My Catawba County

K-64: Innovating Education

K-64: Innovating Education

K-64: Not Just Chromebooks
When people hear about K-64, their first thought often turns to Chromebooks – the 14,131 Chromebooks K-64 distributed to all three local public school systems, to be precise. But that’s not all K-64 is working to accomplish in Catawba County. We asked K-64 Executive Director Chris Reese to fill us in on the inner workings of this innovative workforce development collaboration.

What is K-64, and who is involved?
K-64 is a Catawba County initiative to foster collaboration between education, government, industry and community to develop, attract and retain a future-ready workforce to meet current demands and prepare for future needs while helping drive economic growth. By establishing the connection in education, this helps provide a more equitable experience for all Catawba County students and connect current workforce and industry with training and skills development while sharing best practices amongst all stakeholders. K-64 is supported and strengthened through our many diverse relationships with local and statewide organizations including Catawba Valley Community College, Hickory Public Schools, Newton-Conover City Schools, Catawba County Schools, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Catawba County Economic Development Corporation, The Chamber of Catawba County, Western Piedmont Council of Governments, Catawba County Government, the Catawba County Board of Commissioners and numerous businesses from our local area.

When and why did K-64 get started?
Stemming from local population studies in 2016 and with an emphasis on workforce development alongside economic growth, the Catawba County Board of Commissioners identified education as one of its critical growth sectors and commissioned K-64 to help with connecting education and the workforce. By Fall 2017, K-64 was officially launched with then-CEO Mark Story at the helm and subcommittees operating as the new initiative went into action.

How is K-64 working to achieve its mission?
K-64 was founded on 6 guiding principles: One-to-World Technology, Tech-Savvy Educators, Character Development, Employer Engagement, Work-Based-Learning, and Career Adaptability. These principles are the overarching guides to help direct K-64 in what we have already accomplished and those agenda items being implemented now. Our initiatives are collaborative and coordinated with one or many of our partnering stakeholders (ex. school systems, CVCC, The Chamber of Catawba County) to assure that joint efforts are aligned to help achieve the most impact.

What are some of the initiatives K-64 has implemented?
Stemming from our guiding principles, K-64 implemented and achieved distribution of over 14,000 devices to help all students have access to technology; provided large financial support to help teachers gain extensive professional development in implementing technology in the classroom; assisted school systems in implementing and providing character development platforms to help all students to become better citizens; advises and coaches students in dual-enrollment college courses, next-steps and potential local career options; counsels with local industry and businesses to connect future workforce participants and share educational efforts aligned with their workforce needs; develops and strengthens industry relationships through students’ work-based-learning experiences; and shares valuable, impactful feedback to education partners.

How does K-64 help our community’s overall education system stand out?
There are many examples of workforce development initiatives, but there are some components that set K-64 efforts apart. One of the underlying anchors is that the workforce development is founded in education. This is a longer-term plan to not only impact in the moment but also help for our future workforce preparation. Also, and possibly the most important, the collaboration between all stakeholders in education, government, industry and community was in existence from the beginning and has helped lead to successes for our county. This collaboration and team effort from all helped, from formation to continued growth and support for such a vital community initiative.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about K-64?
he successes of K-64 involve many participants from all over our great community and would not have been possible without their support. The K-64 team would like to pass along a huge “Thank You” to all of those supporters and our partners. We are here for the Catawba County community and would welcome any input that people feel would be beneficial to strengthening our shared workforce.