In true Mike Rowe fashion, Nexstar Network’s 2023 Super Meeting keynote wasted no time launching into a historical account of how the award-winning television show Dirty Jobs got its humble start in the sewers of San Francisco. In granular and graphic detail, Mike described his first foray of reporting on innerworkings of the underground tunnels filled with rodents, roaches, and raw sewage, which had the audience laughing – and cringing – simultaneously.
He explained on a deeper level how Dirty Jobs was an ode to his grandfather – affectionately known as Pop – a multi-trades wizard who worked as a plumber, electrician, and carpenter.
Mike’s granddad had a huge influence on him at a young age, growing up in the house that Pop built as he worked – and learned life lessons – from a man whose identity was rooted in his hands-on trades career. Mike explained that his Dirty Jobs mission evolved to 20 years of episodes that placed a spotlight on hundreds of trades workers by sharing their personal dirty jobs stories and elevating their impact.
“Of all the things we can’t control in this country, the one thing we can is the definition of a good job,” Mike explained. “We need to look at the trades as an aspirational opportunity not a vocational consolation prize. We have to come at this from every angle. We need shop classes back in high schools. We don’t need lectures or sermons, but we need disciples and evangelicals for the trades. That’s why I came here. What I would say is that you can do something about it. You can make your own employees the heroes that they are. It’s not about actors or scripts, it’s about telling the story of opportunity.”
As part of his support for the skilled trades and extending a hand to up-and-coming trades professionals, Mike also shared details about his foundation – mikeroweWORKS Foundation – which has evolved into a national trades resource center and scholarship program.
“There are academic, artistic, and athletic scholarships – but I wanted to create a program that shared a code I hold dear, and one that I learned from my granddad related to work ethic,” Mike explained. “We’ve had 2,000 people go through our program and the majority are making six-figures working with their hands. We don’t need actors, and most advertising isn’t good. Kids’ bull$#!* meter is finely tuned, and they know when they’re being told BS. Keep it real. Look to your employees to tell their success stories.”
Mike wrapped up his presentation by candidly answering several questions from Super Meeting attendees and left the stage inspiring us to do more to further the future of the trades.
Learn more about the mikeroweWORKS Foundation here.