Finding Fulfillment in Work: The Charles Koch Foundation and mikeroweWORKS Foundation

Best known for showing the difficult and often messy work of everyday Americans through shows like Dirty Jobs and Somebody’s Gotta Do It, Mike Rowe has long been committed to expanding awareness of the value of hard work in a number of fields. His efforts aren’t relegated to television programming, though. In fact, the Charles Koch Foundation recently partnered with the mikeroweWORKS Foundation to support scholarships that help people get trained for skills-based professions in high demand.

The Charles Koch Foundation is happy to support Rowe in helping people find meaning and fulfillment through hard work and self-reliance. This year, we provided $225,000 in scholarships for his Work Ethic Scholarship Program, which promotes greater opportunities for men and women who want to improve their lives by developing their skills.

More than 150 participants received scholarships this year, helping them overcome barriers to their success. In addition to financial support, a component of the Work Ethic Scholarship Program is Rowe’s S.W.E.A.T. Pledge, which connects scholarship recipients to foundational values such as recognizing the dignity of hard work. The Charles Koch Foundation appreciates and supports these students’ efforts to develop their unique aptitudes and abilities.

Earlier this month, Rowe took to his Facebook page to discuss the values he shares with Charles Koch. Recalling their first meeting, Rowe writes:

I was most surprised by his commitment to reinvigorate the skilled trades. I knew his foundation focused on many forms of higher education, but I had no idea we shared a common view regarding the skills gap. He pointed out that countless small businesses begin with a tradesperson who learned a skill that was in demand.

Rowe and Charles Koch also recently sat down together for a conversation that touched on topics ranging from first jobs to Mr. Koch’s commitment to criminal justice reform and removing barriers to opportunity to his belief that societies of “mutual benefit” contribute to happiness.

“People who lead happy, fulfilling lives are ones that develop their abilities and figure out how they can best contribute … and they’re rewarded for it and respected for it,” articulated Mr. Koch.

In addition to the Work Ethic Scholarship Program, the Charles Koch Foundation supports SkillsUSA, a non-profit organization that provides professional development opportunities for students pursuing a skilled trade. This year, we had the honor of providing $25,000 in additional scholarships for students who qualified for but couldn’t afford to attend SkillsUSA’s National Leadership and Skills Conference.

“We sincerely thank the Charles Koch Foundation and Koch Industries for supporting America’s future skilled workforce and these deserving students,” said SkillsUSA executive director Tim Lawrence. “Our students are so grateful for the support they receive and deserve every opportunity to showcase their skills.”

The annual SkillsUSA Championships, which features student leadership and hands-on occupational skills contests in diverse fields—ranging from robotics to carpentry—was held this year in June. The Charles Koch Foundation’s own John Hardin even led a session at the event with Mike Rowe for more than 1,000 students and teachers.

We believe that people thrive when they have the opportunity to apply their diverse skills toward improving people’s lives. That’s why we’re grateful for the opportunity to support the mikeroweWORKS Foundation and SkillsUSA in their work to help people lead fulfilling lives by developing their unique talents and abilities.

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