Mike Rowe celebrates more students forgoing college for apprenticeships: ‘Chickens have come home to roost’
Rising number of US college-aged students pursuing apprenticeships instead, WSJ reports
"How America Works" host and "Dirty Jobs" legend Mike Rowe feels a sense of gratification after learning that more American students are deciding against applying for college.
"Fifteen years ago, the writing was on the wall. Every time five people leave the skilled trades, two replace them. It's just bad math. So we knew it was coming," Rowe said on "Varney & Co." Friday.
Over the past decade, college enrollment has declined about 15%, while the number of apprentices has increased by more than 50%, the Wall Street Journal reported based on federal and Urban Institute data. Estimates today show that colleges and universities enroll about 15 million students in total, while companies employ around 800,000 apprentices.
"We also knew that colleges were raising tuition faster than any other commodity that'd ever increased: food, real estate, health care, all of it," Rowe noted. "And now the chickens have come home to roost for real. The problem is still with us."
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Rowe expanded on how vocational or apprentice programs are showing "signs of encouragement" while Americans disassociate from the college-for-all culture.
"Four-year enrollments are down, trade schools are up. And let me just say real quick, I know it's going to come back over the net at me when I say that, it's going to be, ‘Oh, he's anti-college, he's anti-education.’ I'm not," Rowe explained, "I'm simply saying that after decades of telling generations of kids, the best path for the most people is the most expensive path, we've created this problem that we have right now. I think the ship is starting to turn."
While the "How America Works" host gave kudos to President Biden hitting the road next week to tout jobs that don’t require a four-year degree, Rowe said the president must be able to address multiple issues at once.
"It's the cookie-cutter advice. It's the bromides that have got parents and guidance counselors and kids brainwashed. It's not one path for the most people," he clarified. "We have to put all the options on the table early, and then we have to affirmatively confront the stigmas and the stereotypes and the myths and the misconceptions that keep people out of these careers."
In an effort to support young people who want to pursue vocational or industrial jobs, Rowe created his nonprofit, mikeroweWORKS Foundation. This month, Rowe’s awarding $1 million in work ethic scholarships to students trying to make a difference.
"It's difficult to look into the soul of an individual and ascertain their character. But we try, we champion work ethic in the same way a lot of other scholarships will focus on scholastic aptitude or talent or athletic ability," the job expert said.
"We try to make a case that says, look," he continued, "if you're willing to learn a skill that's in demand, if you're willing to show up early, stay late, apply yourself, we can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a road to something that looks a lot like prosperity."
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Though the importance of work ethic has been part of Rowe’s core message for 15 years, he pointed out it wasn’t until recently he could point to young people who have practiced the mentality.
"It's only the hardest thing in the world to do. It's hard to define, but I know this for sure: when you find it, you can either reward it or ignore it," Rowe said. "So the TV shows I've worked on over the years, 'Dirty Jobs,' 'How America Works'... they're all an attempt to start a conversation around opportunity. And if you can get a kid interested at that point, then it's incumbent on us to encourage that interest."