About 1,600 people, including 10 students from Perry High School, filled the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines Friday night for the Iowa Skilled Trades conference.
The dinner program featured a keynote address from Mike Rowe of the popular TV show “Dirty Jobs.” Tickets for the event fetched $150 each, but a generous sponsorship from Carhartt and G&L Clothing covered the cost for sponsored our the SkillsUSA state officers and PHS industrial technology instructor Curt Cornelius.
“It was a great opportunity for our students to network with industry members and students from across the state,” Cornelius said. The clothing companies also furnished the group with brand-name shirts and coats.
Rowe talked about the major problem in this country with over 6 million unfilled skilled trade jobs and no one to fill them.
Rowe, known for his work on the Discovery Channel series “Dirty Jobs” from 2005 to 2012 and the CNN series “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” from 2014 to 2016, is an outspoken advocate of SkillsUSA and similar organizations.
PHS student and SkillsUSA participant Sadee Whitfield was among the audience members to ask Rowe a question following his speech. Whitfield asked Rowe whether he thought SkillsUSA was helping to close the skills gap.
“What we do have are tens of millions of capable people who have simply stopped looking for work, and millions of available jobs that no one aspires to do,” Rowe said. “That’s the skills gap, and it’s gotta close. If MikeRoweWorks can help, we’re standing by.”
Rowe also gained attention with a facebook post comparing the popularity of “Dirty Jobs” with the 2016 election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency.
“The people did not want a politician,” Rowe said. “The people wanted to be seen. Donald Trump convinced those people that he could see them. Hillary Clinton did not.”
Rowe has created a non-profit organization and a fundraising campaign to promote manual trades. According to the group’s website, “The mikeroweWORKS Foundation started the Profoundly Disconnected campaign to challenge the absurd belief that a four-year degree is the only path to success. The Skills Gap is here, and if we don’t close it, it’ll swallow us all.”
For more information about Rowe’s group, visit the website.