Automotive Education in Southeast Region Serves Students, Workforce
Volkswagen, Chattanooga, TN
Volkswagen announced that it would build a manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. where it will build a vehicle specifically for the North American market. The plant will employ 2,000 workers from the tri-state area and is expected to invest $1 billion in the local economy.
In the Southeast Tennessee, North Georgia and Western North Carolina region, automotive students are learning a variety of skills that will not only benefit them as they move forward in their careers, but will benefit their communities as well as the workforce.
“When the students signed on to the program, Volkswagen made a commitment to them,” says Dr. Jim Barrott, vice president of technology at CSCC. “If they graduate, Volkswagen will make them permanent employees. Volkswagen also pays them for on-the-job training at the Volkswagen Assembly plant, and finances a portion of their tuition.”
The three-year Automotive Mechatronics program, which began in fall 2010, will enroll 20 students annually.
Students in the Automotive Systems Technology program at Tri-County Community College in Murphy, N.C., are learning to work on energy-efficient vehicles, an enhancement made possible by a sizable grant from the Southwestern Commission Region A.
“With the technology being brought in, our automotive department didn't have the equipment necessary to service and work on the newer types of cars,” says Paul Worley, director for economic and workforce development at TCCC. “We wanted to integrate green technology and figure out a way we could train both existing automotive technicians and the ones coming through to work on this technology.”
According to Worley, students will be prepared to work on a variety of automobiles after completing the program.
“This program gives our students some added value,” Worley says. “Our graduates will understand how to work on more than just one thing, and will have experience working on hybrid cars and diesel vehicles.”
Learning by working on the latest Kia Sorentos, Automotive Technology students at Georgia Northwestern Technical College's Floyd County campus are staying ahead of the curve.
The 2011 Sorentos, donated to the school by the nearby Kia automotive assembly and manufacturing plant, enables students to experience new technology.
“Students can see the technology that has not yet reached this program,” says Bill Bentley, assistant dean of industrial technology at GNTC's Floyd campus. “It's given us a look into the future, and allowed us to work on things that we just don't see coming in on a normal basis.”
Also striving to enhance the region's workforce, Al Hutchison spearheaded Georgia Work Ready programs in Chattooga, Walker, Dade and Catoosa counties.
Hutchison, associate vice president of economic development at GNTC's Walker County campus, is passionate about the programs which are designed to help the state's job seekers find employment.
“In today's economy, people have to have credentials or be graduates from a degree program,” Hutchison says. “We give those people who have fallen through the cracks a second chance.”
Georgia Work Ready allows individuals to earn Work Ready Certificates, credentials that can help assure employers that they are qualified for a particular job. The certificates are obtained by successfully completing a no-cost assessment at a Work Ready Center, located at various technical colleges across Georgia.
“We're trying to help people better themselves,” Hutchison says.