Saturday, October 2, 2010

Dirty jobs, these times they are a changin..... and a dose of reality

Glenn at Instapundit has some thoughts posted about our changing society, and 'Dirty Jobs'. This video talk by Mike Rowe goes a long way towards describing the reality of it:

I teach in a career and technical school. I teach about a dirty job. I teach students who have looked at their choices and decided paying $50,000 for an education that allows them to flip burgers, badly, is not a good path to follow.

In fact, the enrollment at my school has gone up 50% in the last few years, and we now occupy every conceivable square foot with class space. There are no more 'faculty' rooms, and the school lobby has been subdivided into office space. We graduate almost 600 students a year, most ready to begin their careers at the tender age of 18... ready to work, ready to support themselves, and hopefully..... willing to do so.

My school (three campuses) serves an entire county, and sixteen sending schools, with career education. The $8,000 it costs to give a high school senior nine months of training with us is hands down the best value in education available. Our 'product', a technical education, stands shoulder to shoulder with post secondary education costing $40,000 per class seat per year. I know this, as I serve on an industry team that evaluates these schools for certification.

I won't sit here and write that we have no problems. Of course we do. Like many schools, we have our own battle between administration and faculty.... one of goals and perspective. We (teachers) demand the ability to teach our students, and administration demands we use the copiers less, or something like that. We fight for tools to teach with, and the people with ties fight to fill binders with sunlight and happiness. So be it... instructors regard it as part of the price we pay to do our job.

Our students come from a large cross section of society. City, rural, black, white, hispanic, male, female.... every shade and 'type' you can name. Smart, not so smart, and barely functional. We get them all..... and we give every single one a feast of opportunity.

Why are our walls bursting at the seams, as we pack ever more students into our technical school? I think.... it's because parents are still parents. They still want the same thing parents have wanted since time began. They want.... their kids to have a better life than they do. I think we have so many students because.... parents love their kids.

See.... a LOT of the parents made their own decisions as young ones, and went to college. They got liberal arts degrees, and MBA's, and became past masters at underwater basket weaving... at the college level. Now they look back and see what they really got; a huge life crushing loan debt and a mediocre job they hate (if they have a job at all).

Parents with those experiences are now guiding their children, and as a result my technical school is overflowing.

Take it for what you will......

Oh, and I'm not kidding about the copier thing. Admin recently took half our buildings copier capacity away from instructors. If anyone has a good laser jet printer they would like to donate to my program, I'll happily take it off your hands. Something that can handle 30K a month on a steady basis. I have a big class :-)


Anonymous said...

I cannot agree more, I'm in IT and when I have spare money I take classes in welding. I hope it does not become a lost art. To actually create something with your own hands, to hold something in your hands, not some virtual nebulous entity, but something solid and lasting. It makes you feel like you're a real human being.

Carteach0 said...


Thanks for the offer! I'm in PA, and a little far away.

M. Simon said...

I followed my passion and worked my way up from bench technician to aerospace engineers.

Charlie said...

I'm a big fan of Mike Rowe and what he is trying to do. I also recommend reading Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford. I wrote a review here of the book:

Between the higher ed bubble and the desperate need for skilled labor, voc/tech education and apprenticeships are the way to go. Plus, blue collar jobs are fun.

D.W. Drang said...

Dood! Instalanch!

Anonymous said...

My belief is that the best defense of society against tyranny is education. I see it as a national security issue.

The founding fathers of this country knew this which is why we have free education up through highschool in this country.

Unfortuantely there are huge problems at every level in our education system. President Obama can't send his kids to public schools in D.C., and when I was in college, the president of the institution wasn't afraid to say publicly that he had to raise tuition or people would think the school was not as good as other more expensive universities.

I see nothing wrong with a technical education and blue collar profession. But I also I see nothing wrong with a plumber or welder or auto mechanic with a college degree - unless it saddles her with absurd levels of debt.

It is in societies interest that we fix the problems in education so that anyone who has the ability will be encouraged and able to get a college education.

james said...

Trouble is, it's the de facto policy of the US government to give those "dirty jobs" to foreigners - whither by outsourcing or (more often) insourcing. There are good reasons why Americans are not cuing up to take those jobs, and lack of a work ethnic is not one of them.

CJ said...

If it's not too much trouble, could you list some of the programs your school offers? Just to know the five or six most popular courses would interest me. Thanks.

Carteach0 said...

CJ, We offer about 60 programs over three locations within our county.

Medical programs are popular, and we have quite a few. There are very few medical offices or hospitals in the area that don't have our grads working there. Transportation is another big one, with multiple programs. Mechanics, equipment operators, etc. Then there are the construction trades.... my school literally builds houses and sells them, with ALL the work done by students.

Anonymous said...

I agree college isn't for everyone but your attack of the college degree was a bit over broad. I am far from a basket weaver and my loans were non-existent (yay City University of NY). Without college I would probably be driving a truck at Pepsi or working as a bus driver like some of my friends from childhood (I am not that handy). Instead I have a job that allows me to work at home much of the time, cover my bills, pay my mortgage etc and allow me to be home when my children come home from school (which is more important now that the teen years are here). I may not love my job, but that is more because I decided to remain at my level instead of taking promotions -- my education gave me the option to do this.

Carteach0 said...

Anon, I am happy for you, that your taxpayer funded college education helped make your life better. Good.

I also agree that broad brushes often miss large swaths. I don't mean to say college education is a useless thing for everyone, but that it's present incarnation is proving to be an overpriced boondoggle for many, many young people.

My name is on the money-snatching enrollment list of two colleges at the moment, so I feel quite entitled to my opinion. I am paying for the right.... heavily.

sgtmac said...

What a great video! I am a Dirty Jobs fan, but this video really shows a well educated and well spoken Mike Rowe, talking reality!

Since I am one of the guys he talks about (Carpenter), I give him kudo's for his speech. I intend to send this to many friends...Everyone should hear this story!!!

sgtmac ;)

Anonymous said...

when I started med school,the teachers explained to us,we were in a trade school.No need to be to impressed with ourselves
Colin E

Carteach0 said...

Anon.... good perspective on med school!

In my program, most of my students DO end up being impressed with themselves. I require them to work harder than they have during their entire school careers to that point. By the third week of school I am challenging some to explain induction theory to me, and the chemical output of catalytic converters, and why we use vacuum modulated fuel pressure regulators, and..... they do it!

My usual response: "Good work! Now shut up and do more of it".

No Rose Garden said...

The problem is, Reynolds et al are acting like they are the first ones to notice the expense and usefulness of college. Part of that I believe is personal - Reynolds is a libertarian in a field of liberals and feels left out - another part is the overglamourization of these so-called dirty jobs.

No one in my area ever dissed work of any sort. Like one of the people had said here earlier, there are reasons why people are not going into these jobs - they are either outsourced for cheap wages or they are not the moneymakers people are told they are.

As a college professor myself, the biggest bad habit of Ivy towerites is they over simplify things. They are pushing a golden ticket mentality to skill work instead of law or humanities; that if these students takes these jobs they are on easy street. Many of these jobs (like accounting, child care, welding, car care, cashier, janitorial work, construction, plumbing, electrical work) are long, tedious, work in all weather conditions in most jobs, and start off at low pay, and can be disgusting (ask a plumber about "white mice"). These jobs are also privy to the whims of the economy like anything else. Many jobs have high turnover because of these conditions - hair care and car repair are two great examples. They also can be temped out or contracted which has no benefits whatsoever. And while they will have virtually no college bill, they can still be broke.

In the long run, the best thing for students to consider is not just the practicality but the plus and minuses of ALL careers and what they are willing to sacrifice to make them happy. Sometimes it requires debt or boredom, but it will not be easy street either way.

Anonymous said...

At Anonymous IT person..

I spent 20+ years as a welder. My parents never understood just how much I loved welding.

However, after a couple of decades, I realized the body just wasn't holding up to the rigors of the job.

So, I got out and went into IT. Where things are going very well, I might add.

Good luck with your endeavor.


Old Retired Petty Officer said...

Excellent! As is your blog.
I took the liberty of putting it up on Old Retired Petty Officer.
Been an airplane mechanic, car mechanic, ballast train mechanic. Now a crew chief on the F-16 at Edwards AFB.
Again. Well Done!

Kowboy said...

I've been successful in the trades and I'm going back to college at 55. Why? Lack of status. Although it doesn't apply to me, no one wants their daughter to marry a tradesman. "Only a doctor or lawyer is good enough for my little girl."


Christopher Mallow said...

First, to those who believe he's attacking a college education, I say..."SUCK IT UP!" People like YOU attack the kind of education he provides every day, as though your degree somehow provides you the license to do so. I myself have a bachelors, have taken courses at the masters' level, and so I know the value that might provide...HOWEVER, I have also taught beginning, intermediate, and advanced IT courses at two different technical schools, and so I can also see his side very clearly. In contrast to many college degrees offered today (at very high prices, it might be added), technical schools provide IMMEDIATELY USEFUL skills, in fields that are usually universally needed by the bulk of civilized humanity. Welding, woodworking, electrical work, IT, auto/diesel mechanics, HVAC systems, plumbing, carpentry...these are just a few of the things taught at your average tech school, and do you think those skills are somehow not in demand? My BA is in linguistics; a very interesting (to me) and also highly useless subject. My current work is in IT, where I have been quite comfortably for the past 13 years, making MUCH more than I probably would be today if I had continued on in grad school toward my goal of being a professor. I spent 4 years in regular college, and 4 months in a IT certificate program provided by a Denver-area publicly-funded tech school...judging from what I said I have been doing, which do you think ended up being most valuable to me?

Our education system is broken in that it only points people in one direction: college, as though that's the only path to personal financial success and individual happiness. The point here is, we need to quit being elitist about it and acknowledge that someone's got clear the pipes...someone's got make the machines and keep them running...

I agree 100% with No Rose Garden's sentiments. We need to provide full access to all career possibilities, evening steering students toward areas that fit their personal aptitudes. We should never be stigmatizing some of them simply because they get their hands dirty.