Mike Rowe, the Emmy award-winning television host, podcaster and CEO of the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, recently announced the launch of a new high school curriculum focused on instilling in students a strong work ethic.

The program has been adopted by Western High School in Las Vegas. It’s called the “Warrior Pathway Program” and will award upwards of $5 million for the top 50 students who graduate and pursue a trade school degree.

“I thought it would be a good idea to get a work ethic curriculum into high schools so we could at least have a conversation about the benefit of showing up early and staying late and embracing a modicum of personal responsibility, delayed gratification, positive attitude and work ethic.”

Rowe’s concentration on trade schools doesn’t reflect any disdain for traditional two-or- four-year colleges. “We’ve heard the best path for most people is a four-year degree,” he’s said. “These things become platitudes and before long it’s inculcated in our minds that there is a path to success, and this is what it looks like. We have to be mindful that these stereotypes and stigmas actually exist, and rather than pretend they don’t, it’s useful to talk about them head-on.”

Though not saying it, Rowe is acknowledging that God calls different people to different jobs. It’s very much a personal decision and one that should be pursued with both fervent prayer and wise counsel.

Scripture has a lot to say about work in general, but especially our work ethic.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” wrote the apostle Paul (Col. 3:23). “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” urged King Solomon (Ecc. 9:10). He also warned, “Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread” (Proverbs 20:13).

That God chose to include in the Bible strong admonitions to work heartily, consistently, and steadily, suggests such an ethic may not come naturally and easily to everyone or anyone. Left to our own vices, we’re prone to laziness and doing just enough to get by.

Once more, teaching students the fundamentals may seem overly elementary and even out of place for a high school curriculum – but if boys and girls aren’t receiving the training at home or in their church or community, where else might they receive it?

I’m grateful to my own father for modeling a strong work ethic. Up at 5 a.m. and on a commuter train into New York City by 6:15 a.m., he embodied the stereotype of the hardworking family man. His return each evening was also inspirational and instructional. In our younger years, we’d wait for him at the end of our street across from the station. He’d walk down the stairs, briefcase in hand – surrounded by what seemed like an army of fellow laborers. In retrospect, the exposure to so many hardworking folks normalized the idea of sacrificing for the family.

Another element of his strong work ethic centered on my dad’s love for what he did, believing he was serving the Lord as well as his employer. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31) urged the apostle Paul. It’s one thing to do your job, but it’s another thing to do it with enthusiasm and a spirit of gratitude where you see employment as a privilege.

A good work ethic isn’t just doing the work – but doing it honorably, ethically, and in the right spirit. One of the best gifts we can give to our children is having them see us enjoying the work we do. Seeing the purpose in what we’re doing keeps us going and helps sow the seeds for the next generation.


Image credit: mikeroweWORKS Foundation