Via Tumblr – Lapham’s Quarterly to be more specific – I got wind of Mike Rowe’s testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Mr. Rowe is the host of Dirty Jobs on The Discovery Channel – a show I rarely get to see since it’s on cable, which I don’t have; nevertheless, it caught my eye and I spent some time reading it because it eerily coincides with a book I’m currently (finally) reading – Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford.

Both Mr. Crawford and Mr. Rowe are calling for a re-examination of the place that manual labor holds in our society – the manner in which our physical connection to things we use has been severed by a replace (vs. repair and maintain) culture and mindset. Both make astute observations about what’s being lost in the process – Mr. Crawford’s are very in-depth (I’m still in the first few chapters of the book, but other readers have already hailed it as an insightful study), but Mr. Rowe’s thoughts cut to the quick of the immediate impact given the current economic climate:

“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.”

It’s that last sentence that I find quite chilling. In all the talkregarding the downturned economy, from people on both sides of the political divide, I don’t hear a lot of talk about connecting a vast percent of the vast number of unemployed people to current tradesmen as mentors to pass on the skill and craft of these folks before they retire, giving valuable job skills to those who need them and re-elevating manual labor from it’s current “menial,” perceived lower status.

Both are worth a read.