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Fixing Our Schools; Dirty Jobs in Demand

Aired May 21, 2011 - 09:30   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: College graduations happening today all across the country. Now, I don't want to rain on your commencement day, grads. But the question we're asking this morning: is college really worth it?

LZ Granderson is a contributor.

LZ, a majority of college graduates say, yes, getting the diploma was a good investment. They earn $20,000 more because of it. But the same study also found that 3/4 of Americans think college is no longer affordable. I think both of those assessments are probably right.

Bottom line: you have to make sure your college degree is worth it, don't you?

LZ GRANDERSON, CNN.COM CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. I think we can safely say gone are the days we can go to college and study Latin for the fun of it. I think we'd be able to come out, you know, and still be able to pay our bills and pay for student loans and things like that.

ROMANS: Pedro Noguera is a professor at New York's University of Steinhardt School of Education.

Pedro, you say the cost of college wouldn't be so much of an issue if we were getting more for our money.

PEDRO NOGUERA, STEINHARDT SCHOOL OF EDUCATION, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Well, that's right. I think one of the big problems facing American families is the fact that college tuition is going up quite a bit, almost every year at many colleges and universities, and it does raise the question about accessibility and about what you get for the money.

And I think for many families, they're starting to make tough decisions about what kind of schools they'll send their children to, whether or not that public university which may have been -- seemed less desirable before is actually a better bargain.

ROMANS: Yes, I went to a state school. So, I'm a big proponent of, hey, you don't need to spend 40 grand a year to get a good college degree and a good job, but state schools, if you are a motivated student, can do that for you.

You know, LZ, here's the question. You can't graduate with an awful lot of debt, and then having studied Latin for the fun of it, not know what you want to do. Kids got to be a lot more serious early on, don't they?

GRANDERSON: Absolutely. And I think one of the reasons why we see such high grades coming from the Asian-American communities because they stress getting a degree that's going to be immediately applicable to jobs that they can hire in and get a good, high salary. And that, unfortunately, because of the high cost of education -- of college education, that you're finding less and less students are able to go into school and explore and expend their mind just for the sheer sake of exploring their mind, but actually being forced to think about being more goal-oriented, what does this lead me to?

ROMANS: Now, well, you brought up Asian-American students and the success rates there. And I guess that leads me to my next question, LZ, because one of my producers tells me that you're a bit of a tiger dad. Tell me, what is your grade policy at home?

GRANDERSON: Wow. I didn't realize I was the tiger dad, but my son, he's a really smart kid. I, you know, went to graduate school. His mother is currently studying for her PhD. So, he comes from a background in which education is very important. And he's a smart kid. And so, he's expected to get straight A's, 4.0.

ROMANS: And if he doesn't?

GRANDERSON: And if he doesn't, you know, there's incremental punishment based upon what he gets. For instance, if he brings home a B, which happened once, he loses privileges of his cell phone after 6:00. He's not able to use his television or computer after 7:00.

If he brings home a C, which hasn't happened, but he did get a C on a math test once, I had him taken off the basketball team. I said, "You can only have extracurricular activity once the curricular activity is at a satisfactory." And for us, that means straight A's.

ROMANS: So, I got to ask you, Pedro, are you a tiger dad? I mean, what kind of expectations do you have at home for your kids?

NOGUERA: Well, I want my kids to succeed as well. But, most importantly, I want them to live happy and fulfilling lives.

And I know -- I have a son right now who is 19. He graduated from high school a year ago. I knew he wasn't ready for college right away. He didn't have the motivation, but I knew that he needed to do something productive.

So, this year, he's working for with a firm called City Air (ph) in Los Angeles. He works at a tutoring school. He's up every morning at 5:30 a.m. He works until 7:00 in the night. He's up -- most times, he gets home, he has to go to bed right away because he's so tired.

He's learning a lot about the world of work and about service. He will go to college next year. But right now, I think that working is really what's best for him.

I'm seeing lots of 18-year-olds out there who really aren't ready for college. They lack the maturity and they lack the focus. ROMANS: That's the thing. You got to read the kid. You have to read each kid.

NOGUERA: That's right.

ROMANS: And that's what's so important because, you know, we can joke about being tiger moms or tiger dads, but you really have to have the incentive structure for whatever the interest and the ambitions and the talent of your own kid.

NOGUERA: That's right. Life is not a race, I would say. You know, the main goal is that you do have a sense of accomplishment, a sense of purpose, but also, a sense of fulfillment.

I think as parents, we want to guide our kids, make sure that they make good choices, but also that we don't force them into fulfilling our dreams. And then end up with children who are depressed and unhappy.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks so much. Pedro Noguera, LZ Granderson, gentlemen, another fascinating discussion. Nice to see both of you.

Up next, we talk dirty jobs with Mike Rowe of the Discovery Channel, who suggests America's workplace is more like a combat zone.


MIKE ROWE, "DIRTY JOBS": We have this great rift between blue and white collar. I would just say our society has waged a sort of cold war on work.


ROMANS: We'll tell you why some are skipping college in favor of vocational school and why that may not be a bad idea for some folks in this rough economy.


ROMANS: "In-Depth" this week on CNN, America's job hunt. For decades, the message, "go to college, get the white collar job" -- that's has ruled America. But Mike Rowe, host of "Dirty Jobs," is working to change that. He's stressing the good jobs are often the ones that built and still build this country.


ROMANS (voice-over): You know him as the host of "Dirty Jobs."

MIKE ROWE, DIRTY JOBS: My name is Mike Rowe. That's my job.

ROMANS: Where he catches snakes.

ROWE: I'm being bit by a snake.

ROMANS: Cleans up tar. ROWE: Doing some glopping (ph).

ROMANS: And deals with a lot of dirt.

And now, Mike's taking on an issue he says he learned from the people who deal with all our dirt.

ROWE: We've got this great rift in between blue and white collar. I would just say that our society has waged a sort of cold war on work.

ROMANS: A war on a specific type of work, skilled labor. As our workforce shifted to more white collar jobs and the definition of a good job changed, lucrative skilled labor careers such as plumbers, electricians and machinists have seen their image suffer.

ROWE: There's a category of work, though, in our work force that's critical, and those jobs have come to feel like, call it vocational consolation prizes, and we are simply not celebrating their contribution. That's why you have a skills gap right now, at the same time as you have unemployment.

ROMANS: According to the Department of Labor, skilled labor like plumbers and steamfitters will see a 16 percent increase in the number of jobs available by the year 2018. Skilled construction workers, a 19 percent bump.

The problem: finding workers with the right qualifications to fill the jobs, and an aging work force that will retire soon.

ROWE: All my other suits are made out of rubber.

ROMANS: This problem brought Mike all the way to Capitol Hill, where he testified in front of the Senate Commerce Committee about the skilled labor crisis.

ROWE: We need a national PR campaign for skilled labor, like a big one, something that addresses the widening skills gap head on, and reconnects the country with the most important part of our workforce.

ROMANS: They are the, quote, "dirty jobs." And while not glamorous, they are essential to keep the country running.

ROWE: It's not about oh, no, the poor tradesman. They're going to be fine. They're going to be great, in fact. It's the rest of us who rely on their work. We're going to take it in the neck.


ROMANS: Those are jobs that can't be outsourced, by the way, and they're also called ladder jobs -- meaning you can start, move up the ladder and own your own business and actually employ people down the road. When it comes to vocational trade and salaries? Plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters earn around $50,360 every year; electricians, $51,810; and construction laborers are paid about $33,590 a year. That's according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you rise up the ranks, the more time you have in this trade, you can make well over six figures.

For more on America's job hunt, log on to or pick up a copy of this week's "TIME" magazine.

And up next: we'll tell you why women may hold the key to creating most of the new jobs over the next five years.


ROMANS: Studies show women are increasingly starting their own businesses, and over the next decade, will make up the majority of new entrepreneurs in this country. The question, though: how to grow those businesses from relatively small endeavors to million-dollar enterprises.

I'd like to introduce you to one woman who'd like to grow from $250,000 in sales to the coveted seven figures.


STACEY ANTINE, FOUNDER & CEO, HEALTHBARN USA: We're entering the health garden which what is so unique about it is that kids take care of this.

ROMANS (voice-over): Stacey Antine is living her dream. After a successful career in public relations, she traded her power suit and big city office for blue jeans and a barn. HealthBarn USA is the result, a hands-on program to teach children and families about organic farming and nutrition.

ANTINE: So, if you don't have vitamins and minerals in your soil, your plants aren't going to grow healthy and you won't grow healthy.

ROMANS (on camera): What the kids are learning here are how to plant the seeds of sustainable growth, how to grow a healthy garden and grow a healthy body. For women entrepreneurs, sustainable growth means finding money and finding mentors.

(voice-over): Mentors like Nell Merlino, who created Come Me In and its program Make Mine a Million Dollars, to help women like Stacey take their businesses to $1 million in sales.

NELL MERLINO, FOUNDER & CEO, COUNT ME IN: Seventy percent of all women business owners are not only at $50,000 or less in annual revenue, 70 percent of all women on businesses are that small.

ROMANS (on camera): Really?


ROMANS (voice-over): The challenge:

MERLINO: To take a well thought-out business that is not making a lot of money and get it to $1 million in revenue. And Stacey had that kind of business. ANTINE: For a lot of women, I learned, as being part of Count Me In is that, I mean, they started businesses, super cool businesses out of their kitchen. And they're like, oh, my God, now what do I do?

Who wants to step up and do it?


ROMANS (on camera): And you'd like to grow your revenue. So, how are you going tot do it?

ANTINE: Well, basically, they count me in as just a huge inspiration because winning that competition gave me a lot of confidence and it actually got me out in the trenches of working in the garden everyday with the kids and focusing the big picture.

ROMANS (voice-over): A big picture that she hopes includes six zeros.


ROMANS: Catherine Kaputa is a brand specialist and author of "The Female Brand." And Nell Merlino, who you saw in that piece, is the founder and president of Count Me In, for women's economic independence and the creator of Take Our Daughters to Work Day.

Nell, you know, it's interesting. When we see Stacey in this piece, she's trying to grow from $250,000 in sales, which is basically enough to support her, her two barns and two different locations and a couple of employees. She's got to kick it up to the next gear.

A lot of women are like this. If we're going to have more companies and have more employees, they've got to kick it up to the next level.

MERLINO: They certainly do. And I think one of the ways for them to do that is for them to make a plan, set goals, and work with people who were accountable to them, because I think, often, we think these things -- we say to ourselves we want them, and nobody else knows. And if we don't do it, nobody is pushing us.

ROMANS: The statistics in that piece, that 70 percent of women known businesses have $50,000 or less. I mean, that's basically your own employer, that you are a single person.

MERLINO: You are. And most of them are by themselves. Only 16 percent of known businesses actually have employees. So, what we work on --

ROMANS: Sixteen?

MERLINO: Sixteen percent have employees. So, what we work on is help them delegate responsibility to others for the opportunity to make more money. Women see employees too often as an expense, as opposed to as somebody who is going to help you generate more revenue. When they have that mine shift, that's when they really start to be able to make money. ROMANS: Catherine, do women have to be more aggressive? Is it men have more confidence and more aggressive when they're starting a business? And so, they are more readily delegating and hiring more people and taking bigger risks? Or why is it that women seem to have a smaller operation when they started?

CATHERINE KAPUTA, AUTHOR, "YOU ARE A BRAND!": I think women don't think as big as they need to think. And I think that what women don't realize is we have a lot of strengths that we don't utilize in the business world. For example, you know, women are very strong in verbiagility (ph) and we're very strong in relationship building. But we don't use them to these, you know, aptitudes to build, you know, big businesses, you know? And that's really what's important to do.

ROMANS: You have some really good advice, Catherine. You say: don't downplay your accomplishments. You say: be a grand ambassador for your business, have a "creation story," and an "elevator speech." Tell me about that.

KAPUTA: OK. Well, I think every entrepreneur needs to have a creation story -- you know, the story of how they started the business and why they started the business. You know, when you think of Nike, Phil Knight has his creation story, you know? He was a high school basketball star, a track star. He was a college track star and then, he never liked his shoes, you know? So, he came up with this idea. His partner one day was eating waffles and had the idea for the soles.

So, he has a whole story. You know, selling the shoes out of the trunk of his car.

ROMANS: So, what if the story is I got really sick and tired of working crazy hours because I want to be home with my kids, too, and I just couldn't do the rat race. If that's the genesis of your job, how do you -- because that is why a lot of women are starting businesses, because they have to do it on their own terms.

KAPUTA: Yes, but, still, that's a great part of your story, and you want to blog that part of your story, too, because people really, in today's digital world, people want to know the people behind the business. People want to know you r story. And that's a good way to do it.

ROMANS: Let me ask you, Nell, the same question about, should women be more aggressive?

MERLINO: Absolutely. I recently did a foreword for a book for a group of young women in their 20s, and it's called "Bad Ass Businesswomen."


MERLINO: And you're seeing the generational change.

ROMANS: Really?

MERLINO: Yes. I am so happy to see it. They are aggressive. I don't know if that's the right word but considering the name of the book.

ROMANS: Are they confident?


MERLINO: I think the issue is confidence and also having plans and having goals and putting the goals out there. Telling someone you want to -- you know, you're going to build $1 million business, you want to do a $10 million business, people start to look at you differently when you express it, as oppose today saying, oh, I've got this little thing, and, you know, could you help me? As opposed to, this is what I want to accomplish and how would you suggest I do that or how did you do that? As opposed to -- I'm seeing that. I am seeing that confidence.

In young women -- and I'm also seeing in women who go through our program who finally get that their physical posture as well as what they say and their belief in their product or service. They have to speak about that. I think, similar to what you were saying about, you know, not, you know, underplaying their accomplishments.

KAPUTA: Yes. And women don't -- yes, women -- you know, one of the things major study of men and women in business. They found that men are very comfortable branding themselves and talking about their accomplishments, what one social scientist called the male hubris effect. In fact, they're so good at it, they often exaggerate their accomplishments.

MERLINO: I tell them that if you really want to make a difference, you better make a lot of money.


KAPUTA: Right.

MERLINO: It flips it around. Because every woman who gets to $1 million, they talk about the foundation they want to set up. And I look at them and say, please, I appreciate you want to be charitable. The most charitable thing you can do right now is create more jobs. So, grow your business.

KAPUTA: Right.

ROMANS: Creating more jobs and growing your business. And that's what -- this is more than a gender story, more than an economic story. That's what this is -- this is a jobs story, which is why we invited you here today.

Nell Merlino, founder and president of Count Me In -- thank you so much. Catherine Kaputa, the author of "You Are a Brand" -- thank you, ladies. Really appreciate it.

From investing in women to investing in your home to get it ready to sell. How to make sure your "for sale" sign reads sold.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROMANS: Welcome to the spring selling season for real estate and the forecast looks a lot like the weather around most of the country, dreary and overcast. It's raining foreclosures and that's driving down home prices.

So, how do you sell your home in a buyer's market? It takes the right price, curb appeal and, of course, it's all about first impressions.


STEPHEN SAINT ONGE, HOME & STYLE DESIGNER: Now, when I drive up to this house, it's a great, classic American house, but it needs some attention. Obviously, the garage is chipping and needs to be painted. Putting -- you know, scraping and putting a fresh coat of paint will really help out with that.

Planting, cleaning out the leaves. Getting a leaf blower and blowing all this out. Cleaning out these flower beds and just cleaning it up with mulch and some simple flour plantings is not going to cost a lot of money. But that focal point of drawing you into the house is really going to be key.

ROMANS (voice-over): Forget the old adage, "It's what's on the inside that counts." In real estate, it's what on the outside.

SAINT ONGE: You got a great backyard.

ROMANS: Home and style designer and author of "No Place Like Home," Stephen Saint Onge helps homeowners who wants to sell. He helps them redesign the inside and outside in a buyer's market.

SAINT ONGE: People tend to notice. They notice the things that are not quite as nice looking, like maybe it's a plant that's dying or something like that. So, I would just get a nice, new plant, a flowering plant, and maybe stagger a few out here.

ROMANS: Plants won't break the bank, but a lot of sellers assume they need to make big, expensive renovations to sell their homes. In fact, a quarterly report on remodeling released by Harvard University projects annual growth in remodeling this year at only 0.2 percent.

But the returns on some home improvements can be worth the investment.

(on camera): The best returns in your renovation dollars are things like outdoor improvements -- the front door, for example. Let's say buying and installing a fiberglass front door. It will cost you about $1,000. You'll get back 60 percent when you sell -- 60 percent of your money.

Make it a steel front door, you get back more, 102 percent of your money.

A new garage door, you'll get back nearly 84 percent of your money.

And a new wood deck, that recoups about 73 percent.

All good investments.

(voice-over): And if you can't afford any of these things -- small, outside touches still matter.

SAINT ONGE: So, outside your house, my first impression driving up. You're in a neighborhood. So, people are going to come here, they're going to see front lawn. So, you know, cleaning up the lawn is always key before a showing.


ROMANS: Mike Aubrey is a licensed realtor and host of HGTV's "Real Estate Intervention."

Mike, it's curb appeal that's so important, isn't it, because you want somebody to be hooked right away? There are a lot of houses for sale. You got to make the first impression.

MIKE AUBREY, HOST, HGTV'S "REAL ESTATE INTERVENTION": Absolutely. I mean, you get one shot to put your best foot forward. And when you talk about a marketplace where there is as much inventory out there as there is right now, if you don't hook them in two seconds, they're going to be gone and never be back.

ROMANS: You know, in a job interview, they say you got 15 seconds to make the first impression. For a house, selling a house, you got 15 seconds to make the first impression. I think it's really interesting that a steel door, you know, $1,000 or 1,200 bucks might be the best return on your investment. It's really that curb appeal.

But, look, we feel like the sellers have all these disadvantages. But, remember, there are buyers who are out there. There are people moving for their jobs. There are people who are trying to start their first household.

Is this a good time to be buying a house? Mortgage rates, interest rates are still very low.

AUBREY: I tell you what, Christine -- I think this is maybe the most incredible time to buy a property we've ever seen. If you can make it through the hoops of actually being able to qualify for the loan and you can get through the underwriting standards, which right now are so tenuous, maybe like we've never seen in the country, then it's a great time to buy, because not only will you lock in a great interest rate, I think we have neared the bottom of the marketplace and you're going it be able to buy a house for what lower than anyone has in a while.

ROMANS: We know from the recent numbers. You can see that your selling your house has not been harder. When it comes to the numbers, existing home sales out from the National Association of Realtors, housing starts homes -- new homes being built, down 10.6 percent in April. Home values are down 32 percent from their peak in May, according to S&P's Case-Shiller.

What's your advice, if you're looking to sell, with this kind of a forecast? AUBREY: You know what? I think that you absolutely have to realize what is going on in the marketplace. There is no room for fantasy any more. You have to realize where you sit, how you compare to the other properties that you're up against and have a realistic idea of what worth actually is.

I mean, I've told you on your program more than once -- you have to price it right and you have to look good. If you don't have those two things, you won't be successful in this market.

ROMANS: All right. Mark Aubrey, thanks.

That's very good advice. One, it's never been a better buyer's market. Two, if you're trying to sell your house, price it right and make sure it looks good.

Send us an e-mail to You can find me on Facebook and Twitter @ChristineRomans. I read all your comments. I really want to know what you think about the housing market, your job market and kids' education. That's going to wrap things for us this morning.

Back to "CNN SATURDAY" for other stories making news right now.