PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Why 'Working Smart' May Be the Wrong Advice for Young People

By David M. Kinchen
PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Why 'Working Smart' May Be the Wrong Advice for Young People
   In the waiting room at my Dodge dealership while my Dodge Caliber was getting its oil change and a check as to why the tire air pressure light was on, I came across a Popular Mechanics magazine that had a story that intrigued me.  
It was by "Dirty Jobs" reality TV star Mike Rowe and was about his guidance counselor in high school telling him he had to go to college and get a degree if he didn't want to end up doing manual labor.


In the article, headlined "Why 'Work Smart, Not Hard' is the Worst Advice in the World":

Rowe tells how skilled manual labor jobs are going begging, while many college graduates are either under employed or unemployed -- and burdened with tens of thousand of dollars of student loan debt.

The poor advice from a guidance counselor came when Rowe was 17 and he largely ignored it. Today, he's working in commercials and has a wonderful reality TV show that I  watch whenever I can.

When skilled working is brought up, I'm reminded of my older half-brother Jerry Emke (1932-2000), who excelled as a painting and decorating contractor and who also was a genius with motor vehicles. He could bring the average junkyard car back to top performance, as I knew first hand. I often inherited his rescued and revived cars when I was in high school and college. For my remembrance of this wonderful brother:

Rowe writes about a woman who owns a Caterpillar dealership in Las Vegas who told him she has openings for more than a dozen mechanics who are certified to work on the products she sells and services. 

 When I was in high school in rural Illinois (1953-57) our school had industrial arts and home economics classes for all students and special programs aimed at the farm kids attending our school, including working on tractors and other farm equipment. I was good at woodworking and other industrial arts courses, as well as most academic subjects (but not math!)  but  my guidance counselors tried to discourage me from pursuing a career in non academic areas. 

The (Mis) guidance counselors have won: Try to find programs today in even the largest high schools that were offered routinely back then. For the most part, schools largely ignore people who aren't interested in a four-year college degree and who want to work with their hands in "dirty jobs." Guidance counselors -- with their  college degrees  -- simply don't understand people who don't want to go to college. 

Germany -- to cite perhaps the best example of a nation that values skilled manual labor -- is famous for its apprenticeship programs that produce workers who help design and build desirable cars and motorcycles -- and that still makes some pretty fine Leica cameras. It's time we learned from examples like that. Read Rowe's wonderful piece to discover another career path.

It's probably too late to go back to retrieve what was wonderful then and still would be wonderful today, but an old guy can dream, can't he?

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