Mary Alice McCarthy

Director, Center on Education & Skills

Mary Alice McCarthy is the director of the Center on Education and Skills with the Education Policy program at New America (CESNA). 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. 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.

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 career pathways, credentialing, and competency-based education. While at the Department of Labor, she led a technical assistance 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 and 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 the solicitations and technical assistance activities.

McCarthy also 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 has continued her work with the OECD and is currently leading a similar review of Peru’s postsecondary education system, which will be published in the spring of 2016 as part of “Skills Beyond School” series of country studies. She also 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.

All Work

Connecting Credentials Releases Five New Workgroup Reports

CESNA co-led a Connecting Credentials workgroup organized around the charge of "Making 'All Learning Counts' a Reality."

The Crisis Facing America’s Preschool Teachers

Mary Alice McCarthy wrote for the Atlantic about professionalizing the early-childhood workforce with the help of apprenticeship programs.

Public College, Industry Credentials

Mary Alice McCarthy was quoted in Inside Higher Ed on Alabama's decision to issue industry certifications across its two-year system.

Perkins CTE: Better with Apprenticeship

Perkins reauthorization creates an opportunity for Congress to bring apprenticeship and CTE closer together. Let’s hope they don’t miss it.

Trump Wants to Cut College Work Study amid Calls to Boost Job Aid to Public Campuses

Mary Alice McCarthy was quoted in EdSource on proposed cuts to the federal work-study program.

Narrowing the Partisan Divide

Mary Alice McCarthy was quoted in Inside Higher Ed on the partisan divide over parents' higher education aspirations for their children.

Seeing Hope for Flagging Economy, West Virginia Revamps Vocational Track

Mary Alice McCarthy was quoted in the New York Times about how the United States is an outlier in the international field of technical educa

Importing Apprenticeships

Mary Alice McCarthy was quoted in Inside Higher Ed about how American apprenticeships may differ from international programs.

Support Grows for Major Shift in Pell

Mary Alice McCarthy was quoted in Inside Higher Ed about the controversies around expanding Pell Grants to short-term certificate programs.

Quality and Equity in One Approach: Apprenticeships for Early Childhood Educators

A new report explores registered apprenticeships as affordable, high-quality alternatives to a bachelor’s for early childhood educators.

Rethinking Credential Requirements in Early Education

What if we could increase early childhood educators’ skills—and improve their job quality—without requiring them to pay for a degree?

The White House's Mixed Message on Apprenticeship

We welcome the Order's extra funding and focus on industry engagement. We have questions about its funding and QA.