Mike Rowe helps launch Go Build Alabama

The construction industry was one of the hardest hit by the economic downturn, so why is educating and recruiting more construction workers the focus of a new campaign?

With about a third of skilled tradesmen older than 50, new workers will be needed when the economy recovers. The state construction industry is partnering with Mike Rowe, star of “Dirty Jobs” and supporter of skilled labor, to launch Go Build Alabama – the first state to address this issue. Rowe will appear in ads and commercials for the campaign.

Go Build also works with Rowe’s mikeroweworks.com initiative, which focuses on the expanding gap in the trades while providing career resources. Rowe said this gap comes from society’s focus on college degrees and its devaluation of skilled trade jobs.

“We used to tell our kids that learning a trade was a great way to secure a worthwhile future,” Rowe said. “We don’t tell them that anymore. Today, we tell them if they want to get a really good job they are going to need a four-year degree. We’ve lumped the skilled trades into the ‘alternative education’ category and turned the entire field of study into some sort of vocational consolation prize.

“Is it any wonder we have a shortage of qualified tradesmen today?”

The Go Build campaign will include statewide print, online and television ads referring to the Web site, www.gobuildalabama.com, where people can learn about skilled trade careers, find information about training programs and more.

The campaign will kick off, fittingly, on Labor Day.

“I would like to go down the list alphabetically and work with every state to implement this kind of proactive program,” Rowe said. “Look out Alaska.”