Magazine article Techniques

An Interview with Mike Rowe

Magazine article Techniques

An Interview with Mike Rowe

Article excerpt

Mike Rowe, host of the Discovery Channel series "Dirty Jobs," talks with ACTE about his show and celebrating a skilled workforce. Each week, Rowe serves as an apprentice to hardworking men and women who do difficult, dangerous and dirty jobs. His experiences on the show led him to start mikeroweWORKS (MRW) - a campaign to celebrate skilled labor and hard work.

ACTE: Tell us about mikeroweWORKS and the MRW Foundation.

MR: mikeroweWORKS is a PR campaign for skilled labor. In terms of a message, it's really a call to arms designed to stimulate conversation and encourage a dialogue around what I believe to be a kind of a dysfunctional relationship with hard work. 1 think the country has redefined what a good job looks like, and declared a kind of cold war on the tradi- tional notions of skilled labor - at least the way we've always understood them to exist. Consequently, today we have a shortage of skilled tradesmen, along with rising unemployment, which is just a strange combination of facts to try and digest. mikeroweWORKS is an attempt to point out the casualties that come from waging a war on work, namely, a declin- ing interest in the trades and a crumbling national infrastructure. And both of those things, obviously, affect everyone.

ACTE: And is the MRW Foundation related to that?

MR: Yeah it is. But to be honest, I just set it up because I had a suspicion it would come in handy at some point in the future. What happened was, not long after I arranged it, I started looking into some other nonprofits that were out there, and realized that there were many. A big part of what I want to focus on first is just creating a resource of all the organizations and associations that exist on a state-by-state basis for people who want to investigate a career in the trades. Get all of those in one place. And mikeroweWORKS, I hope, will be the place where that can happen. We've already started, and I'm really encouraged by what I've seen.

ACTE: Does your collaboration with Ford and now Grainger Industrial Supply fit in with mikeroweWORKS?

MR: Well, it might. I can tell you that Grainger had a role in this, whether they knew it or not, about a year ago. I haven't brought it to Ford, specifically, yet, but I'm hopeful that we might be able to work something out. There are so many companies that have a vested interest in being heard on this. And I've been contacted by a lot of them. But since you mentioned Grainger, I can tell you that they've been great. About a year ago, I was giving a talk to their company. This is something I'd been doing for a long time. I'd go around the country and I'd talk to Fortune 500 companies.

After 200 different jobs, you know, on the show, there are a lot of patterns that begin to emerge from people that I worked with and spoke with. And their collective attitude about work got me thinking about the country's attitude and the difference between the two became pretty glaring; so I started giving these talks a couple of years ago about things people with dirty jobs know that the rest of us don't. And I started sharing my experiences from the show, and my belief that we'd wage this war against the Puritan work ethic. The response to those talks was always amazing. So I started to get booked more and more frequently, and last year, I was speaking to the employees at Grainger. Afterwards, the president, a guy named Jim Ryan, approached me about his concern that the very trades that his company served were starting to diminish. …

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