Not That Dirty of a Job

If you don’t know who Mike Rowe is, you should look him up online. Mr. Rowe represents what the average man in America used to resemble only a few short years ago.

He’s level-headed, smart, tries to avoid talking about politics or religion, and he is doing what he can to help other people.

Mike tried several different jobs (300 according to his website) between 2003 and 2012 when he starred in and worked on the TV show Dirty Jobs on The Discovery Channel.

On Dirty Jobs, he worked as a bat cave scavenger, road kill cleaner, sewer inspector, leather tanner, sheep castrator, hot tar roofer, and several other professions that virtually all of the rest of mankind would never do.

Not all of the jobs were awful. He also tried being a wine maker and locomotive builder. I wouldn’t mind giving those two a shot.

Through his charity, the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, Mike helps people who want to learn a skill. Specifically, learn a skill for a job that exists. Or, as my grandparents used to call it, “Learning a trade.”

His website goes into detail about how his organization works with people who are interested in doing something other than going to college. These are folks who want an honest living, but don’t want to have to study Dante and the French Revolution to make said living.

Mike makes the point, and I completely agree with him on this, that too many people are going to college and getting degrees for jobs that don’t exist.

Consequently, (and this is me talking now, not Mr. Rowe) we have a lot of young people who are still living with their parents instead of on their own.

These poor kids are coming out of school with a mound of debt from student loans and they can’t find work, much less work that pays back their loans and helps them pay rent and eat.

I grew up in a blue collar family. My dad’s father was a blacksmith. My mom’s father delivered ice before people had electricity. Both sides of my family learned how to do many different jobs. Not because they wanted to, but because they had to.

Welding, farming, and raising livestock were just some of the jobs that my family members mastered.

Today, most of us do very little in the way of learning a trade. Not that there’s anything wrong with a college degree. I have a degree and was the first in my family to acquire one.

But, I agree with Mike Rowe. There are job openings out there that business owners are having trouble filling, so why not at least offer the trades as a career option?

If people would be open-minded about possible career opportunities, they might just discover that there’s a whole new world out there waiting for them.

Let me bring back up my college degree and the profession of welding as a comparison.

My degree is in journalism. As glamorous as working as a reporter might seem, you would be quite surprised at how little reporters make.

When I got into the field of journalism in the late 1970s, I worked in radio. One of the many hats I wore was, when needed, serving as a local reporter. My starting salary was $2.20 an hour and all of the bad coffee I wanted. Granted, that was almost 40 years ago, but reporters don’t make a lot more than that these days.

Many of the reporters you see on television in small to medium markets are making less than $30K a year. Some, closer to $20K a year.

Compare that with a trained welder, who does not need a degree and who, according to Mike Rowe’s website,, could earn over $100K a year. Welders can train in as few as nine months, and if they want to be a traveling industrial pipe welder, they can earn as much as $185K a year.

Underwater welders can make $1,000 a day.

I know I couldn’t make $1,000 a day writing, but I’d try underwater writing for that kind of dough.

My point of writing this column on this Labor Day weekend is twofold. I would love for more people to consider a profession they may not have thought of previously, and I’d like for more people to check out Mike Rowe and his foundation.

Mike is trying to make a difference in America’s job market at a time when most other folks are arguing about politics and religion.

His podcasts on his website at are a joy; quite reminiscent of Paul Harvey. His voice is the envy of most announcers I know, and his wisdom is endless.

What say, we skip the discussions of politics and religion and try harder to be like Mike?

©2017 John Moore

John’s book Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now is available on Amazon.

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