Catawba County has an educated and skilled workforce of over 396,000 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 402,000 people within 45-minute drive time
  • Roughly 40,000 underemployed workers
  • A willingness to commute more than 20 miles to work
  • Nearly 12,000 net migration of workers into Catawba County each day

Unemployment Rates

Current Unadjusted Unemployment Rates - October, 2022
(released 12/01/22)
  Catawba County Hky-Len-Morg MSA North Carolina
Labor Force 78,332 172,412 5,150,515
Employed 75,374 165,889 4,947,826
Unemployed 2,958 6,523 202,689
Rate 3.8% 3.8% 3.9%

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
Seated Enrollment:  105
Online Enrollment: 842
(includes Catawba and surrounding counties)


NC Center for

Engineering Technologies
Hickory, NC

Engineering Technology
Industrial Distribution &

Information & Computer

Electrical Engineering Technology
Master of Science

     Management (MSEM)

Mid-skill Positions

Technical/Community College

Hickory, NC
Industrial/Manufacturing Programs
Continuing Education Enrollment:  495
Curriculum Enrollment:  489

Computer Engineering
Electrical Systems
Business Admin.\
Industrial Systems
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 2019-2020
(latest available) 

Welding Technology
Engineering Technology
Digital Electronics
Computer Integrated Machining
Biotechnical Engineering

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)

Focus on intensive skills development, take those with little to no skills and give them skills for employment in manufacturing operator training

More individuals trained in pure manufacturing than any other community college in NC

Customized Industry Training Program

College Academy

Hickory, NC

The Manufacturing Academy is an industry-driven, 10-week certification course developed by 25 partner companies from Catawba County, provided by CVCC, designed to prepare students for manufacturing positions currently in high demand by employers by introducing students to the basic concepts of manufacturing and careers with local companies.

How will the company recruit its workforce?

Short Term: 0-3 Months

One-Stop Workforce System supporting employment recruitment & retention at no cost

Provides assistance in developing job descriptions

Provides assistance posting job openings on state site, (this system also spiders other job boards to present a full portfolio of open jobs) offers Virtual Recruitment options, as well as state and local labor market intelligence

Provides resume and application assistance to ensure quality pre-employment screenings

Conducts 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

  • Staff the recruitment events

  • Coordinate interviews during the recruitment events

  • On-the-job training reimbursement; Educational Training Scholarships; Incumbent Worker Grants for Training


The Manufacturing Academy is an industry-driven certification course developed by 25 partner companies from Catawba County, provided by CVCC designed to prepare students for manufacturing positions currently in high demand by employers by introducing students to the basic concepts of manufacturing and careers with local companies.

Program Modules include:

  • Manufacturing Overview (42 hours)

  • Problem Solving (9 hours)

  • Math and Measurements (24 hours)

  • Teamwork and Communication (9 hours)

  • Safety (12 hours)

  • Introduction to Lean/Continuous Improvement/TQM/Six Sigma Overview and ISO Certifications (9 hours)




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 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 Manufacturing Lab (Corporate Development Center)

    • Fanuc LR Mate 200iC robot
    • ABB IRB 120 robot
    • Siemens PLC Lab
    • Festo MPS (Modular Production System) Mechatronics Assembly System
    • Festo PA (Process Automation) Compact Work Station
  • Mechatronics (Curriculum Lab)

    • Arburg Injection Molding Machine
    • Allen Bradley PLC Lab
    • Various mechanical, motor controls, hydraulic and pneumatic trainers
  • Metallurgy Lab

    • Scanning Electron Microscope
    • Instron Tensile Tester
    • Zeiss O-Inspect 543 Coordinate and Optical Measuring Machine
  • Computer Integrated Machining

    • Mazak 3-Axis and 5-Axis CNC Mills
    • Haas 3-Axis CNC Turning Stations and Mills 

  Medium Term: 6-12 months

HKY4Vets is a public-private partnership formed with the vision to partner with Catawba County businesses to meet their talent requirements by leveraging the veteran and military spouse community.  

In 2019, HKY4Vets is undertaking significant efforts to increase awareness of the Catawba County community among transitioning military families from the Southeast, with particular emphasis given to promoting HKY4Vets Talent Connect, an online job board connecting military talent to local companies and their diverse career opportunities.  Through direct relationships with NC & SC military installations, a significant, year-long social media push and other marketing efforts, HKY4Vets intends to funnel significantly more veteran talent to participating Catawba County companies than ever before. 

Attracting, retaining and developing talent is the top issue for the Catawba County business community. Through this conference, leaders in business and human resources come together to share best practices and spotlight recruitment and retention strategies that are “outside of the box.”

Talent Jam is the perfect combo of job fair, connection event and speed matchmaking in the Hickory Metro area. It’s a modern take on the classic job fair, where both companies and local job seekers can present 
one-minute pitches of their professional needs or talents followed by casual networking, while enjoying great local food and drink.

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. 

 Catawba County's Commitment to Manufacturing

Catawba County is a community committed to the future of manufacturing and ensuring our manufacturers have a workforce pipeline for the future.  This is evident by the county’s investment in a new state-of-the-art Workforce Solutions Complex on the campus of CVCC.  A culmination of many years of planning and collaboration with the three public school systems, this $26 million dollar, 80,400 square foot facility will house technology and engineering programs for college students, and junior & senior high school students from all schools in Catawba County.  Business-driven programs will include:  Computer Engineering Technology, Electrical Engineering Technology, Computer Integrated Machining, Electronics Engineering Technology, Welding, Mechanical Engineering Technology, Mechatronics, and Robotics.

Who can we turn to for support?

Manufacturing Solutions Center NC Center for Engineering Technologies

Bringing manufacturing into the NEW ERA of changing technologies, global marketing and production innovations, the mission of the Manufacturing Solutions Center (MSC) is to help US manufacturers increase sales, improve quality & efficiency, & create or retain jobs.

 This is accomplished by:

  • Enhancing and improving products through research and development
  • Assisting in creating prototypes for new, innovative offerings
  • Analyzing new materials to enhance structure and programs
  • Testing products for reliable content and quality
  • Training personnel for lean manufacturing processes and supply chain efficiencies
  • Providing a forum for rollout of new 21st century technologies
  • Providing hands-on guidance for international marketing, sales and military procurement
  • Providing photo-realistic renderings and visualizations
  • Creating 3D rapid prototypes in a variety of materials
  • Industry advocacy

 Services include, testing services, training, product development, marketing, engineering, inventors & entrepreneurs

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. Conceived as a community-supported higher education effort in technical and engineering disciplines, this Center was established through a collaboration of business, government and higher education.

Labs include:

  • Rapid Product Realization Laboratory
  • Engineering Design Laboratory
  • Metrology & Reverse Engineering Laboratory
  • Distance Educaton Lab
  • Polymers Lab
  • Patternmaking Laboratory

Degree programs include:

  • Building Sciences (Appalachian State University)
  • Engineering Technology (Western Carolina University)
  • Industrial Technology (East Carolina University)
  • Electrical Engineering Technology (UNC-Charlotte)
  • Fire Safety Engineering Technology (UNC-Charlotte)
  • Engineering Management (UNC-Charlotte) 
Catawba County EDC

The Catawba County EDC serves as a clearinghouse for business information to existing industries and can usually provide information or assistance to help you minimize time spent in solving any business problem you may encounter.  For assistance, please contact Nathan Huret, Director of Existing Industries at 828-267-1564 or

Human Resource Associations

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest HR professional society, representing 285,000 members in more than 165 countries. For The Society has been the leading provider of resources serving the needs of HR professionals and advancing the practice of human resource management.  Catawba Valley SHRM is an  affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management.  Catawba Valley SHRM is the local starting point for networking, information, professional development, and the continued support of excellence in Human Resources. Learn more at