Mike Rowe to me needs no introduction. If you don’t know who this man is, you must have been living in a cave the past 15 years. Dirty Jobs was a huge success and set Mike out on a path to help rebuild the trained skilled labor force in America. He became enthralled with what he saw while traveling the country learning from people doing manual labor and at the same time realizing the need for these same skills to be passed on to the younger generations.
On both my mom and dad’s side of the family tree were generations of men and women that worked with their hands. I too started off working with my hands when I was old enough to hold a hammer and screwdriver. My father, a Marine Corp veteran that served 1 year in Vietnam, came home to put the skills he learned while in the military to good work in the civilian life. He did electrical work, first doing commercial and industrial, then starting his own company to do residential wiring.
I remember when I was 5 or 6 years old, my dad taking me on job sites, teaching me how to pull wire through the drilled holes of the 2×4 studs. He taught me how to strip the wire and place it in the boxes. Crimp the ground wires together and finally install the receptacle outlets and put the covers on them.
When I wasn’t busy doing that kind of work, there were always scrap boards around for a kid to pound nails into and entertain myself while learning another valuable skill.
When I was in high school, I wanted to earn some extra money. At the age of 15, I started buffing and waxing VCT (vinyl composition tile) for the church/school I attended. It wasn’t particularly difficult work but it did take a certain amount of practice to understand how to use a floor buffer without putting holes in the wall or burn marks on the tile.
Around 17 my dad was between jobs and decided to go back to his roots and started working in the construction industry again. This time he wanted to be a General Contractor and do as much of the work as he could himself without using subcontractors. My senior year in school, I started helping after school and on weekends. When I graduated we were in the middle of building my sister a house.
I worked with my dad and sometimes my grandfather (my dad’s dad) for several years before leaving to work for a general contractor doing more of a management type role. Those jobs didn’t last long after the projects that required them so I bounced around a bit. Eventually because I needed a job desperately, I took a job at Circuit City doing retail sales. I wasn’t very good at this type of work but I did try to make it.
Around this time, the Internet and technology boom was starting. I decided to go back to trade school to pursue specialized training in computer network engineering. I only focused on Microsoft skills and how it related to building and maintaining computer networks.
My foundation of working with my hands doing construction I think served me very well to make this transition and thrive in this environment. I worked in this career from 1998 – 2010, when I decided I wanted to start my own company focused on social media marketing. I love Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, etc and how it was really changed the playing field for smaller companies being able to compete. The discovery process was so much faster and a brand could build themselves much quicker than ever before.
This brings me to what is happening today. I am still passionate about Youtube and some of the people I started following and watching are still making content and have become a huge success. I too had dreams of making it big as a Youtuber however I failed to execute on many fronts.
I’m sure by now you are wondering where in the world this story is going. I started out talking about Mike Rowe and the skilled workforce problem in our country to talking of Youtube. There is a growing number of people on Youtube focused on working with there hands. Some have turned that into what supports themselves financially while making videos about it.
There are some that rival the most talented people I’ve ever seen in their particular craft, while others are just in it to learn enough to complete the tasks at hand. I have found myself not only entertained by the videos they produce but also learn many skills from them and also inspiration. Just like Mike Rowe, they too are passionate about working with their hands and seeing others do the same.
Another popular type of video I’ve come to enjoy, sailing. There is a lot to say about a person willing to tackle the open ocean. You have to be more than just a person that knows how to use ropes and raise sails. If something breaks on your boat, you have to fix it, you have no choice. We need more people in the world to have this mindset. It comes back to the skills gap and lack of trained people willing to work with their hands. Technology is great but at the end of the day, nails, screws, nuts and bolts are what keeps America and the world for that matter functioning. Think about the last time you were without power for an extended period of time. If we didn’t have someone willing to use their hands to fix it, we would be sitting in the dark or thrust backwards in time resorting to using fire to light our homes.
Here are several Youtuber’s that need to be the marketing material to help inspire more people to take up working with their hands.
I am going to start with April Wilkerson. She proves that working with your hands and using power tools isn’t a man’s world. What an amazing role model and example for everyone, young and old.
Jesse, The Samurai Carpenter, is one of the finest craftsman I’ve seen online and has challenged me to improve my attention to detail.
Jesse & Alyssa, Pure Living for Life, are building their house, off grid and debt free. The fact they were willing to quit their day jobs, give up their comfort to pursue something they felt passionate about is inspirational. They aren’t experts at all. They are just average Americans learning skills along the way to accomplish their goals.
Alec Steele is a blacksmith. A blacksmith that is in his early 20’s, started forging when he was 11. Grew up with a father that worked with his hands. He now makes videos about his craft and focuses more on the entertainment side but I find him inspirational because he is showing the younger generation how hard, dirty work pays off in the end.
Not all the previously mentioned people live in the US but that isn’t the point. The Internet has made our world very small so we don’t have to draw inspiration or skills from just our own backyard. We need to really instill the desire for learning in everyone. We should strive everyday to learn at least one new thing no matter how big or small. If everyone did this and passed this skill to their children, the skills gap would quickly shrink and the huge amount of infrastructure improvement jobs that are needed in the US would be solved. When you stop to think about the number of people that are willing to work with their hands to fix our roads, wiring, plumbing, etc and how long they have before retirement, Yikes!, it might come to mind.
Mike Rowe Works Foundation’s mission is one that is desperately needed and one we as a nation NEED to be successful.