In the early 2000s, Volkswagen operated several successful apprenticeship programs in Germany and, because of its success abroad, the company decided to bring it stateside. The apprenticeship program, one of the core programs of the Volkswagen Academy, officially launched with the opening of the Chattanooga Plant in 2010 and has since trained over 100 apprentices.
This year, as the program marked its 10th anniversary, 28 apprentices successfully completed the program and transitioned into jobs at the plant.
Mark Limerick, a 2013 graduate says his training at the Academy helped him build a “great skill set” that allowed him to work on the floor. “I would recommend coming to the Volkswagen Academy,” said Limerick. “It helped me greatly with a future at Volkswagen. I’ve learned so much here.”
The Academy continues to strengthen the Volkswagen workforce with additional upskill training and onboarding training for new Volkswagen hires.
“Apprenticeship and educational programs date back centuries and have endured the test of time because they are truly effective ways for people to develop skills,” said Ilker Subasi, assistant manager, technical training, of the Volkswagen Apprenticeship Program at Volkswagen Chattanooga. “We are proud of what we’ve accomplished in the past 10 years at the Academy and look forward to continuing to train our next generations of automotive technicians in the years and decades to come.”
In addition to the apprenticeship program, the Volkswagen Academy is home to the High School Mechatronics Akademie, a two-year mechatronics program that is open to eligible high school students in the Hamilton County School District. This program combines high school and college courses into one program for students who are interested in studying mechatronics. Since its inaugural year, 54 students have graduated from the program.
Under normal circumstances, the Academy would also host Volkswagen’s Academy Summer Camp. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 camp was cancelled. During previous summer camp sessions, 14- to 18-year-old campers received hands-on experience in robotics and automation, and a variety of educational programming tied to the automotive manufacturing field.
“This is a great way for teenagers in the community to be involved with Volkswagen and a wonderful way for us to give back to the community as well,” said Steffi Wegener, technical training specialist at Volkswagen Chattanooga. “It’s exciting to watch the campers face challenges and use critical thinking skills to resolve issues they might encounter during an activity. This program really allows these youths to get a glimpse of some of the things we do here at the plant.”
In addition to its many successful educational programs, the Academy also serves as the plant’s primary workforce development resource. Prior to the start of production at the plant, employees undergo training at the Academy to ensure the workforce is well-versed and ready to hit the ground running.
This will be of added importance with the launch of the new battery plant and the electric vehicle build in Chattanooga, which will see the need for new skillsets in the plant’s employees.