Readout of the Department of Education’s Office for Career Technical and Adult Education ‘Rethink Work Based Learning’ Event with U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia

Readout of the Department of Education’s Office for Career Technical and Adult Education ‘Rethink Work Based Learning’ Event with U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia

November 18, 2020

WASHINGTON – Last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos convened a diverse group of business, education and workforce leaders at the Department of Education for a “Rethink Work-Based Learning” Event.  Key Administration officials participating in the event included  U.S. Secretary of Labor  Eugene Scalia, Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education Scott Stump, and Johnny C. Taylor, the President and CEO of the Society of Human Resource Management and Executive Director of the President’s Board of Advisers on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“Before the pandemic, there were more than seven million unfilled jobs in the United States waiting for workers with the right skills and a personalized education. And more than 80 percent of HR professionals report they’ve had difficulty finding qualified people for open positions. More than 4 in 5 say this,” said Secretary DeVos. “Employers can’t find enough qualified people to hire because there are too many disconnects between education and the economy, just as there are often too many disconnects between a child and the school they’re assigned to by government.”

Secretary Scalia said, “An immense amount of education occurs in the workplace. There are many ways for workers to gain skills that lead to a successful career.  Sometimes these approaches are in conjunction with a degree, [and] sometimes they’re not.”

Mr. Taylor added that while the pandemic had paused a “war for talent,” it would be back soon and employers are starved for skilled employees and that many high school students have turned their back on having a first, part-time job.

“We are on a campaign to restore the dignity of the first job,” Taylor said. “All of us have to work and it is really important that we message that there is dignity in work.”

The event engaged stakeholders focused on developing new and innovative ways to promote and expand work-based learning initiatives, apprenticeships, and career technical education programs across the country.

Below are highlights from additional speakers:

Assistant Secretary of Education for the Office of Career Technical and Adult Education Scott Stump:

Assistant Secretary Stump moderated the discussion while providing introductory and concluding remarks.

“The United States is currently at the lowest youth rate of participation in the workforce in American history…today's teens are less likely to have work experience [than previous generations],” Stump said, encouraging the expansion of work based learning opportunities and apprenticeships.

Jon Dougherty of Kentucky-based Amteck

Joining via pre-recorded video remarks, Dougherty touted electrical contracting company Amteck’s “in house program” that encouraged local high school students to seek out a career in the trade by providing them with educational on the job training and a paycheck.

Robert Trevino, Gulf States Toyota

Robert Trevino,  Manager of Workforce Development at Gulf States Toyota, touted how a number of dealerships under his supervision had embraced career and technical education, including one in Oklahoma that had established a pipeline of talent with a local high school, resulting in 90 percent of its workforce being from that high school.

Duncan Hale, Cherry Creek School District Colorado

A high school student from Colorado, Duncan Hale explained how he had benefited from a work-based learning program saying, “it’s so much easier than having a job.”

Hale said that while he has embraced work-based learning, he still would like to go to college and achieve a four-year degree in engineering.

“It’s possible to do both,” he said. “I’m doing an honors route and a work-based learning route.”

Administration Participants

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos
U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia
Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career Technical and Adult Education Scott Stump

Invited Guests

Johnny C. Taylor, President and CEO of Society of Human Resource Management
Jon Dougherty of Amteck
Robert Trevino of Gulf States Toyota
Duncan Hale, Student, Cherry Creek School District
Brad Kibbe, Executive Director of Florida Masonry Apprentices & Education Foundation


In conclusion, Assistant Secretary Stump said, “it is our hope that attendees heard and are ready to respond to the call to action to expand employment opportunities for youth as America emerges from the pandemic.” Over the past few years, Assistant Secretary Stump has seen solid strides made to get more students connected to authentic work-based learning experiences. From Hagerstown, Maryland, to Hillsboro, Oregon, we have seen great results from tying education and the economy together.

To provide momentum and direction to this work, Assistant Secretary Stump announced that in the next two weeks, the Department will launch a Request for Information on Expanding Work-based learning. This RFI will request information on promising and successful approaches for expanding work-based learning (WBL) opportunities for youth by working across Federal, State, and local education and employer systems.  We will seek input on barriers that are contributing to the decline in youth employment so that over the next decade, we can reverse the downward trend.