Mike Rowe Reacts To Rise In Skilled Trade Enrollment, Calls Gen Z ‘The Next Toolbelt Generation’

Mike Rowe
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

“Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe weighed in on the future of higher education, saying he believes Gen Z will become “the next toolbelt generation.”

The 62-year-old recently appeared on Fox News’ “One Nation with Brian Kilmeade” to discuss a recent Wall Street Journal report highlighting increased enrollment into vocational training programs.

Kilmeade asked Rowe to comment on the data, which comes from the National Student Clearinghouse. It showed a 16% increase in overall enrollment for vocational-focused community colleges compared to 2022. The Journal also noted an increase of 23% for students pursuing construction jobs and a 7% rise in students enrolled in Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) and vehicle repair.

While the “Dirty Jobs” star said he wasn’t “ready for the victory lap” after seeing the data, he said that he believes Gen Z is more willing to consider trades, which he believes is positive.

“The color of collars is no longer the thing it used to be,” Rowe said, referencing the classification of blue-collar versus white-collar workers. “I just don’t think it matters.”

“The idea that the generation that has become the biggest target for entitlements and a lack of work ethic… I mean, these guys are an easy target. They’re snowflakes, essentially. But… we’re the clouds from which the snowflakes fell. And whatever you want to say about Gen Z, they will be the next toolbelt generation. Because the evidence demands a verdict,” he continued. 

The Discovery Channel host went on to mention the exorbitant cost of college as a significant driver for the switch. 

“And these kids have been around, and they’re seeing $94,000 a year at Tufts,” he went on. “They’re seeing all of the craziness… Brown and Dartmouth and Harvard. They’re seeing a $52 billion endowment at Harvard. They’re seeing all the craziness that’s constantly in the headlines,” Rowe said. “And they’re just saying, ‘Look, why do I want to start a career in a major I haven’t even declared yet and go that far into debt to pursue a job that probably doesn’t even exist, when we got 10,000 other jobs over here… that don’t require a four-year degree?'”

At another point in the conversation, Rowe mentioned how he finds it interesting that in the past, people worried about blue-collar jobs being replaced with technology, but now, with the popularity of AI, more are concerned about white-collar industries changing.


“The automation thing, you know, it’s funny — not ‘ha-ha’ funny, but interesting that the idea that the robots are coming to displace all of these so-called blue-collar jobs that have been around for 15 years,” Rowe said. “Now it’s AI, and the target is more white-collar jobs.”

“Look, plumbers are not going to be outsourced,” he continued. “Electricians, steam fitters, pipe fitters, the people my foundation tries to assist — they have a level of job security that the article in the Journal is referencing, and it’s a big deal, because those jobs have always been here for the last 20 years, as long as I’ve been doing this, they’ve been open, and it’s starting to tip where we’re literally turning a tanker around with regard to perceptions.”

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Mike Rowe Reacts To Rise In Skilled Trade Enrollment, Calls Gen Z ‘The Next Toolbelt Generation’