Catawba County has an educated and skilled workforce of over 405,000 within a 45-minute drive.

We realize that as unemployment rates drop across the country, finding and retaining qualified workers becomes more difficult.  Like everywhere else, this is a challenge faced by existing companies and companies who may be considering a new or expanded location in Catawba County.  Aside from the statistics, the most common questions we are asked pertaining to workforce are:

  • Where will our workforce come from?
  • How will we recruit our workforce? 
  • Who can we turn to for support? 

Catawba County has a wealth of excellent organizations that support workforce recruitment and training and we have created a guide to help companies better understand the assistance that is offered throughout Catawba County.  Continue scrolling to see how Catawba County is meeting the challenge, or download the Catawba County Workforce Brochure


Catawba County is connecting business and education through the innovative K-64.  K-64 increases student and employer engagement in educational programs proven to prepare a qualified workforce by:

  • Collaborating with employers to align courses of study with workforce needs.
  • Connecting students to real-world careers and related curriculum choices from early on.
  • Empowering adults to enhance employability in a dynamic work environment.

Workforce Statistics

Bolstered by a strong work ethic, Catawba County's workforce has proven to be adaptable to the requirements of our most demanding companies. The labor force remains non-union—in fact North Carolina’s unionization rate is the lowest in the nation—and consists of dedicated employees with direct connections to the region’s proud history of manufacturing.

Highlights of the Catawba County Laborshed include:

  • Labor force of over 405,000 people within 45-minute drive time
  • Roughly 40,000 underemployed workers
  • A willingness to commute more than 20 miles to work
  • Approximately 15,000 net migration of workers into Catawba County each day

Unemployment Rates

Current Unadjusted Unemployment Rates - March 2024
(released 5/1/24)
  Labor Force Employed Unemployed Rate
Catawba County 79,447 76,559 2,888 3.6
Hky-Len-Morg MSA 174,836 168,533 6,303 3.6
North Carolina 5,290,158 5,094,400 194,278 3.7

Source: NC Division of Employment Security


Catawba County, North Carolina
Charlotte's Great Northwest
A manufacturer's guide to hiring & training resources in Catawba County, NC


Where will the company's workforce come from?


4-year liberal arts university

Hickory, NC
Enrollment:  2,686

Business Administration
Computer Science
Information Technology
International Business
LRU’s free online jobs board for recruiters to connect with LRU talent (students and alumni)

4-year public university

Hickory, NC
Enrollment:  363

The 225,800 s.f. Appalachian State University Hickory campus opened in fall 2023 with more than 100 undergraduate majors available. The facility is larger than any building on App State’s main campus and sits on 15.7 acres of land including large open spaces. It is a short drive from the NC School of Science & Mathematics western campus in Morganton, NC which opened in June 2022.

NC Center for

Engineering Technologies
Hickory, NC

The North Carolina Center for Engineering Technologies provides facilities for applied research in engineering related fields and serves as a conduit to baccalaureate education delivered by the University of North Carolina system schools.  Degree programs include Building Sciences (from Appalachian State University) and Engineering Technology (from Western Carolina University).

Mid-skill Positions

Technical/Community College

Hickory, NC
Industrial/Manufacturing Programs
Continuing Education Enrollment:  543
Curriculum Enrollment:  532

Computer Engineering
Electrical Systems
Business Admin.
Industrial Systems
Supply Chain Mgmt.
Information Tech.
Mechanical Engineering
Mechatronics Engineering
Computer Integrated Machining

German-style apprenticeship

Hickory, NC
Apprenticeship program
that begins in high school
with dual enrollment in
CVCC courses

Mechanical Maintenance
Electrical Maintenance
Tool & Die
CNC Machinist

Local high schools Career & Technical Education (CTE) programs

across Catawba County
Students received
credentials in 2021-2022
(latest available) 

Welding Technology
Automotive Technology
Electrical Technology Systems
Drafting & Engineering Tech.
Digital Electronics
Computer Integrated Machining
Drone Technology
Biomedical Technology

Machine Operator/Production Positions

One Stop Workforce System

Conover, NC

Employers can post open jobs, access business insights through labor market data and collaborate with NCWorks staff to develop talent pipelines.

NCWorks offers the assistance North Carolinians need - all at no cost.

This valuable resource connects residents with potential employers and businesses in the state with the candidates they're looking for, so all of North Carolina can posper.

Technical/Community College

Hickory, NC
Total Enrollment: 12,798
(Curriculum & Continuing Education)

CVCC focuses on intensive skills development, taking those with little to no skills & giving them skills for employment in manufacturing operator training.  More individuals are trained in pure manufacturing than any other community college in NC.  CVCC can also provide customized training and curricula tailored to address specific business needs.


College Academy

Hickory, NC

The CVCC Maintenance Tech Bootcamp will provide instruction, lab experience, & training in Maintenance Tech Fundamentals: Mechanical Systems, Fluid Power, and Electrical Systems. 

The CVCC Maintenance Tech Bootcamp is connected with the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSCC), an industry-approved third-party credential. Upon successful completion of each module and/or the entire course, students will be awarded a certificate.

How will the company recruit its workforce?

Short Term: 0-3 Months

NC Works is a one-stop workforce system supporting employment recruitment & retention at no cost. 

NC Works provides assistance in developing job descriptions and provides assistance posting job openings on state site, (this system also spiders other job boards to present a full portfolio of open jobs). also offers virtual recruitment options, as well as state and local labor market intelligence.

NC Works provides resume and application assistance to ensure quality      pre-employment screenings and provides work-based learning opportunities, educational training scholarships, and incumbent worker grants for employee training

NC Works assists in conducting recruiting events:

  • Arranges recruitment events at the company location or weekly at the NCWorks facility
  • Develops recruitment flyers for mass distribution via and social media outlets: Facebook,
    Twitter and Instagram
  • Staffs the recruitment events & coordinates interviews during the recruitment events


The CVCC Maintenance Tech Bootcamp will provide instruction, lab experience, & training in Maintenance Tech Fundamentals: Mechanical Systems, Fluid Power, & Electrical Systems.  Students will enroll in the entire course and choose to attend all three modules or only those needed.  All students attending one or more modules can receive module credit by passing the placement test (credit for prior work experience/knowledge).

The CVCC Maintenance Tech Bootcamp is connected with the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSCC), an industry-approved third-party credential. Upon successful completion of each module and/or the entire course, students will be awarded a certificate.

Employers are encouraged to permit or assist their student(s) in applying the class/lab material in real-world, employer specific applications through on-site shadowing, interning, or other work experience.



Offers in-depth customizable pre-employment screening assessment & training including:
  • Career Readiness Certificate (CRC) mapping, assessment and matching
  • Behavioral assessments
  • Skills assessment (including classroom instruction)
Company may access students for recruitment in on-going classes:
  • Mechanical Engineering Technology
  • Industrial Systems Technology
  • Mechatronics Engineering Technology
  • Electronic Engineering Technology
  • Computer Engineering Technology
  • Computer Integrated Machining Technology
  • Welding

Provides customized training directed by the company including:

Safety, OSHA training, Lean, ISO, Six Sigma

Training at the company on company equipment

Training at the college on the following equipment:
  • Mechatronics - Advanced Manufactruring Lab:
    • Fanuc Material Handling & Welding Robot
    • ABB IRB 120 robot
    • Festo MPS Mechantroni Assembly System
    • Arburg Injection Molding Machine
    • Various Mechanical, motor controls, hydraulic, pneumatic, process control trainers
  • PLC Lab
    • Siemans PLC
    • Allen Bradley PLC
  • Mechatronics (Curriculum Lab)
  • Metallurgy Lab
    • Scanning Electron Microscope
    • Inverted Optical Microscope 
    • Instron Tensile Tester
    • Zeiss O-Inspect 543 Coordinate and Optical Measuring Machine
    • Hardness Testers
  • Computer Integrated Machining
    • Mazak 3-Axis and 5-Axis CNC Mills
    • Haas 3-Axis CNC Turning Stations and Mills 

  Medium Term: 4-12 months

Created locally in 2016, HKY4Vets undertakes significant efforts to increase awareness of the Catawba County community among transitioning military families stationed within the Southeast.  A major focus of the organization is to work directly in partnership with local companies, meeting their talent requirements by leveraging highly-talented veteran and military spouse talent.  These partnerships manifest in a series of virtual hiring events, internship/fellowship opportunities for transitioning service members and 1-on-1 transition coaching to discover and connect these talented individuals to the diverse career opportunities available in Catawba County.

The CVCC Maintenance Tech Bootcamp will provide instruction, lab experience, & training in Maintenance Tech Fundamentals: Mechanical Systems, Fluid Power, and Electrical Systems. 

The CVCC Maintenance Tech Bootcamp is connected with the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSCC), an industry-approved third-party credential. Upon successful completion of each module and/or the entire course, students will be awarded a certificate.

North Carolina provides the nation’s most-recognized free, customized job training programs for new and expanding businesses. The North Carolina Community College System offers comprehensive training support ranging from its extensive catalogue of established programs to customized curricula tailored to address specific business needs.

Funds are disbursed by the state, and training and screening are delivered by Catawba Valley Community College. Training funds may be used for instructional design, instructor training, assessments, and training delivery costs for employees involved in the direct production of goods and services, production support employees, and technology support employees.

Businesses eligible for free customized training through North Carolina Community College System include, but are not limited to, manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution centers.

Long Term: 1-4 years

1 to 4 year program combining formal education at CVCC and on-the-job training with sponsor employers

Apprenticeship in skilled trades like:

  • Mechanical maintenance
  • Electrical maintenance
  • Tool & die
  • Mechatronics
  • CNC machinist
  • Machine Operator

High school students are dual enrolled at CVCC in advanced manufacturing courses. 

If a student is employed by a company prior to graduation, the cost for remaining courses may be funded by NC. 

Catawba County Schools:

Hickory Public Schools:

Newton-Conover Schools:

K-64 is a unique community-wide partnership between public K-12 schools, colleges, workforce development and business to provide a skilled workforce pipeline for our businesses by aligning courses of study and training with workforce needs.

K-64 will identify, facilitate and streamline programs and initiatives that are in-place and have been proven to be best practices in improving education as it relates workforce development. If a specific educational or employer training need is not being met, K-64 will develop new programs and partnerships to insure a future-ready workforce. 

Who can we turn to for support?

Manufacturing Solutions Center NC Works

The mission of the Manufacturing Solutions Center (MSC) is to help US manufacturers increase sales, improve quality and efficiency to create and retain jobs.

The MSC accomplishes this by:

  • Enhancing and improving products through research and development;
  • Working with our commercial clients to create prototypes for new, innovative offerings;
  • Testing products for reliability, quality, and content in our third-party testing lab;
  • Training personnel to operate equipment and in manufacturing processes;
  • Creating 3-D rapid prototypes in a variety of materials;
  • Providing incubator space for manufacturing startups as they develop and commercialize their products;
  • Connecting entrepreneurs, manufacturers, and suppliers to build domestic supply chains;
  • Providing marketing support and assistance with selling to the military and government;
  • Industry advocacy.

 Contact the MSC for testing services, product development projects, marketing, engineering, and assistance for inventors & entrepreneurs. 


NCWorks is dedicated to enhancing economic prosperity by strengthening and supporting area businesses’ growth strategies.  Prospective businesses can rely on NCWorks to: deliver relevant labor market information, assist with workforce recruitments, and provide work-based learning opportunities to develop the skillset of current workforce.

Business Information and Support Services

  • Local Workforce Characteristics
  • Career Pathways & Career Ladders
  • Industry & Occupation Trends
  • Wage Analysis

Workforce Recruitment Assistance

  • Targeted Hiring Events
  • Available Space for Business Uses
  • Job Orders Services
  • Diverse Talent Pool

Work-Based Learning

  • Upskill Western Piedmont Training Grant
  • Skill Training Scholarships
  • Paid Internships for Youth
CVCC Workforce Solutions Complex

A culmination of many years of planning and collaboration with the three public school systems, the $25 million project is funded by Catawba County Commissioners. It creates state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratory spaces to teach advanced manufacturing skills and other technical skills in demand by a growing local and state economy. The Workforce Solutions Complex was completed Fall 2018.

The 80,400-square-foot facility currently houses technology and engineering programs, including Computer Engineering Technology, Electrical Engineering Technology, Computer Integrated Machining, Electronics Engineering Technology, Automotive Systems Technology, Welding, Mechanical Engineering Technology, Mechatronics and Robotics, and Heating/Ventilation and Air Conditioning.

Manufacturers that survived the recession are now heavily tech-based and rely on a skilled workforce to operate that technology. Companies rely on computer numerical control (CNC) machine tools, computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) programs, robotics, and are all heavily computer-based. CVCC’s new Workforce Solutions Complex will ensure a future pipeline of talent for high-tech jobs, making our area even more attractive to new and expanding industry. 

The building includes state-of-the-art classrooms, offices, HVAC lab/shop areas, welding lab/shop areas, automotive lab/shop areas, machining and CNC lab/shop area, and an engineering department, which includes: mechatronics/PLC lab, CET-EET lab, electrical wiring lab, robotics lab, 3D printing lab, computer labs, break alcoves, a lounge/media center, meeting rooms, and an open main lobby area for students to gather.