‘Dirty Jobs’ star Mike Rowe: Engineers blur the lines between white and blue collar work

March 1, 2012 by Darren Engineering, Manufacturing 0


In case we missed you at SolidWorks World earlier this month (the DraftSight booth was really hopping!), reality TV star Mike Rowe had some inspiring words about the engineering profession and the role it will continue to play in creating new jobs and expanding the economy.

Rowe, host of “Dirty Jobs” on the Discovery Channel, is best known for getting himself into unusual occupational situations — jobs that most of us never think about, but which obviously have to get done by somebody. Recent gigs the TV personality has sampled include an Owl Vomit Collector, Sewage Plant Worker, Coal Miner, Elevator Repairman, Toilet Crusher, and Charcoal Factory Worker.

“Dirty Jobs” celebrates the spirit of the American worker (it could apply to any country, of course) and honors people who silently devote a 100 percent effort to tasks that many observers might consider totally thankless.

“I first thought this was a solid waste convention!” Rowe joked with the crowd, making a play on words with SolidWorks.

“We find people who do things over and over again with joy” with jobs “normally associated with drudgery,” the TV personality said, adding that he really enjoys meeting people who solve problems without having to read the instruction manual (which in many cases don’t exist).

Rowe, who is also the voice of the “Deadliest Catch,” said he never rehearses any of the jobs we see him try on the show because he wants to share his first impressions and create the feeling that the viewers are trying the job for the first time with him.

His latest project is mikeroweWORKS.com, a website devoted to boosting enrollment in technical and vocational schools. The site was inspired by the irony of the “Skills Gap,” the fact that despite unemployment numbers being near an all-time high, there remain thousands of technical jobs without enough trained applicants.

"Dirty Jobs" star Mike Rowe is devoted to promoting the economic benefits of vocational schools.

In his talk, Rowe praised a Nevada pig farmer who devised his own machine to process uneaten food from Las Vegas casinos into feed for his animals. “He put it together like McGyver with parts from a junkyard,” he said referring to the classic 1980s secret agent show. “We see this kind of talent all the time.”

“But with all the innovation in the world, whether you put it in a smartphone or a computer, if you don’t have the ability to replicate it, all you’ve done is make a cool prototype,” Rowe said.

He described the engineering profession as occupying a noble space bridging between blue and white collar jobs.

“One of the great fictions that has been at work in our country for decades is this blue and white collar notion. We just love the ‘either-or.’ What do you do? Are you in this camp or in that camp? The real action today in respect to work is what you guys do,” he said.

“(With engineers) it’s neither blue nor white. It’s a willingness to get dirty, to use your brain AND use your hands.”

In the same spirit, Rowe also met backstage with SolidWorks marketing guru Darren Henry for a freewheeling discussion covering the etiquette of vomiting on the job, what it’s like to walk on construction girders in the clouds, and the value of knowing how to identify feces from virtually any animal species.

Eavesdrop on the conversation here:


(Regardless of what color collar you wear, DraftSight, the professional-grade free 2D CAD tool from Dassault Systèmes, makes life easier for engineers, architects, CAD users, teachers and students alike).

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