Communities across North Carolina are at a crossroads. Employers in every corner of the state are grappling with the unfortunate fact that the skills of North Carolina’s workforce too often do not match those required of new jobs. In an effort to close that skills gap long-term, Catawba County is taking action to transform the area’s workforce-readiness through the K-64 initiative.
This education and workforce development initiative was created to prepare “students from kindergarten (K) through retirement (64) to compete in the global economy,” all while cultivating a “highly qualified talent pipeline to support local workforce and economic growth.” Understanding that the county’s workforce was not in alignment with current and future employment needs, Catawba County, the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce, the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation, Catawba County Schools, Catawba Valley Community College, Hickory Public Schools and Newton-Conover City Schools partnered together to launch K-64 to improve workforce development. The K-64 initiative will be executed by excelling in six focus areas: 1-to-World Technology, Character & Soft Skills Development, Tech Savvy Educators, Work-based Learning, Employer Engagement and Career Adaptability. Each of these focus areas serves to improve educational resources to ensure students are aptly prepared to join the future workforce, while growing opportunities for those already in the workforce to adapt skill sets at every stage of their career.
As Catawba County implements this program, many communities across the state are taking notice of North Carolina’s workforce readiness challenges and making efforts to align workforce solutions with the needs of local employers. Some of these communities have been distinguished as NCWorks Certified Work Ready Communities, meaning they are taking the necessary steps to advance workforce development in their area. However, there are still many more to go. You can hear more about the NCWorks Certified Work Ready Communities initiative on August 10 at our Conference on Education, where a panel of local leaders from across the state will discuss how the program is closing the skills gap and improving outcomes for students in their areas.
As I’ve noted before, producing a globally competitive, world-class workforce across North Carolina relies on each community’s commitment to education and workforce development. While we highlight Catawba County’s work to improve workforce readiness, I encourage you to join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #WorkReadyWednesday. Together, we’ll secure North Carolina’s position as the number one place to find talent in the modern global economy.
Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber