How 2008 Economic Crash Pushed Mike Rowe to Make His Game-Changing Foundation

by Quentin Blount
Photo by Getty Images

If you know Dirty Jobs star Mike Rowe at all, then you would know that he is a big-time promoter of jobs in the trades industry. But he put his words into action back in 2008 when the economic crash hit and so many Americans were left without jobs.

Let’s make no mistake about it. Mike Rowe will always be known for his work on the Discovery Channel series Dirty Jobs. Rowe follows along with our nation’s workers on the ground who do some of the most undesirable jobs out there. Not only that, but he also starred in the very similar CNN series, Somebody’s Gotta Do It.

Mike Rowe is a Huge Supporter of the Trades Industry

Mike Rowe has made an entire career out of promoting trade jobs. So, when the economic crash hit back in 2008, he put his money where his mouth is. Rowe started a foundation called mikeroweWORKS. It has since provided awards to more than 1,200 recipients, $5.2 million in Work Ethic Scholarship funding. It has reached people in more than 48 states and has supported more than 19 skilled trades. Oh, and the foundation’s website also put in bold red writing that they have awarded exactly $0 in funding to “whiners.”

In a 2017 sit-down with Philanthropy Round Table, Rowe spoke about starting his foundation in 2008.

“When the economy crashed in 2008, national unemployment was headline news,” he said. “With every new jobs report, a growing sense of dread seemed to be overtaking the country, as the number of unemployed Americans kept growing.”

Rowe also talked about his experience on Dirty Jobs. He says it showed him just how much the industry was hurting for skilled workers.

“On Dirty Jobs, though, it was a very different story. The employers I met on that show were all struggling to find skilled workers. Even at the height of the recession, I saw ‘Help Wanted’ signs in all 50 states, and talked with hundreds of small-business owners who said the biggest obstacles they faced were the stigmas and stereotypes that dissuaded people from exploring a career in the trades. It seemed obvious that closing the skills gap would never happen if we didn’t confront those misperceptions head on and challenge them at every turn.”

Rowe Provides Additional Details About His Foundation

Mike Rowe was asked what his foundation does in the same interview.

“mikeroweWORKS is designed to challenge the stigmas and stereotypes that keep millions of people from exploring a career in the trades,” Rowe explained. “Its primary goal is to close the skills gap by calling attention to millions of unloved opportunities, and challenge the idea that a four-year degree is the best path for the most people.”

He also dove headfirst into details about the foundation’s scholarship program.

“We also offer scholarships that pay for specific types of vocational training. At its base, mikeroweWORKS is a [public relations] campaign for hard work and skilled labor.”