Mary Alice McCarthy is the director of the Center on Education & Labor (CELNA). Her work examines the intersection between higher education, workforce development, and job training policies. The Center is dedicated to building learning-based pathways to economic opportunity that can begin inside or outside of formal higher education. McCarthy’s writing has been featured in a diverse set of media outlets including the Washington Monthly, The Atlantic, and the Journal on Community College Research and Practice. She participates in a wide variety of public engagement, technical assistance, and coalition-building efforts aimed at improving postsecondary education policy and practice.
Prior to joining New America, McCarthy worked at both the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor. She led a variety of technical assistance initiatives in the areas of career pathways, credentialing, and competency-based education. While at the Department of Labor, she led an initiative with nine states and two tribal entities on how to build and support career pathway programs. She co-founded an interagency working group with staff from the Departments of Education, Health & Human Services, and Labor that continues to meet and coordinate federal investments in relation to career pathways. She also wrote policy guidance on credentialing and career pathways and supported the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) and Workforce Innovation Fund grant programs, helping design solicitation and technical assistance activities.
McCarthy has extensive international experience and she has explored how other countries are tackling the skills challenge. While at the Department of Education, she served as the liaison to a team of OECD researchers conducting a review of postsecondary education and training in the United States. At New America, she continued her work with the OECD and led a similar review of Peru’s postsecondary education system in 2016, as part of “Skills Beyond School” series of country studies. She participates in the International Pathways Colloquium, an annual gathering of researchers and policy advocates from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia to share learning in the area of career and technical education and workforce development. She has a PhD in political science from the University of North Carolina and an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.