As all fourteen of you (and most of the Moron Horde) knows, I was a machinist in my past life. The past life when I was employed, that is. I spent two years in high school getting certified, did a four year apprenticeship as a Tool and Diemaker, another few months getting my Quality Control Inspector Certificate and learned a whole lot of other stuff on the job. I added CNC programming and setup to my resume, along with CAD Drafting and Design, and a bunch of management experience. I've run several machine shops at various times during my thirty years spent in the manufacturing theater and loved every minute of it.
In addition, I got real close to an Associate Degree in Computer Science before I ran out of money (I paid my way because I didn't want to be burdened with a bunch of student loan debt).
You could say I enjoy learning stuff.
But I digress.
In the early Nineties, I began to notice a shift in the attitude of society towards the skilled trades. There was a decided bias against any job that involved getting dirty. This came as somewhat of a shock to me, since I valued the time spent in the shower (with a cold beer) after a day at work. In an hour, I was good to go. My job was dirty and dangerous, so what?
It was along about this time that president Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement and announced that we were going to move to a "service" economy. Several weeks before NAFTA was to take effect, the company I worked for that made automotive parts announced that they were closing operations here and moving the company to Mexico. This was just before the Holidays in 1994. Merry Christmas!
Things have gone downhill ever since for the manufacturing sector of our economy. My skills have become passe, an anachronism in the brave new economy where no one gets soiled and everyone has a college degree. We've watch other countries' economies expand to create a new middle class while ours has steadily declined. The things we used to make for ourselves, the goods that people always bought because they needed things like washers and dryers, computers, and cars were being produced by others in faraway lands who didn't share our passion for quality. What's worse was the attitude that began to pervade society that those in the skilled trades were somehow less intelligent and coarse.
Which wasn't right or accurate. My coworkers were bright and smart. Just as smart as anyone who attended college. You had to be to be good at your job. If you weren't, you didn't last long in a shop.
Economically, I knew this was a big mistake. Purchases of hard goods such as appliances and autos never declined as much during a downturn. Service jobs were and are dependent more upon disposable income, which fluctuated greatly during economic dips. My point is, we were sacrificing an important, vital and robust section of our economy to, what? I still haven't figured that out, except that concurrent with that transition was the political attitude (found primarily on the Left) that America was too prosperous and that in order to be "fair" to other countries, we gave away a significant portion of our wealth instead of encouraging them to develop these industries on their own.
Environmentalism had something to do with this, too. Dirty became bad, the harvesting of Earth's resources became "evil," we were "raping the planet" and causing all types of damage to the climate resulting in "global cooling." Then, we were causing "global warming."
That wasn't right or accurate either.
Thankfully, there are several prominent people in America today who are realizing this same thing and are trying to remedy it. Mike Rowe is one of them, along with John Ratzenberger. Mike has formed mikeroweWORKS.com in an effort to revitalize our manufacturing base by changing the societal attitude and image toward those who work in the skilled trades.
Mike's has penned an open letter to Mitt Romney, making the same offer he made to Obama four years ago with no response (go figure). Here's a snippet or two...
Dear Governor Romney,
My name is Mike Rowe and I own a small company in California called mikeroweWORKS. Currently, mikeroweWORKS is trying to close the country’s skills gap by changing the way Americans feel about Work. (I know, right? Ambitious.) Anyway, this Labor Day is our 4th anniversary, and I’m commemorating the occasion with an open letter to you. If you read the whole thing, I’ll vote for you in November.
...when our economy officially crapped the bed in 2008, I was perfectly positioned to weigh in on a variety of serious topics.
In each case, I shared my theory that most of these “problems” were in fact symptoms of something more fundamental – a change in the way Americans viewed hard work and skilled labor.
Certainly, we need more jobs, and you were clear about that in Tampa. But the Skills Gap proves that we need something else too. We need people who see opportunity where opportunity exists. We need enthusiasm for careers that have been overlooked and underappreciated by society at large. We need to have a really big national conversation about what we value in the workforce, and if I can be of help to you in that regard, I am at your service – assuming of course, you find yourself in a new address early next year.
According to Ben Domenich and Andy, Mitt's campaign has been informed and will respond to Mike. In addition to the obvious benefits for Mitt's presidential run, it's a perfect counter to Obama's "you didn't build that" statement denouncing America's producers.
Here's a video that I found a while back that shows what we're talking about. Gearheads amongst you will get an idea of what it's like to make something, something cool: a high-performance big-block engine.
From scratch. Enjoy.
Pardon me, I need a cigarette after that.
Where was I? Oh yeah. I was going to tell you some of the stuff you need to know in order to do something like that: a lot of math (horrors!), properties of metal and how quickly the cutters need to spin and be fed through the material, trigonometry, physics, computer programming and basic design skills. And that's just the beginning. Also a nice big, expensive machine. (Note the brand on the control face: Haas. That's one of NASCAR Champion Tony Stewart's sponsors.)
In other words, this isn't a job for the faint of mind or heart. And you can't tell me that video isn't cool.
One last clip and I'll leave you alone. It's a TED Talk by Mike on the virtues of work and sheep testicles.