A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

A Skilled Workforce Should be Championed Wherever Possible

One of the guys who originally inspired me to advocate on behalf of the blue collar workforce here in Texas, Mike Rowe, has come under fire lately because he's not afraid to spread the message about closing the skills gap in places that might not seem friendly to one side of the political spectrum or the other.  The latest attacks on Rowe came after he appeared on the conservative Glenn Beck program to talk about his recent campaign, Profoundly Disconnected.

After he was on Beck's show, a woman named Shannon Walsh wrote to Rowe: “How could you associate with such a horrible and psychotic person that is Glen Beck?  I wouldn't accept a dime off that hateful, nasty racist.  Very disappointed to see this post.”

Rowe's response to her was gracious, as was his response to another person who wrote to him after he was on the air with the liberal Bill Maher:

“Truth is, every time I go on Fox, my liberal friends squeal.  And every time I show up on MSNBC, my conservative pals whine.  Not because they disagree with my position – everyone agrees that closing the skills gap is something that needs to happen.  No, these days, people get bent simply if I appear on shows they don't like, or sit too close to people they don't care for.  What's up with that?  Is our country so divided that my mere proximity to the ‘other side’ prompts otherwise sensible adults to scoop up their marbles and go home?

“Back in 2008, I wrote an open letter to President Obama, offering to help him promote those three million ‘shovel-ready’ jobs he promised to create during his campaign.  (I suspected they might be a tough sell, given our country's current relationship with the shovel.)  Within hours, hundreds of conservatives accused me of ‘engaging with a socialist’, and threatened to stop watching Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe if I didn't come to my senses.

“When I made the same offer to Mitt Romney (who actually responded), thousands of liberals chastised me for ‘engaging with a greedy capitalist’, and threatened to stop watching Dirty Jobs if I didn't take it back.

“You may ask, ‘But what did these people think about the issue at hand?’  Who knows?  They were too busy being outraged by my proximity to the devil.  (Poor Ed Shultz at MSNBC nearly burst into tears.  ‘You were on the wrong stage, Mike!  The wrong stage!!  With the wrong candidate!!!’)

“Oy.”

As someone who's covered politics in Texas for over a decade, I've seen one issue after another that divides Republicans and Democrats in nasty ways: abortion, guns, immigration, you name it.  But this year people from both sides of the aisle came together in Texas to support education reforms that will give school districts the flexibility to guide kids either toward the college track or into the skilled trades.  Liberals and conservatives set aside their differences and, apart from some squabbling over the details of how to get it done, the Texas Legislature passed reforms that will make it possible for kids to achieve their dreams even if their path doesn't take them through four-year programs at our colleges and universities.

In fact, next month in Houston business leaders and educators are coming together to discuss the best ways to make sure those reforms are enacted in ways that help the kids be successful.  I'll moderate that discussion on November 5th.  More information and event registration is available on the ABC Greater Houston Chapter website.

I honestly don't care if Mike Rowe is a Republican, Democrat, liberal or conservative.  With all the things that divide Americans right now, Rowe should be applauded for the way he's making all sides aware of the skills gap and solutions like those we've championed on Construction Citizen.

Image courtesy of mikeroweWORKS.


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