Volkswagen trainees first in U.S. to receive German apprenticeship certificate

August 22, 2013

At Volkswagen's Chattanooga, Tenn., plant, 12 trainees have passed the final exam for the automation mechatronics program, becoming the first U.S. students to receive an official graduation certificate from the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) and the German American Chambers of Commerce (AHK USA).

In 2009 Volkswagen decided to invest more than $1 billion to build an assembly plant in Chattanooga. Volkswagen intended to hire about 2,000 people for the production facility, but finding 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. It has recently been the source for heated political debates. Particularly hard to find are candidates with a STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] background," explained Martina Stellmaszek, president and CEO of the German American Chamber of Commerce of the southern U.S. (GACC South). "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, GACC South examines, certifies, and oversees the quality of these programs.

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, combining classroom and business, theory and practice, learning and working. The training usually lasts about three years, during which students apply what they learn in class in a working environment.

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