Mike Rowe is an American actor known mainly for his work on shows like “Dirty Jobs” and “Somebody’s gotta do it.” He claims “We are lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist, that’s nuts.”

Mike Rowe speaks about America but he’s been to Australia on location and knows a lot about us. His comments on the American trade education system could be relevant here too. He says “Were our parents better off with a high school certificate than today’s graduates with a four-year degree? Of the three million jobs available in the USA today, less than 20% require a certificate higher than a high school diploma.”

Mike says the Government likes students; it artificially deflates unemployment figures and the Government “owns” the students until the debt is paid off. Another thing; is unemployment enabling employers to raise the level of qualifications required for a job? Mike recently spoke to Congress (allowed only five minutes) and was interviewed on the US Fox network. He says that “A number of large companies have already responded to my call for the formation of a consortium committed to closing our country’s ever-widening skills gap.”

Mike says “There are stigmas and stereotypes that discourage millions of people from exploring thousands of genuine opportunities in the skilled trades, and that millions of positions will remain unfilled until society changes its opinion on the definition of a good job. There are unintended consequences of promoting a four-year degree as the best path for the most people. The push for four-year institutions came at the expense of community colleges, trades schools, and apprenticeship programs.” Mike pointed out that parents and guidance counsellors were telling millions of kids; irrespective of their individual skills, that their best hope of success was the most expensive path available.

Mike said that this “cookie-cutter” approach to promoting higher education led to thousands of graduates with expensive degrees from excellent schools, but no prospects in their chosen field, and no way to pay off their student loans. Millions of Americans still view a career in the trades as some kind of “vocational consolation prize,” a bias as misguided as any other prejudice.  Mike says that if Trump is serious about spending a trillion dollars on infrastructure; America simply does not have a trained workforce standing by to fill the positions that currently exist. And we certainly aren’t prepared to fill the new positions a trillion dollars of infrastructure spending will surely create. Read “It’s not a choice” by Carolynne Bourne in OCT/NOV 2016 Supplier and ask “Is the situation in Australia any different?”