The other day I was walking with Tot when he spotted a garbage truck. He loves the garbage trucks so we wound up following the truck all the way down the street, the workers were smiling while he clapped watching the dumpsters crash into the top. I was thinking about how happy he was while talking about how he was going to drive a garbage truck and the workers happily joining in. Then it reminded me of something I’d heard last year from Mike Rowe.
“We teach our kids, almost, I never say indoctrination in any other context, but we almost indoctrinate them to avoid a whole category of perfectly legitimate occupations.”
If you don’t follow him outside of the show Dirty Jobs, you may not realize that he’s been on a mission for quite a few years trying to reconnect Americans with trade and skilled labor. He’s shown that although there is an enormous unemployment rate in our country and trillions of dollars in student debt, there is also over 3 million good trade jobs that no one wants. Yes, 3 MILLION.
Judah has thousands of trucks in our home and every night we read nonfiction books like Cool Construction Vehicles by Kelley Macaulay, Little Trucks with Big Jobs by Robert Maass or Road Makers and Breakers by Lynn Peppas. He is completely fascinated by everything that moves, the parts of the vehicles and the jobs that they do. I’ve learned a lot over the years reading these books on construction, garbage trucks, quarries, trains, etc. We have over 2 dozen DVDs from Mighty Machines to Lots and Lots of Trucks; each that teach various vehicles, how they’re made and the jobs they do. So it wouldn’t come as any surprise if my son grew up and wanted to drive a truck, work on construction or drive around and pick up recyclables. Odd though it is, there is some unspoken rule that I should persuade him otherwise as he grows into teen years. That I am going against the rules of parenting and the school system if I don’t push him towards college instead of a legitimate trade.
“In general people are surprised that high unemployment can exist at the same time as a skilled labor shortage, but they shouldn’t be. We’ve pretty much guaranteed it. In High Schools the vocational arts have all been vanished. We’ve elevated the importance of higher education to such a lofty perch that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled as alternative.
Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships and really valuable on the job training opportunities as vocational consolation prizes, best suited for those not cut out for a 4 year degree. But still, we talk about creating millions of shovel ready jobs for a society that doesn’t really encourage people to pick up a shovel.
In a hundred different ways I feel we’ve 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 probably all be in need of both.
I wanted to come here today because guy’s like my Grand-dad are no less important to civilized life than they were 50 years ago. Maybe they’re in shorter supply today because we don’t acknowledge them the way that we used to. We leave our check on the kitchen counter and hope the work gets done. That needs to change.” – Youtube Video with Mike Rowe addressing the Senate
We always tell our children when they are young that they can be anything they want to be and then as they grow older we place upon them the rules and regulations of what those dreams are allowed to consist of. If it doesn’t include college then they aren’t going to be successful and the pressure of that means they’ve failed. Many of us have threatened our lazy teens with the idea that when they grow up they’ll not be able to get any good jobs if they don’t go to college. I admittedly was one of them until this all opened my eyes.
It’s strange to realize how you view certain occupations. My mother went out on her own at 15 and worked in apple orchards until she later got a welding trade. She was one of very few women that had that trade and she was so proud of it. Those companies helped her get her GED and put her through college courses so she could move up in the company, which she would have never been capable of affording with 5 children. They then taught her other trades and she went from welding to machine operations. She was crazy buff too, even though she was only 5ft tall; and often called herself Zena the Warrior Princess. She now oversees precision work, her official title being an Aerospace Engineer and you can thank her every time you don’t fall out of the sky while riding on a plane because she does the difficult job of making sure Boeing has perfect products.
Pretty awesome for a single Mom who started off packaging apples. I’m not sure when I started thinking College was the End All Be All to success, but I know that it needs to end.
If we don’t slow the increasing gap, by 2020 we’re all going to have some serious problems. It’s irresponsible to ignore how important skilled workers are. Without them we wouldn’t have plumbers or electricians to fix our homes, garbage workers to remove the trash from our cities, people to run the factories that supply the many products we love, workers to build homes and buildings and so on. These jobs are valuable jobs and in fact many of them pay outstanding salary’s and have great health insurance! So why do we have this underlying belief that they aren’t good enough or our children can’t be successful in them?
The next time your child looks at you and says they want to drive a truck, work on the huge CAT machines at a quarry or weld the great steel bridges – you should be proud of them. They’re taking on the jobs that are the foundation of nations, jobs that in this day and age we could not live without. These jobs matter a million times more than we have ever given them credit for.
I just want to say Thank You to the sanitation workers, the engineers, landscapers, plumbers, construction workers and welders; the electricians and utility workers, maintenance, metal shop and machinists; those working in agriculture and animal training, wood workers and masons, the garbage and recycling workers and every other laborer who has worked hard and done the dirty jobs that keep our country moving forward.
I promise to be a proud parent if either of my sons choose a trade; especially if it will save me thousands of dollars in tuition. 😉
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