University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Mike Rowe: Dirty Jobs can be Good Jobs!

In The View from the OEP on January 8, 2014 at 8:10 am

mike roweIn researching strategies for improving vocational education for the Office for Education Policy Conference, we came across a surprising proponent: Mike Rowe of the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs.” Rowe has stated that Many are Following the ‘Worst Advice in the History of the World’ (i.e., that a four-year degree is the only path to success).

Rowe is concerned about the four-year track for the following reasons:

  • Lending money we don’t have
  • Out-of-hand debt for college students
  • Jobs that no longer exist
  • One -size-fits-all approach
  • Selling education the same way for the past forty years

Rowe asserts that skilled trades are in demand and that there are 3 million jobs that companies are struggling to fill, of which only 8-12% require a four-year college degree.

His response to this problem was to create the Mike Rowe Works Foundation.

mike rowe worksPrimarily, the Foundation awards scholarships to young men and women who are interested in and display aptitude for a trade. Most recently, the Foundation has created more than $1.6 million in education scholarships to schools across the country, including Midwest Technical Institute and Tulsa Welding School.

We at the OEP applaud Mike Rowe for his efforts to promote the usefulness of post-secondary training beyond simply the standard Bachelor’s and Master’s route.  We agree that a one-size-fits-all approach to education is behind the times and that there are many fulfilling careers that do not require a four-year degree. Perhaps our K12 system could do a better job of getting students ready for these opportunities and letting students know that there are many quality post-secondary options in our state, not just 4-year degree programs.

In fact, we will be discussing this topic during our 2014 OEP Conference on College and Career Readiness!  If vocational education is an issue in which you share an interest, don’t forget to save the date (May 15, 2014 at the Clinton Center in Little Rock) and join us at the conference!

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