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

Beyond the Skills Gap

New report highlights the role of the Higher Education Act in addressing America’s skills deficit.

A Case of Mistaken Identity: The New York Times Mixes up Higher Education and Workforce Development

The article shows just how confusing our education and training policies can be.

America's Job Training System: Better than You Think (and smaller too)

The VP's review was expansive and included important programs that often get left out of policy discussions around the skills gap.

The New Workforce Bill, Adult Learners, and Pathways to Higher Education: Things Just Got a Little Easier

The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) was finally reauthorized on Tuesday, July 22nd.

The Supreme Court Kicks Out the Ladder Under Home Healthcare Workers. Who’s Next?

Staying out of poverty just got harder for thousands of American home healthcare workers.

Right Hand Meet Left Hand: Aligning Workforce and Higher Ed Policy

Congress has finally been earning its keep this summer.

Congress Gears Up to Reauthorize the Higher Education Act

Senate Democrats and House Republicans announced plans for legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, which expired in 2013.

Bipartisan Agreement Reached on Workforce Development Legislation

With a still sluggish economy, an area where bipartisanship has been found is the repealing and replacing the Workforce Authorization Act.

Speaking Up for Career Pathways

Building stronger linkages between education and careers is not easy.

Leading from Behind: CTE Shows the Way on College and Career Readiness

CTE programs are on the cutting edge of a variety of education reform efforts.

Adult Education Data Show Signs of Declining Investment

FEBP announced the addition of state and federal adult education data to its publicly available database.

Are Better Credentials the Answer to the Skills Gap?

It is clear that the labor market is not functioning as well as it could for either job seekers or employers.