"Dirty Jobs" host asks Romney for focus on skilled labor

Mike Rowe, host of the Discovery Channel series "Dirty Jobs," is seen at the Ebonex Corporation in Melvindale, Mich., which manufactures bone black pigments found in paints, lacquers, plastics, wood grain stains, artist colors, vinyl - and on reality TV hosts. Jeffrey Sauger/Discovery Channel

Mike Rowe, host of the Discovery Channel series "Dirty Jobs," is seen at the Ebonex Corporation in Melvindale, Mich., which manufactures bone black pigments found in paints, lacquers, plastics, wood grain stains, artist colors, vinyl
Jeffrey Sauger/Discovery Channel

The popular host of "Dirty Jobs," Mike Rowe, entered the political fray once again this week by writing a letter to Mitt Romney asking that he begin a "national conversation" about the lack of skilled, blue-collar workers.

Rowe, an advocate of skilled labor, argues that the "growing skills gap" is problematic for a country that needs trained laborers but cannot find enough people to fill the jobs, despite high unemployment.

"Even as unemployment remains sky high, a whole category of vital occupations has fallen out of favor, and companies struggle to find workers with the necessary skills," Rowe wrote, adding that the country has a "ridiculously narrow view of education" by prioritizing traditional education and labeling vocational schools "alternative."

"Certainly, we need more jobs, and you were clear about that in Tampa. But the Skills Gap proves that we need something else too. We need people who see opportunity where opportunity exists. We need enthusiasm for careers that have been overlooked and underappreciated by society at large. We need to have a really big national conversation about what we value in the workforce," Rowe wrote.

Rowe said he is "not an apologist for Organized Labor or for Management" but that he'll vote for Romney in November if he "read the whole" letter.

On Thursday, Romney's campaign aide Richard Gorka posted a picture on Twitter of Romney reading what Gorka said is the letter on his iPad.

Rowe wrote a letter to President Obama after his inauguration in January 2009 but said in his letter to Romney that he never received a response from Mr. Obama. http://www.mikeroweworks.com/scrap-yard/feedback-and-stuff/letter-to-the-president/

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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