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Wan-Lae Cheng

Supports private-, public-, and social-sector organizations, including – educational institutions, state and local governments, not for profits, and employers, as they create a competitive talent pool to prepare for the future of work


Wan-Lae works with a wide variety of organizations on topics related to higher education, workforce development, and the Future of Work. This includes working with post-secondary institutions, state and local government entities, nonprofits, and coalitions. With post-secondary institutions, she works with leadership and faculty in designing differentiated and financially sustainable institutional strategies, with a focus on improving student completion and employment outcomes. She supports state and local entities, nonprofits, and coalitions, in designing and implementing strategies and programs that will create a more inclusive and dynamic workforce ecosystem.

In her work, Wan-Lae takes a systems view and approach, understanding how to magnify, collaborate with, and enhance the assets and efforts of all the key players in the workforce system. The unifying goal is to create high-quality employment opportunities for all communities and ensure that there is sufficient talent to meet the needs of today and tomorrow, and doing so in a way that aligns with opportunities and disruptions from technology and automation.

Examples of Wan-Lae's recent client work include the following:

  • partnering with a large economic development agency of a US state to design and launch a suite of upskilling and reskilling programs to help drive post-COVID economic recovery
  • collaborating with coalitions of top-company CEOs and education providers across the country to support the implementation of local solutions for boosting workforce talent in the context of Future of Work trends
  • working with the administration and faculty of a private higher-education institution to pursue financial and operational transformation while defining a longer-term vision for differentiation
  • establishing a five-year growth strategy for a global provider of assessments, including a new product strategy based on consumer insights across three global markets
  • developing a large public university’s strategy and robust portfolio of initiatives focused on preparing students for the Future of Work while defining a research agenda to boost the institution’s relevance and ranking

From the beginning of Wan-Lae’s career, when she worked in refugee resettlement and employment, to her current consulting work, she has spent most of the past 15 years engaged in workforce and training challenges. Before re-joining McKinsey in 2017, she spent two years at a charitable organization, leading the design and launch of an initiative to create a skills-based labor market for workers without college degrees. Interested in how innovative organizations address workforce challenges, Wan-Lae publishes interviews conducted with top leaders across the private and public sectors.

Published work

COVID-19 crisis pushes US students into an uncertain job market,” McKinsey & Company, July 2021

What 800 executives envision for the postpandemic workforce,” McKinsey Global Institute, September 2020

Reimagining the postpandemic economic future,” McKinsey & Company, August 2020

Lessons from the past on how to revive the US economy after COVID-19,” McKinsey & Company, June 2020

Coordinating workforce development across stakeholders: An interview with ManpowerGroup CEO Jonas Prising,” McKinsey & Company, October 2018

The AI factor in talent management: An interview with Catalyte’s Jacob Hsu and Mike Rosenbaum,” McKinsey & Company, September 2018

Adapting education to the demands of a rapidly changing economy: An interview with Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley,” McKinsey & Company, August 2018

Promoting cross-sector collaboration: An interview with Penny Pritzker,” McKinsey & Company, August 2018

Creating an effective workforce system for the new economy,” McKinsey & Company, July 2018

Past experience

Markle Foundation
Managing director, COO

Research and operations

International Rescue Committee
Employment specialist


Columbia University

University of Virginia
BA, foreign affairs