For eight years “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe crisscrossed America, giving viewers a window into the hard but rewarding work that welders, steamfitters, pipefitters, electrical contractors, industrial electricians, commercial service electricians and others in the building trades perform.

In 2008, Rowe started a foundation called Mike Rowe Works to raise awareness among young people about the value of choosing hard work and skilled labor positions for a career. In an article on CNN, Rowe recounts a vivid memory on the way those types of jobs have been de-valued as viable opportunities for high school students.

mike rowe

“My guidance counselor…went on to show me this…crazy poster in his office. Two guys. A recent graduate holding his degree and looking very happy and optimistic next to a mechanic, head down, covered in grease. And the caption (said), ‘Work smart, not hard.’”

What does Mike Rowe have to do with commercial electrical work in Omaha? 

Mike Rowe amplified the message that careers in the trades are filled with opportunity and promise. That’s a message that far more people need to hear today, right here in our own backyard of Omaha, Nebraska.

The truth is that dirty jobs never left Omaha; over time, people aware of the value of working them did.

NECA, an organization Miller Electric supports, published an article recently about the need to propel the workforce of the future. They shed light on the reality that one third of the jobs created in the United States in the past 25 years did not exist before and that if we don’t train young and old workers alike now to fill those jobs, our country and all its local communities could face a shortfall of 11 million skilled workers over the next five years.

In that article, NECA states something we at Miller Electric not only wholeheartedly agree with, but are actively pursuing here in Omaha; that is the idea that:

  •      Productivity will improve if change is people-led and tech-enabled.
  •      Employees must be well trained to work with emerging technology and tools.
  •      Navigating into new jobs or careers can be exciting and fulfilling.

What is Miller Electric doing to interest more people in commercial electrical work?

Miller Electric is proactively working to inform our community of the value of a career in the trades through a variety of outreach programs. Those activities include:

  • Miller Internship Program – Since 2007, we have participated in the University of Nebraska School of Architectural Engineering and Construction’s Durham School Career Fair. Sophomore level and higher students at UNL, UNO and UNK looking to expand their knowledge with experience through paid internships apply for positions at Miller. We’ve hired several of our past interns into full time roles as Project Managers, Assistant Project Managers and Estimators. 
  • Undergraduate Tours – Every year, Miller Electric hosts undergraduate student tours of our facility and several construction sites. Miller Electric employees participate in the tours and visit campuses to provide career guidance for young students interested in becoming commercial electrical estimators, industrial electricians or local commercial electricians.
  • School Presentations – Each year, Miller Electric employees make presentations to middle school classes as part of their Career Day activities. We speak to students about the trades as an alternative to or in conjunction with a college education and how rewarding it can be to become a commercial service electrician.  
  • Career Academy & Career Fairs – The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 22 provides a program for all high schools in its geographic footprint for students to work during the summer following their junior year that can lead to an apprenticeship. About 20 students participate in this important program each year and we support their efforts to inform more counselors about the program so that more students can be exposed to its valuable benefits. Additionally, Miller Electric works with the Local 22 and OJAETC to recruit, interview and hire apprentices, CWs and CEs.
  • ACE Mentoring Program – ACE is an afterschool program that introduces high school students to careers in architecture, construction management, engineering and other disciplines. In conjunction with the Metropolitan Community College Fort Omaha Campus’ Construction Education Center, we help teach high school students how to build a shed (including electrical wiring). Along the way, we are exposing them to the idea of a career as a commercial electrician or industrial electrician and are showing them that it can be both fun and rewarding to work for a commercial electrical contractor like Miller Electric.
  • Cub Scout Demonstration – The Local 22 puts on an annual demonstration for Cub Scout packs with middle school age students to practice connecting electrodes to build a small functioning electrical assembly. As one way to create a more diverse workforce, Miller Electric is working with the Local 22 to create a similar event for local Girl Scout troops.

All of these efforts are geared toward the achievement of one goal – getting counselors, parents, young people, workers and businesses to see the value of commercial electrical work and other work in the trades, not as an alternative for those who aren’t interested in college, but an equally viable option for a fulfilling career.

Secondarily, we understand that unless we (and others working toward the same goal) are successful, our community will struggle to fill all of the important jobs we need to grow and thrive.

What would you like to see our community do to spread the word about the value of commercial electrical work and other trade jobs? Do you think they are as viable and rewarding of career paths as non-trade options? When do you think young people should be exposed to the variety of career options out there?