I’m not a big fan of reality TV, and I confess I’ve only seen a couple of episodes of the wildly popular “Dirty Jobs” series that features Mike Rowe trying out jobs that most of us would avoid. But even without being a fan of the show, I can say I am a huge fan of Rowe and what he is doing to publicize the skills gap and help reinvigorate education for trades and manufacturing jobs. His new book, “Profoundly Disconnected, A True Confession,” is his latest effort in that campaign.

The book itself comes with all sorts of disclaimers because it is sort of a non-book. The real new original content is less than a page (one paragraph actually), but there are reprints of articles and interviews, his testimony to a U.S. Senate committee, a wonderful foreword from Rowe’s mother, and even a copy of the pledge he requires people sign for the millions of dollars in “work ethic” scholarships his foundation hands out.
Rowe puts the point of the book as simply this: “I want to make more people aware that millions of worthwhile jobs are waiting to be filled. In this book, I attempt to do that by acknowledging my own dependency on a skilled workforce and challenging the reader to do the same.”

He does that with the kind of down-to-earth humor and honesty that have made him a hero to almost everyone who has to actually work with their hands for a living. He talks about bad advice from high school counselors that steers kids into college educations they can’t afford and away from good skills that could land them great jobs without the tuition debt. He debunks slogans like “Work smarter not harder,” encouraging students instead to “work smart AND hard.”

Rowe has taken his message to Congress, TV pundits on both the left and right, TED talks, and personal appearances. He has worked closely with manufacturers such as Caterpillar, which funded publication of the book. One story he tells involving Caterpillar illustrates the depth of the problem. A Caterpillar technician told him the company desperately needs equipment technicians. Caterpillar will pay for all of their training, and good techs make six-figure incomes in just a few years, but there are not enough applicants.

Can we turn American education around to better direct students to good jobs in trades and manufacturing that are going unfilled today? That’s definitely a dirty job, but Mike Rowe is trying to tackle it.

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