Mike Rowe: Today's Skilled Labor Shortage Is No Surprise

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

If anyone could rightfully say, “I told ya so” when it comes to the sad state of America’s workforce, it’s Mike Rowe, host of the hit TV series “Dirty Jobs.”


Thirteen years ago, his mikeroweWORKS Foundation began a campaign to bring awareness about the 2.3 million skilled jobs that were open across the country. “Today, that number is approaching 11 million,” said Rowe on Facebook. “Of note — most of those open jobs do not require a four-year degree; they require training.”

“I am not surprised by today’s headlines, or by what’s happened to our workforce,” he said. “I’m not surprised that many of America’s critical industries are still struggling to fill millions of skilled positions. I am not surprised that millions of parents and corporations still believe a four-year degree is the best path for the most people. I’m not surprised that student loans now eclipse $1.7 trillion. And I’m not surprised that airlines are canceling flights right and left.”

What really surprises Rowe is why anyone is surprised at all.

How could anyone be surprised that after “we told an entire generation that they had no hope of succeeding without a college degree,” we’d end up with $1.7 trillion in student debt and tuition so exorbitantly expensive “when the government encourages everyone to borrow whatever it costs to get a diploma—and then forgives the debt?” asked Rowe. I’m certainly not surprised, but no one made students sign those loan papers.


How could anyone be surprised there’s a shortage of pilots or other skilled airport workers after an untold number have refused the vaccine mandate? “We can discuss the wisdom or the foolishness of complying, but how can anyone be surprised that millions of workers in many critical industries have resisted the Biden mandate?” he said.

How can we be surprised by the nearly 11 million open jobs and labor shortage when there’s a massive skills gap and has been for years? “It’s a reflection of what we value. Unfortunately, many Americans don’t value skilled labor,” Rowe said. “If you’re not grateful to the people who bring you affordable energy, plentiful food, smooth roads, heating, air-conditioning, steel production, or indoor plumbing, you probably won’t encourage your kids to explore careers in those fields. So why then, would anyone be surprised, when millions of people choose to accept money from the government, instead of exploring ways to get the training they need to fill any of those open positions?” You also probably aren’t likely to teach your kids the value of real honest-to-goodness physical work either.


Related: Misery Index: How Are Average Americans Weathering the Biden Economy?

While Rowe says he can’t foretell the future, he’s afraid “things must sometimes go ‘splat’ before the masses wake up.” In the case of America’s workforce, he’s not certain what “splat” will look like, but if he were to guess, he said “it will involve a serious spike in the cost of food, energy, and construction; a lot of packages are not going to be delivered on time.” The skilled labor shortage, like airline travel, he guessed will most likely “get worse before it gets better.”

Be sure to allow extra time, my fellow Americans, and encourage your kids and grandkids to gain a valuable skill instead of worthless student debt.


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