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Mike Rowe calls Gen Z the next ‘toolbelt generation’ amid increasing vocational enrollment

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“How America Works” host Mike Rowe expressed cautious optimism about a growing trend among Generation Z toward skilled trades on “One Nation with Brian Kilmeade.”

During Rowe’s interview with Fox News host Brian Kilmeade, the two discussed a recent Wall Street Journal story that noted an increase in enrollment for vocational training programs. 

The story cites National Student Clearinghouse for statistics finding an increase of 16% in enrollment for vocational-focused community colleges compared to 2022, an increase of 23% for students studying construction jobs and an increase of 7% for students enrolled in HVAC/vehicle maintenance and repair programs.

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When asked how “pleased” he was by the Wall Street Journal’s story, Rowe said he’s “not ready for the victory lap.”

Rowe highlighted the potential economic calculus that Gen-Zers are making.

“They’re seeing $94,000 a year at Tufts. 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?'”

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Kilmeade pointed to the increasing use of automation and artificial intelligence, asking Rowe if the technology poses a “problem.”

“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.”

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Rowe doubled down on the demand for electricians, pipe fitters and plumbers, among others, despite emerging technologies.

“Look, plumbers are not going to be outsourced,” he added. “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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