Volkswagen trainees first in U.S. to receive German apprenticeship certificate
Twelve trainees of the Automation Mechatronics Program at Volkswagen, Chattanooga, TN, have passed the final exam and will be the first U.S. students to receive an official graduation certificate by the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) and the German American Chambers of Commerce (AHK USA).
“Volkswagen’s Automation Mechatronics Program is at the forefront of establishing high quality standards for vocational training in the U.S.,” said Martina Stellmaszek, president & CEO of the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Southern U.S. (GACC South). “This is the first program in the U.S. that is fully accredited by the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the German American Chambers of Commerce.”
In 2009, Volkswagen decided to invest over $1 billion and build a state-of-the art assembly plant in Chattanooga, TN. Volkswagen intended to hire approximately 2,000 people for the production facility, but soon realized that finding highly skilled labor was a challenge.
“The lack of skilled labor in the U.S. has been an ongoing problem for many international subsidiaries and U.S. companies,” Stellmaszek said. ”It has recently been the source for heated political debates. Particularly hard to find are candidates with a STEM background (science, technology, engineering, and math). As a result, more and more companies decide to train their employees on their own and frequently team up with technical colleges or experienced trade organizations like ours.”
While Volkswagen focuses on the technical side of the training, the GACC South examines, certifies and overlooks the quality of these programs. Given that the German Chambers of Commerce are the “competent bodies” by German law which are responsible for the organization, registration, examination, certification, and quality assurance of this training system, the GACC South has been the local partner for Volkswagen in the U.S.
The German Dual Vocational Training System traditionally combines classroom and business, theory and practice, learning and working. The training usually lasts about three years during which students will apply what they learn in class in a working environment. In Germany, it results in one of the lowest youth unemployment rates (7.9 percent) among any industrialized nation in the world.
Volkswagen invested $40 million in a new Training Academy at the Chattanooga plant. The German model of Dual Vocational Training was adapted as a guideline to train students and the standard German curriculum was implemented. In addition, a German apprenticeship trainer was hired.
”For centuries German companies have provided comprehensive vocational training to ensure the development of a skilled workforce of tomorrow and it is very inspiring to see Volkswagen Chattanooga continue this tradition here in the U.S.,” Stellmaszek said. “Training programs like this will most certainly have a positive impact on local economies and communities.”
The German Chambers of Commerce all over the world are the official representatives of industry and trade in their respective country and are, in this capacity, in charge of supporting the efforts of companies, such as Volkswagen Chattanooga.