I dig Mike Rowe. Two years ago he was signing autographs in the local Lowe’s parking lot after work. My wife, oldest daughter and our then youngest (now middle) daughter stood in line for what seemed like an eternity to speak with Mike for a few minutes. He was kind, gracious, funny and stayed there at that table in the cool of the evening until everyone in our little suburban town that wanted to speak with him had the chance to do so. Nice guy.
Right now, American manufacturing is struggling to fill 200,000 vacant positions. There are 450,000 openings in trades, transportation and utilities. The skills gap is real, and it’s getting wider. In Alabama, a third of all skilled tradesmen are over 55. They’re retiring fast, and no one is there to replace them.
Alabama’s not alone. A few months ago in Atlanta I ran into Tom Vilsack, our Secretary of Agriculture. Tom told me about a governor who was unable to move forward on the construction of a power plant. The reason was telling. It wasn’t a lack of funds. It wasn’t a lack of support. It was a lack of qualified welders.
Makes me think that I should have spent the grad school $$$ on some basic welding skills.