Skilled Trades: mikeroweWorks

When my kids were young,  I learned so much.  I finally understood how roads were made because we read all the books the library had on the subject.  I learned to tell a back hoe -front loader from an excavator. I finally understood how a house was built because we saw it on tv.   We learned what happened to our recyclables because my son’s favorite video every morning was the one of the glass sorting machine and the scrap metal recycling equipment working hard to the tune of  Wagner’s Symphony in C.

As soon as the kids got to elementary school, all the time that we used to spend dreaming about making and doing and smashing and trashing was taken up by reading logs and math worksheets. It wasn’t until my daughter enrolled in a technical school (Benson Polytechnic High School in Portland, Oregon) that I even understood that these wonderful jobs we learned about when the kids were in preschool were the skilled trades.

My liberal arts education had emphasized reading and writing and nothing much useful besides rhetoric and classical design.  (Ask me about the subjunctive case in subordinate clauses, go ahead, ask me.)  I am hopeless when it comes to working a machine and I don’t even know where I would begin to fix my car, or replace an electrical outlet, or bend sheet metal.  These tasks themselves are not skilled trades, but they are the tip of the iceberg of practical skills and crucial jobs that we rely on trained professionals to preform for us every day.

Picture of Mike Rowe, host of Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs
Mike Rowe, host of Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs (photo from

Thank TV for bringing these jobs back to the minds of adults. Mike Rowe, popular host of Discovery Chanel’s Dirty Jobs, has a great website, MikeRoweWorks, devoted to the promotion and growth of careers in the skilled trades. This is a place where a parent can go whose child doesn’t dream of growing up to become an economist but rather wants to drive heavy equipment or work on sky scrapers, or install the HVAC systems that keep us comfortable. A few highlights:

Lots of good stuff on this website, worth spending some time on if you want to learn more about the jobs that once fascinated us as kids.


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