Q & A with Scott Stump

Scott Stump is the assistant secretary for career, technical, and adult education at the U.S. Department of Education.

Scott Stump is the assistant secretary for career, technical, and adult education at the U.S. Department of Education. He serves as the principal adviser to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on all matters concerning high school, career, technical, and adult education, as well as community colleges, the workforce, and economic development. Stump spoke with Trustee Quarterly about his background and the Department’s areas of interest.

Tell us a little about your background and work with community colleges.

My career began as a high school teacher in North Manchester, Indiana. Then I was blessed to spend nearly a decade developing student leadership programs, conferences, and events for the National FFA Organization.

After FFA, my wife and I moved to her hometown of Stoneham, Colorado, and I joined the Colorado Community College System (CCCS) as the State FFA Advisor. In Colorado, the CCCS is the state agency responsible for Perkins [Career and Technical Education Act], with approval authority for both secondary and postsecondary programs. It was here that I learned to speak “postsecondary” fluently. After a season of approving and providing technical assistance to the agriculture, natural resources, and energy programs in the state, I stepped into the role of assistant provost for career and technical education. In that role, I worked with each of our 13 system colleges, three local colleges, 178 school districts, and correctional institutions to meet Colorado’s diverse workforce needs.

While at CCCS, I also had the opportunity to serve as an interim college president while the college was conducting a national search for a new president. I count that experience as one of the most influential times in my life. There is nothing more fulfilling than participating in a community college graduation ceremony.

What areas are you focusing on in your role as assistant secretary?

My first priority in this role is the implementation of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education Act for the 21st Century (Perkins V). Our goal is that states are bold and innovative as they create their new vision for CTE and use that vision to develop state plans that empower local high schools and community colleges to meet the needs of their constituents.

I hope to see the end of terminal degrees during my lifetime. I hope to see vertical integration between K-12, community college, and four-year institutions so that students and parents will see that a “college for all” mentality does not mean just a four-year degree path. Like Secretary DeVos, I believe that multiple pathways must be equally valued by our institutions and systems of education.

In addition, I will work to elevate the conversation on the unique role community colleges play in urban and rural communities across this nation. From being the most economic path to employment and a four-year degree to being the most responsive cog in the American economic engine, voters and policymakers alike need to recognize the significant return on investment our community and technical colleges provide.

What should our institutions expect from the recent reauthorization of the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act?

Colleges should expect a ton of activity over the next 18 months related to Perkins. Institutions need to be ready to be engaged stakeholders in the process.  From helping define in-demand industries to crafting the process and product for the local needs analysis now required by law, the input of college faculty and leaders will be critical for a productive implementation of the Act.

The Trump Administration has a strong focus on apprenticeship programs. How does that fit into your priorities at the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education?

President Trump and Secretary DeVos see apprenticeships as an untapped resource in filling America’s skills gap. We see community colleges positioned to take the lead on incorporating apprenticeships in both traditional and non-traditional career pathways.

In the May 2018 final report of the Taskforce on Apprenticeship Expansion, Secretary DeVos said, “the negative stigmatization of apprenticeship must come to an end, and that a traditional college education and a modern-day apprenticeship are no longer mutually exclusive education options.” She and I believe that work-based learning, and specifically apprenticeships, adds a critical dimension to the education toolkit — one that is engaging for students, cost effective for employers, and a path to tackle the growing problem of rising student loan debt.

Apprenticeships provide a new way to expand the educational and career pathways available to Americans.

What are some challenges you see to innovation in career and technical education?

There are two barriers that must be addressed for true innovation in career and technical education. First, we must increase the connection of secondary and postsecondary CTE programs. All students should have access to concurrent or dual enrollment as soon as they demonstrate preparedness. No longer can we make students relearn competencies that they have already mastered. Our students, parents, and employers demand more.

Second, we must increase the nimble nature of our colleges. In many cases, we still have to resort to customized and non-credit training to meet the emerging needs of employers. While these options meet short-term needs, they do not meet the long-term needs of students or employers.

How can community colleges support your efforts?

I firmly believe there’s never been a better climate for community colleges to do what they do best: to adapt, anticipate, and innovate, and to create programs customized to local workforce needs and offer personalized learning and supports that help individual learners succeed.

Community college leaders can accelerate innovation and our efforts by joining us in rethinking education in America. Secretary DeVos has called on each of us in the Department of Education to question everything to ensure nothing limits a student from being prepared for what comes next. Think about the students and communities you serve and ask:

  • Why do we measure education by seat time and credit hours?
  • Why do we believe education stops at graduation?
  • Why do we force all students to learn at the same speed?
  • What would a 21st-century higher education law look like?
Shouldn’t it:

  • Focus on achieving results for individuals, rather than on buildings or systems?
  • Anticipate and meet the needs, unique schedules and aspirations of students, instead of making them to conform to parameters that only work for some?

Ask the tough questions and then be bold in implementing solutions that are “right” for the students, employers, and communities we serve.

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