Strada Education Foundation Appoints Heather McKay to Direct Institute for the Future of Work

Seasoned leader with nationwide experience will lead Strada’s engagement with employers to strengthen workforce competitiveness and pathways to opportunity

INDIANAPOLIS — December 21, 2023 —Strada Education Foundation, which works to strengthen the link between education and opportunity, today announced Heather McKay as its new senior vice president of employer engagement and executive director of the Strada Institute for the Future of Work. McKay brings nearly two decades of experience working at the intersection of research, practice, and policy, most recently serving as the inaugural executive director of the Virginia Office of Education Economics.

“Against a backdrop of accelerating technological change and a labor market that too often isn’t working for individuals or employers, it’s only becoming more important to identify new policies and practices that can bridge the gap between education and opportunity,” said Stephen Moret, CEO of Strada Education Foundation. “Heather’s strong track record creating and leading the Education & Employment Research Center at Rutgers and serving as the inaugural leader of the groundbreaking Virginia Office of Education Economics, combined with her extraordinary partnership skills, makes her exceptionally well-suited to lead the Strada Institute for the Future of Work as well as Strada’s engagement with the employer community. We’re thrilled that she will be joining our team to help us bring to life a postsecondary education ecosystem that provides equitable pathways to opportunity.”

Over the course of her career, McKay has engaged with 26 states and internationally, as well as with many employers, regions, universities, and community colleges. Her work has spanned a wide range of education and workforce development topics, including educational alignment with the labor market, career and technical education, transfer pathways, prior learning assessment, non-degree credentials, STEM programs, work-based learning, career coaching and navigation, student decision making and major choice, workforce development systems and funding, and performance-based funding models for higher education.

In her current role at the Virginia Office of Education Economics (VOEE), McKay developed the Virginia Skills Initiative, a new data set designed to help the state understand where Virginia graduates end up and what skills they possess. She also coordinates the state’s $1 billion Tech Talent Investment Program, a nationally recognized program that is building a pipeline of graduates skilled for the tech workforce. McKay and the VOEE team have also developed dashboards and data visualizations to make state and regional education and labor market data available to practitioners and policymakers for use in decision-making. Prior to VOEE, McKay was the founding director of the Education & Employment Research Center at Rutgers University’s School of Labor and Management Relations, where she worked with nonprofits, educational institutions and systems, and government agencies to help them develop, implement, and examine the impact of new initiatives at the intersection of education and work.

“Our labor market is experiencing unprecedented shifts as the rise of AI puts mounting pressure on employers to think differently about how they attract, train, and retrain employees. This is a critical moment for fresh thinking and creative solutions,” said McKay. “Strada’s commitment to strengthening the linkage between education and work is already inspiring policymakers and business leaders alike, and I’m thrilled to be joining an organization with an ambitious vision and willingness to make a significant impact.”

Launched in 2018, the Strada Institute for the Future of Work has published pioneering research on strengthening education to employment pathways. Under McKay’s leadership, the Institute will develop actionable research to strengthen workforce competitiveness for employers and expand pathways to opportunity for individuals, as well as help states leverage their education and employment data to improve labor market outcomes for individuals, employers, and regions.

McKay earned a Master of Science in Global Affairs and a Master of Arts in World History from Rutgers University, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Bryn Mawr College.

About Strada Education Foundation

Strada supports programs, policies, and organizations that strengthen connections between postsecondary education and opportunity in the U.S., with a focus on helping people who face the greatest challenges. We advance this mission through research, grantmaking, social-impact investments, public policy solutions, and Strada-supported nonprofit organizations, including CAEL, Education at Work, InsideTrack, and Roadtrip Nation. We collaborate with students, educators, employers, policymakers, and other partners to help create more equitable pathways to prosperity.