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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (July 21, 2021) — Inspiring the next generation of technological talent in advanced manufacturing, the Mechatronics Academy celebrated its five-year anniversary with a formal renewal of the program’s partnership. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the joint venture between Volkswagen Group of America Chattanooga Operations, LLC, Hamilton County Schools and Chattanooga State Community College was renewed for another five years. The MOU is effective July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2026.
“Volkswagen Academy’s onsite high school program provides local students with an educational head start and firsthand exposure to a state-of-the-art manufacturing environment,” said Burkhard Ulrich, senior vice president of human resources for Volkswagen Chattanooga. “For Volkswagen it creates a future talent pipeline as many of our graduates continue into our apprenticeship, and from there into our workforce. We are pleased to continue this cooperation with our education partners for the next five years.”
The Mechatronics Academy launched in 2016 as a pilot with four schools and 26 students. Since 2017, program availability expanded to all rising juniors and seniors in Hamilton County public schools. The most recent graduating class was comprised of students from Central, East Hamilton, Hixson, Howard, Ooltewah and Tyner Academy high schools. This year marked the Mechatronics Academy’s fourth graduating class.
With the goal of providing students an alternative to the traditional high school environment, the Mechatronics Academy offers an innovative curriculum that inspires a new kind of learning.
The curriculum was designed by all three entities. It has evolved in recent years with the introduction and inclusion of FANUC robotics training, 3D printing and plasma-cutting technology. This education is offered in conjunction with many classes over a two-year period.
Graduates of the program are prepared to enter industrial and technical career paths, including those in the fast-growing field of mechatronics – the engineering of electrical and mechanical systems – as well as welding, engineering or automotive.
“There is an urgent and growing need in the U.S. and in our community to fill positions that require specialized knowledge and training,” said Dr. Rebecca Ashford, president of Chattanooga State Community College. “The renewal of this MOU signifies our collective commitment to further foster strategic partnership in driving employability of students. Through the Mechatronics Academy, students are introduced to exciting career opportunities in a real-world environment. The knowledge and skills gained from this program can open doors that lead to high-paying jobs, including those that do not require a four-year degree.”
Mechatronics Academy students graduate from their local high school having earned up to 36 hours of college credit toward an A.A.S. Engineering Systems Technology degree with a concentration in Mechatronics. Students also have the opportunity to earn certification through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The Mechatronics Academy is administered by Hamilton County Schools, with full-time on-site educators Samuel Dean and Jacqueline Myers at the Volkswagen Academy.
“Our ultimate responsibility is to provide the best education possible for our students, one that prepares them for life beyond high school,” said Dr. Bryan Johnson, superintendent of Hamilton County Schools. “Ensuring students thrive is a community effort, and the Mechatronics Academy is a result of those effective partnerships. We celebrate the opportunity for educators to collaborate with industry to equip students with tools for a successful, rewarding career in STEM. We look forward to continuing our commitment to this important program.”
More than 60 students have graduated from the Mechatronics Academy to date. Each cohort has a capacity for 24 students per grade level. Due to COVID-19 and social distancing requirements, the program is currently accepting 13 students per grade level.
The enrollment period begins annually each spring, and there is currently a waitlist for the 2021-22 school year. For more information about enrollment, visit https://www.hcde.org/school_choice/mechatronics_akademie_at_volkswagen/prospective_students
Mechatronics Academy students attend classes at the Volkswagen Academy, located on the Volkswagen Chattanooga campus, five days a week. They remain enrolled at their home school and are able to participate in clubs, sports and other activities.
To be eligible for the program, students must be rising juniors or seniors at a Hamilton County public school, with a minimum GPA of 2.0 and college-ready scores on the ACCUPLACER exam. The final cohort is selected based on interviews with the onsite educators, which evaluate academic performance as well as work ethic and interest in the field of mechatronics.
Based on the follow-on opportunity of Volkswagen's Robotronics Technology Expert (RTE) apprenticeship program, Mechatronics Academy students can continue for further academic and career development. Of the 2021 graduating class, 55% plan to join the Volkswagen RTE apprenticeship this fall. For more information about Volkswagen’s apprenticeship program, visit https://www.volkswagengroupofamerica.com/en-us/volkswagen-academy.
About the Volkswagen Academy
Volkswagen Chattanooga’s onsite training facility, the Volkswagen Academy, is home to secondary to post-secondary education programs. Based on a dual education system that combines vocational classroom education and paid on-the-job training, apprentices receive hands-on training in mechanical systems, electronics, welding and automated systems among other disciplines.
About Volkswagen Chattanooga
The Volkswagen Chattanooga assembly plant began production in April 2011 and currently employs approximately 3,800 team members. Volkswagen Chattanooga assembles the Volkswagen Passat, the Volkswagen Atlas and the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport. The factory will become Volkswagen’s North American base for electric vehicle and battery pack assembly, and will add the ID.4 to its assembly lines in 2022.
About Chattanooga State Community College
Founded in 1965, Chattanooga State Community College is a comprehensive, public community college in the College System of Tennessee offering more than 100 degree and certificate programs preparing students for associate and associate of applied science degrees, technical and institutional certificates, transfer to four-year institutions, and immediate entrance into the job market. ChattState Online offers 30+ fully online degrees. Home to the only fully embedded technical college on a Tennessee community college campus, the College consistently offers a high-quality education with a 16:1 student-to-teacher ratio, 99 percent job placement rate, and 98 percent allied health licensure pass rate.
The College serves a six-county service area that includes Hamilton, Rhea, Sequatchie, Marion, Bledsoe and Grundy counties, the college also collaborates with businesses and industry to create and deploy customizable workforce training solutions.
About Hamilton County Schools
Hamilton County Schools is the fourth-largest school district in Tennessee and serves approximately 360,000 residents across a 576-square mile area. Our 79 schools consist of Pre-K through grade twelve with more than 3,500 teachers responsible for educating nearly 45,000 students.