About the Center on Education & Skills

Work is tightly interwoven with every aspect of American life. As a society, our economy, politics, and culture revolve around the work we do and the products and services that we produce with it. As individuals, work provides us with the money we need to support ourselves and our families, and forms a crucial part of our identity.

Education has long been considered the ticket to the "American dream": study hard, work hard, and you'll get ahead. As work changes and education struggles to keep pace, that foundational belief is in danger of breaking down. Without adaptation, Americans will struggle to attain financial success and personal satisfaction within the new economic structures they face. 

The Center on Education & Skills at New America (CESNA) was founded in 2016 to follow developments in the world of work and to assess the effectiveness of education—both academic and work-based—in preparing all Americans for jobs and in keeping their skills relevant as technology, workplaces, and regional economies evolve.

Our Work

Housed within our broader Education Policy program, the Center reaches across the traditional silos of higher education and workforce development to identify strategies for strengthening linkages between learning and work, and between schools and local economies. Especially focused on apprenticeship, CTE, and other types of work-based learning, and situated at the increasingly fluid intersection of education and employment, CESNA’s work spans different ages, population groups, geographical areas, and industries:

  1. We study alternative models for cultivating college- and career-readiness for secondary students as well as adults adults.

  2. We develop strategies for linking the historically segregated tracks of academic and technical education, and for better connecting educational credentials to facilitate lifelong learning.

  3. We explore the implications of specific technologies and economic trends for the American workforce, and the particular issues affecting industries such as information technology and healthcare.

  4. Across these categories, we advocate for learning models that support equitable outcomes for groups such as women and racial minorities who have been historically marginalized in America’s secondary and postsecondary education systems.

You can follow our work in our blogs on EdCentral and in our in-depth policy papers. For updates on our work, and to keep posted on our events featuring researchers, practitioners, and thought leaders from the world of workforce development, sign up for our email newsletter by entering your contact information at the link below and selecting “CESNA Update”.

Who We Are:


Mary Alice McCarthy


Mary Alice McCarthy is the director of the Center on Education and Skills with the Education Policy program at New America. Her work examines the intersection between higher education, workforce development, and job training policies. McCarthy’s writing has been featured in a diverse set of media outlets including the Washington MonthlyThe Atlantic, and the Journal on Community College Research and Practice. In addition to her research, she participates in a wide variety of public engagement, technical assistance, and coalition-building efforts aimed at improving postsecondary education policy and practice. 


Brent Parton

Deputy Director

Brent Parton is the deputy director of the Center on Education and Skills with the Education Policy program at New America. The Center is dedicated to building learning-based pathways to economic opportunity that can begin inside or outside of formal higher education. His work focuses on federal and state policies to scale those pathways, and ensure their quality and relevance within an evolving economy.

Michael Prebil

Michael Prebil

Program Associate

Michael Prebil is a program associate with the Center on Education and Skills at New America (CESNA), having joined the Education Policy program in September 2016 as an intern with CESNA and the Higher Education team. He studies workforce development strategies and learning models that address employers' needs for capable and flexible lifelong learners in a globalized and rapidly automating economy.