” jobs for a society that doesn’t encourage people to pick up a shovel.

In a hundred different ways, we have slowly marginalized an entire category of critical professions, reshaping our expectations of a “good job” into something that no longer looks like work. A few years from now, an hour with a good plumber — if you can find one — is going to cost more than an hour with a good psychiatrist. At which point we’ll all be in need of both.

I came here today because guys like my grandfather are no less important to civilized life than they were 50 years ago. Maybe they’re in short supply because we don’t acknowledge them they way we used to. We leave our check on the kitchen counter, and hope the work gets done. That needs to change.

My written testimony includes the details of several initiatives designed to close the skills gap, all of which I’ve had the privilege to participate in. Go Build Alabama, I Make America, and my own modest efforts through Dirty Jobs and mikeroweWORKS. I’m especially proud to announce “Discover Your Skills,” a broad-based initiative from Discovery Communications that I believe can change perceptions in a meaningful way.

I encourage you to support these efforts, because closing the skills gap doesn’t just benefit future tradesmen and the companies desperate to hire them. It benefits people like me, and anyone else who shares my addiction to paved roads, reliable bridges, heating, air conditioning, and indoor plumbing.

The skills gap is a reflection of what we value. To close the gap, we need to change the way the country feels about work.”

If you have suggestions for voices that could fill this gap in our coverage, please drop me a line in the comments or by sending an email to tgilliss@onbeing.org.

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I think I shall send this to Governor Malloy(CT) whom wishes to shut down the technical schools in Connecticut.

As encouragment or "stop wait a minute!"  Does all the power go to the top or can't burocrats be voted OUT.

 We all can't be doctors,lawyers, models, and sports moguls.It's great to have goals but  once again we seek the flash while shooting for the cheapest way to get the rest done. There is integrity  and honor in a job well done. And we all have the same job -from the doctor to the janitor- it's a job that needs to be done. We are in the maintenance era of our country, we have achieved so much and now need to honor the work of those achievements -by our families who came before us - and maintain the beauty of who we are. Recognize all around you who participate in our world as a very necessary and integral part of your world, our world -the world.

We can't all be doctors, lawyers, models, and sports moguls. Nor should we WANT to. That is the problem. Remember the old idea of the dignity of labor? We should impress on our children that there are innumerable ways to make a living that help make the world work.

Before I moved back to Iowa I had a little condo in a very high scale building on the lake in Chicago. The beautiful building was 35 years old, and the unit was a mess when I bought it.  I slowly fixed it up and in the process learned that the building had a hidden maze of "fixes" made up of scavaged parts by 4 old men who literally kept the whole thing going.  They were all in their last year before retirement.  I sold the unit with the realization that this is probably true of most everything.  It was definitely time to return home to Iowa where people still know how to get things done. 

Tom Paxton's early song "I'm the man that built the bridges" could be Mike's suggested national program's theme song.  Studs Turkel's "Working" should be weaved into its script.
Thanks, Trent, for posting Rowe's testimony and words.

I think this needs to be shared with Michigan's legislators, board of education, and governor, whose Michigan Merit Curriculum <http: 0,1607,7-140-38924---,00.html="" mde="" www.michigan.gov=""> has had the unintended consequence of reducing enrollments in Career and Tech Ed. classes and programs in high schools, and has led to the narrowing of our conceptualization of what it means to be well-prepared for a sustainable career in Michigan, one of the states hardest hit by the economic downturn. 

I'm also sharing this with one of my favorite CTE teachers in Michigan, Mr. Rogers, whose instructional videos are featured at <http: novidesign="" user="" www.youtube.com=""> and whose blog is at <http: misterrogersrants.blogspot.com="">

As a special educator, and as a learning disabilities consultant, I am a big fan of career and technical education, and am one of the first to say that CTE saves lives.

Kathleen Kosobud

I work in public schools and I see so many decent kids develop poor attitudes and give up on academics, leading to the behavior problems that drives talented teachers out of the profession. These kids are not unintelligent, just smart in other ways. But they are forced into academics that are more tedious, and much more irrelevant, than when I went to the very same school not that long ago. Soon my state will require Algebra 2 to graduate. Really? I was in the honor society and I found Algebra 2 difficult. I haven't used it since, nor do I remember how to do it. Rethink work. Redefine smart. Broaden the definition of education.

 I think it would be really interesting to talk to people like the "Car Talk Guys" and other very well educated people who decide to not be "knowledge workers," but rather people who actually create with their hands.   My husband makes handcrafted furniture in the middle of the city with minimal use of power tools.  People then ask why his truly functional art costs more than what they'd pay at Ikea.  It's sad that our culture has lost respect for the wisdom and craft of artisans.

I disagree that the Magliozzi brothers aren't "knowledge workers." Sure, they run a garage, but you know them as the Car Talk Guys - i.e., for their radio show.

YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT.....When they can purchase things made in china and are cheap, they lose interest in the well made hand made works of art that will last forever. I am an artist as well. I feel your pain and I am learning ever so quickly what it means to be a "STARVING ARTIST"..!!!!

This discussion is one of paramount importance today--we have stratified into the "knowledge worker" class and a class of low-paid, low skilled service workers, with relatively little work for those skilled in machine operations, the making and  repairing of our material artifacts, or any brain/hand engaging work for those whose gifts are in the making of complex material artifacts.  We have outsourced our needs for these things to other country and the social ecology of our culture is the worse for it.  

Matthew Crawford, a professional philosopher and professional motorcycle mechanic has written the best analysis of this in "Shop class as soulcraft"  I highly recommend it if you are interested in the spiritual/philosophical underpinnings of how the mind and the physical products of the mind (a chair, a boat, a Triumph motorcycle) are a complex interplay of great intellectual challenge and merit.  

I taught jr. high English for only 4 years, but I learned that intelligence could not be equated with essay-writing and aceing the test. I observed young'uns whose intelligence flowed straight from brain to fingertips, few words required. And I was saddened by how the system ignored, even squelched the natural curiosity of such students.  That curiosity is, in fact, the very bedrock of an educable mind, and a sure sign of intelligence.  Such students are often very impatient with our teach-to-the-bottom educational system.

When we bought our neighborhood hardware store, it was those "handy" kids we sought to hire, for their fascination with how things work is a huge asset and guarantor or their success in helping customers solve practical problems. Worst of all is to be a handy kid in a wealthy home where any college is affordable, and no other option considered. Such kids end up drinking their way through college and maybe even several more years of life before allowing themselves the dignity of pursuing their natural interests in carpentry, mechanics, electronics, farming, design....  We practice such educational snobbery and elitism that kids feel there's no reason to apply themselves in high school if they don't see college in their future.  Little do they realize how they will need all the verbal and mathematical skills they can master just to protect themselves and their assets as they navigate this global life..It's late... I ramble. You hit a flashpoint! We as a nation cannot afford to continue with our shallow and simplistic thinking about public education.

I was listening to a radio show the other day about how young adults going to college are leaving with tons of debt, but no jobs. One of the speakers expressed the same attitude as the above article that as a nation we need to find value in work again. Everyone wants to go to college because that has been the mantra from all parts of society for a long time. Statistics tell us that the more education you have the more money you'll get and nobody wants less, yet this new statistic tells us that less than half actually find work in their field of study. One young lady on the show was said to have $400,000 in debt and not yet finished with her veterinarian degree (Yikes!). I believe that the problem of a devalued appreciation of the working class comes from multiply sources, but I think all roads that lead to this devaluation leads to this group of people who champion "centralized world markets." From their philosophy has come the idea of let your money work for you, instead of you actually working, of corning the market to become the new "Too big to fail" corporation, of profits over community, and the list goes on. This idea can not be fully expressed here, due to the amount space allowed, but the idea of man living simply, working within his ability and living a life based upon G-d, family, and community has been usurped by those who have replaced it with professionalism, corporations, intelligentsia, and entertainment. 

Great points! I think we need to change the conversation from "college graduates make more money" to a more realistic metric of earning to debt ratio averaged over all college, trade school and high school graduates.

We have been blinded by the "college syndrome" : i.e.: in order to succeed you need a college education!  All of this hype is a load of bull----, promulgated by the money pits known as colleges and/or universities.  Rather than having qualified plumbers, electricians, chefs and the like, the educators would like us to accept BA/BS, MA, or PhD candidates to sell us the coffee at McD, or the 2x4 at Lowe's.  Talk about overqualified?  Then when we need a carpenter or plumber, one is not around since the politicians cut funding for the alternate or technical studies programs throughout the U.S. but kept the funding open for the major (sports) colleges/universities.  Toilet backing up?  Roof collapsing?  Shock from wall switch?  Call a college/university "hot line" and they will tell you when the next sports extravaganza is, or Sorority/Fraternity bash, but no help in living the good life.    

For most of his life my husband "woke up clean and came home dirty". He worked in 'manufacturing'...56 hours a week...
it was the 'overtime' hours that allowed us to save money for retirement. We've been married for almost 48 years.
He retired at the age of 68. He is the love of my life, the smartest man I know.
Thank you for the opportunity to pay tribute, here, to a real 'working man'. He is one of the unsung heroes you speak of.

I did both kinds of work. I was an aircraft mechanic and I did plumbing and electrician work for an involuntary slum lord, but jobs that value these experiences are scarce and there are hundreds of times as many mechanics applying for them as there are openings everywhere I see. I also supported myself as a professional student and now have a PhD. I do adjunct faculty work which is as difficult as mechanical work. The pay for all but the very few who get tenured is typically less than 20K while the football coach gets several hundred times that pay. What we have is a loss of values when the authority of skilled or educated people is treated like trash in the economy with a culture that values the unearned stardom of a pop singers who never did the years of hard work it takes to become a real musician.

I have been an instructor for Industrial Arts at the secondary education level, retired, taught at and still am at the college level in machining and quality control, have placed students with employers for internship programs and provided training to employers in several areas of employment needs. Mike Rowe is dead on. The greatest area of change is technolgy and the need for advanced training is required in order to stay competitive.

Thank you. Bless you. Why is it, what seems so obvious to those of us in the real world, is a complete mystery to politicians? Everyone is disconnected, including the "leaders".
I teach science and daily wish we had our voc ed back in the school. How are electricity and plumbing, not part of a technology and engineering curriculum? Because the College Board profits massively when every student is "going to college." Follow the money and let public schools get back to teaching skills needed by the community.
A science teacher.

Mike Rowe is so right. We have tricked ourselves into believing that these trades jobs aren't prestigious. Who wants to "leave home clean and come home dirty" when you can push paper or be a "white collar" worker? Well, we need those too, but when your toilet backs up are you going to call a bureaucrat?

I highly recommend this book that hits on a lot of the same themes: Shopclass as Soulcraft. http://www.amazon.com/Shop-Class-Soulcraft-Inquiry-Value/dp/0143117467

This speech is surprising, I really enjoyed to read it, thank you. I read comments and it's true, some kids give up, but it's just because they are in the wrong way, it can be useless to tell that, but you know, everybody need to find their own way, to be aware and productive. Some kids have to reach their bachelor-degree of High School and after choose a way that they like in University, but they don't have to give up before that.

Very Very creative and appreciable article. I really felt proud in reading your article and about the growth. I heard Mike Row and was speechless because he puts an magnanimous effect on the listeners. Work must be valued as work is god. Each and every work should be valued because there is no big and small in it. For every work you get paid. In any business intelligence should be respected and welcomed but not ignoring the work.

Agreed about the vocational pieces of high schools.
Our local high school has a vocational program but it's not what it should be.
It's perceived precisely as this gentlemen points out: a place to resign yourself when all else fails. A place to go when you don't know what to do with yourself.

Instead, it should be this glorious land of learning the crafts offered.

How do we change that?

I don't know but I'm frustrated enough, locally, to consider this long and hard.

Thank you.

Well said! A coincidence that I just re posted one of my favorite programs from On Being "The meaning of intelligence," which makes the same argument. I am a teacher and young people need to know there is hope in a time of high student loan debts and little hope of finding a job after a four year degree.

I have been saying this for years now. How many more unemployed college graduates are we going to produce who are in debt in ways that heretofore were unknown at such an age. Meanwhile, when my 10 year old vehicle decides to hiccup, I'm in dire straights because I can't work without it. The solution to many of our everyday life challenges reside with plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics; skilled craftsmen who make each of our lives better in very significant ways. Vocational education is a very wise investment and can provide a very comfortable life with very little indebtedness for the education received.
In the span of my long adulthood, I have been an RN and I am currently the CEO of two companies. Sutherland Welles Ltd. manufactures a high quality Polymerized Tung Oil finish, right in the little state of Vermont, but the other company, Phoenix Finishing Inc, is a hands-on company that takes unfinished wood and creates beautiful finished pieces.On any given day in my life, the job I love most is the one where I use my hands to create and I get very dirty.

I just returned from shooting 2 episodes with DIY/HGTV for Daryl Hall's Restoration Over-Haul and each and every episodes features some craftsman, working with his/her hands to create this lovely home. Carpenters,furniture makers, electricians, plumbers, landscapers,roofers, stone masons,trash haulers, and even wood finishers like me.All of us filthy and exhausted at the end of the day, but what we have all created is something totally amazing.

Working with my hands requires intense thinking as to process, math,timing make no mistake it's extremely cerebral, but the hook for me is the Zen of where my mind goes when I pick up a brush. Life gets worked out when my brush moves, I can eat as much as I want because I burn it all off, and I sleep soundly.

We have sold our children into incredible financial distress by de-valuing working with our hands as being a "less than" option to an honest and decent life.And we have severely limited our own national goals, policies and security by not valuing vocational education. The piper must be paid and no one is going to like the price.

My father was a child of the depression, World War II disabled veteran, millwright and farmer. His life reflects what makes this country the beacon of hope for people all over the world. Mike Rowe's remarks ring true and rekindle the pride I had growing up on a hard working family farm mid-last-century. Citizens of the USA long to reclaim these types of civic values again. Our leaders just need to find the will to make it so.

College degree which gave me skills of organization and people skills, but have been a general contractor, handyman, fixer-upper for many years and I receive so much satisfaction from the physical labor of accomplishments visible right now. Thanks Mike, we need skilled labor to stay a leader and giver to the wide world of God's creatures.

There is irony, as well as tragedy (and a certain amount of comedy, albeit somewhat dark) in all of this. I'm a 59-year-old woman. I am very bright in all the ways that had guidance counselors unable to see any possible future for me other than college. But I was always far more interested in making things, or fixing things, or taking things apart to see how they worked. As a child of around ten or twelve, I successfully repaired a three-speed bicycle hub, using tiny springs I made from wire I got by unraveling the end of the bike's brake cable. Even the do-it-yourself bike manuals tell you to leave this repair to the pros.

My dad was a draftsman/designer who held at least one patent. Sadly, he died when I was four, and I think any possibility that someone in my young life might have noticed that I had a real gift with Thingsdied with him.

For here is the irony: as a girl, I was not permitted to take shop class, though I would have loved it, and would have excelled. In my late teens/twenties, I looked into cabinetmaking and other trades, but it was quickly made clear to me there was no place for a female in such jobs, at least not for a female who had all possible qualifications for the work except being able to somehow break through this bias (a barrier than sometimes can and has been broken, yet one which no man ever had to get through simply to be allowed to learn a trade). When I called about jobs as an apprentice or assistant or whatever, men laughed at me, told me it was a man's job, hung up on me.

Eventually, I bought equipment and taught myself to build furniture; I got interested in the lathe, taught myself turning, and have been self-employed as an artistic woodturner for thirty years. I've taught all across the US and Canada, and have written two books and many articles about Woodturning.

My point is only to add this to the reasons Mike cites to explain so well what has happened in our country with regard to so-called "manual labor,"(which nearly always requires far more intelligence than is believed by those who don't do it): so often, in the past, the skilled trades have had structures in place that systemically excluded not only women, but often people of races or ethnicities considered undesirable.

To be sure, had I been able to become a cabinetmaker, plumber, electrician, or other skilled worker, I would be nearing retirement. But it is likely that my presence in such a trade would have encouraged, at least indirectly, other women to pursue similar work. I am certain I would have done what I could to have made the work more open to people of diverse demographics, as I have done to some small extent in the field of artistic Woodturning.

I agree totally with all of Mike's interpretations of why and how this situation has arisen,and the current and future consequences for our society. This is just another layer to the whole issue, and one that, IMHO, still has some relevance.

Trent Gilliss's picture

Well said, Judy. Your contribution to this discussion is much appreciated.

The problem as I see it, is our welfare system, a byproduct of which, encourages people not to work. One would think it would be more cost effective to train those with aptitudes rather than just dole out checks.

My work as an engineer could not happen if it weren't for the people who operate the drill rigs, excavators, and trucks and install the infrastructure and equipment (in sometimes harsh conditions). It's a true team effort to get real work done.

The sort of work that Mr. Rowe thinks our society denigrates is the sort of work that can demand just as much attention to detail, problem-solving, and varieties of social intelligence as the so-called "knowledge workers" must demonstrate. The physical labor that paved our roads, built our bridges, and won coal from the pits can connect us spiritually to what it means to be, as surely as Dr. Tyson's work in astronomy helps us understand our place in the universe.

Too many legislators involved in education who don't have a clue what is needed. Technical education should begin in the 6th. grade. High schools are filled with kids who could use a good technical education. The Career & Technical Education should start at an early age, remain rigorous throughout high school and graduate kids who can enter the workforce with some skills.

My dad left home clean and came home dirty. He was a journeyman electrician. But he had dreamed of being an electrical engineer. That dream was shortcurcuited by his fathers death. My dad and his new bride moved back to Idaho to help out his mom who still had two daughters in high school.

It was my dad's dream that his children would go to college, and not have to work as hard as he did. He liked his work, but it cost him his health. Asbestos in his lungs. He nearly lost his life once in a workplace explosion (not his fault--someone else playing with what they had no business touching). He wanted his children and grandchildren to have safe jobs.

The last decade of dad's life he didn't breath without pain. Still, he worked until he was 80 years old, because he enjoyed his job. But if that asbestos had not been in his lungs, he would still be with me today.

I write this not because I don't believe people should work in these jobs, but because in many places there are moves to roll back the labor safety measures that have helped ensure that no one else ends up like my dad did. Everyone should have work they love. My dad sure did. He told his co workers that their jobs changed peoples lives, and to always remember that. He built schools, hospitals, jails, courthouses, college classrooms, prisons and wired the turbines on a hydroelectric dam. He built the house I grew up in.

THe other thing is that these jobs used to pay well--not all of them do anymore.

Thank you

In my opinion, so much of our disdain for trade work is rooted in our throw away culture. Growing up in the 50’s, I remember my father fixing many things. If it was beyond his capability, we would call a repair person or take it to a shop. Now we spend thousands of dollars on appliances and technology that seemingly cannot be fixed. Planned obsolescence seems to be the manufacturer’s mantra. Americans are all keen to buy the latest, newest, gadget, but when if one fails we cast it aside or worse yet ship it off to a foreign country for children to disassemble the toxic parts. I believe that we need to not only value the work of our remaining skilled workforce, but look at our own lives and honestly ask what it is that we value. Is it things rather than relationships? Is it ownership more than sharing? And is it a salary more than the satisfaction found in craftsmanship and artistry.

With 100 million Americans on public assistance of one form or the other,we need to get back to work.

Let it be known that the vast majority of those on public assistance do work, but they are forced to work in service-industry jobs that do not grant enough hours or wages to stay afloat.

This also reminds me of an old joke a urologist friend loved to tell: The urologist was complaining to the plumber about the plumber's high fee after only an hour of work. He says to the plumber, "You know, I am a urologist and I don't even make this much in an hour." The plumber says, "You know, when I was a urologist, I didn't make this much an hour either." Hehehe!

Being an ex-welder myself... I had written a large paragraph on this issue, almost an essay, but perhaps I'll cut to the chase. Companies have come to treat welder's like dog's, or worse, like hedge funds. :(

I have done many blue collar jobs. A wonderful book on this topic is The Puritan Gift by the Hopper Brothers.

I am so grateful for this. I think we celebrate many good things, but certain things get forgotten or consistently overlooked.

People should lift heavy things, build the things that they use every day. Cherish the things that are dear and have a hand in the making or more contemplation in their acquisition.

It isn't that things are made cheaply so much as it is that we apply value to flimsy things.

Thank you.

I heard someone commenting the other day that kids are not learning to problem solve. I believe that. I teach. Over the years and more and more, students keep expecting to be bailed out of situations instead of reading and understanding instructions and figuring out answers for themselves. This speaker's example was that "back in the day" if you got a tent for Christmas you and the gang planned the sleep out and put the tent up yourselves. Parents were nowhere in sight. If you managed only to get part of the tent up correctly, then, you were uncomfortable and disappointed and so figured it out and made it work next time. You made mistakes and learned from it. You made your own experience good or bad. Parents are either too involved(as in sports) or "pay someone to put the tent up". It is hard to find people like my brother or father that, I swear, they could figure anything out. Problem solving and hands on. It was very obvious on 9/11 whenall of a sudden we had hero firemen; As if the firemen came from nowhere and/or it was OK to be a Fireman again.

The only way we can step out of consumerism is to participate in the production of something, anything. If we always rely on others to do things for us, we cannot appreciate what their work involves. The consumer is getting farther and farther away from production which is being hidden from them. Vocational training should return to the schools and everyone(both boys and girls) should have at least some classes in practical life skills of taking care of a car, a house and to develop some basic skills in building as well as gardening, cooking and yes, sewing. School shouldn't just be about intellectual development, there need to be more hands on experiences for our children.

So Mike says that there is a major skills gap with lots of jobs and no-one to fill them? Huh? What planet is he speaking from? Certainly not here. My cousin works construction. He's broke and basically moving state to state desperate to find work that pays more than minimum wage. My brother is an electrician. His house was foreclosed - why? Well not because he turned down the avalanche of offers. Insane article and not even resembling the truth. Funny, I never imagined Mike as being an ivory tower guy before...

Simply help our children ( boys and girls) amass a tool collection of their own. Start with tape measure,square and level. Build a bird house or pinewood derby car. Turn or kick off the TV & listen to Krista and enjoy your children and fun projects.

I have a BS and MS in engineering that leaves me with a desk job. I love to work with my hands and volunteer at a bicycle co-op whenever I get the chance because I love to fix and teach others to fix theirs bikes.

I often wonder if it would be a waste of an education to quit my day job to find work where I could really use my hands....

First, I want to affirm that I believe in the value of labor unions. I come from a family of working people who believed in the value of labor unions. However, I also know, personally, young people who have completed post-high-school vocational programs who cannot find work because they can't get into their skill's union. My understanding is that some unions are unreasonably exclusive--although I would love to be wrong about that.

Eagerly anticipating the possibility that Krista would interview Mike one day!!?? They are two of the most thoughtful people I know of when it comes to meaning, integrity and respect in the world we live in today.

As a recent comic said, "it is important to have a college degree so you know in what field you are unable to find a job".

We have put too much emphasis on COMPUTER SKILLS and left out the skills that are extremely futile for the existence of our future generations.Home economics and shop are what I grew up with in school. I feel it is an absolute necessity to re~institute the apprentice programs that allowed anyone to learn a job despite their financial ability or prior skills. And with this training, gain the ability for a career. To have gardening in schools, beginning at pre-K level through high school, including solar /wind power , water conservation and the like. Your right about the age of those who are qualified with the knowledge to do the "dirty work". My husband, who is semi-retired is one of those "jack of all trades". He can and does fix anything.( Of course, not the new fandangled automobiles and all their computerized gizmos that are constantly being recalled) SO, please keep up the good work my friend, we are with you 100 %......