How the Volkswagen Apprenticeship Program makes an impact with jobs

Across the country, more than 530,000 people are chasing the dream of a career through an apprenticeship program. These programs combine on-the-job training with classroom work to help enable tech-focused workers to graduate with in-demand skills – and often, a job offer waiting for them. The Volkswagen Apprenticeship Program began at the Chattanooga plant in 2010, training workers who graduate certified to work in any Volkswagen plant worldwide. To mark National Apprenticeship Week, we asked Ilker Subasi, the assistant manager of technical training at Volkswagen Chattanooga, to explain the history of the VW Apprenticeship program, its impact on the local community and what recent program updates mean for the program’s future. How did the Apprenticeship Program get started? Why the need? The decision to train apprentices in Chattanooga came before Volkswagen had even started building the plant. We identified that skilled maintenance technicians were scarce in the United States, especially in the Chattanooga region. And, since Volkswagen runs many successful apprenticeship programs in Germany and around the world, it made sense to bring the knowledge and capabilities to Volkswagen Chattanooga. The apprenticeship program is seen as the basis for qualifying and developing skilled workers on a long-term basis and aims to train workers to Volkswagen standards, helping to ensure  the company could fill the anticipated open positions with skilled workers. Upon graduation, the apprentices can start working in the plant immediately and are already familiar with the Volkswagen culture, expectations and technical equipment. How many applications do you get each year? How many apprentices have graduated? We have seen a steady increase of applications over the years. This year we received almost 200 applications for 24 open apprenticeship positions. The process of reviewing all applications and interviewing candidates takes about six months. Since 2013, 95 apprentices have graduated from the Mechatronics Program. Graduates receive a Volkswagen Group Academy Diploma, which certifies that they have received factory training according to global Volkswagen standards. Graduates also receive an Associate Applied Science Degree in Engineering Technologies from the local college. All graduates are also eligible to be placed in positions in the Chattanooga Plant. How large is the average class and what is a normal day like for apprentices? Each year, 24 new students, divided into two classes of 12, start the program. This creates a good learning environment and allows for ideal mentoring from the instructors. The program’s dual apprenticeship structure means learning through a combination of hands-on experiences and theory. During their semesters in the Academy, apprentices spend 80 percent of their time doing hands-on equipment training, which resembles work they would do in the Plant. The remaining 20 percent of their time is spent learning the complementing theoretical content. Additionally, students spend three semesters completing on-the-job training in different departments on the Volkswagen Chattanooga shop floor where they are introduced to the production environment, can use their acquired skills and can start building relationships within their future workplace. What concentrations does the current program offer students? Currently, the program offers Robotronics, which is a combination of robotics, troubleshooting, IT programming and maintenance. This past August, Volkswagen announced the relaunch of the Apprenticeship Program which was the most comprehensive update since the program started in 2010. What did you change? The shift in the industry and changes in technology across car manufacturing has influenced the qualifications that skilled team members need to excel in their positions. The new Robotronics apprenticeship program is a reaction to these circumstances and the new content is designed to help ensure that graduates have the right qualifications and can be prepared for the changing manufacturing environment. Program updates include a shift from mechanical to robotic training, which is becoming increasingly important in manufacturing. What benefits do graduates have entering the next phase of their careers? Are they guaranteed a job upon graduation? Graduates start their positions already familiar with the company culture, technical equipment and department environment. The apprenticeship has taught them up-to-date technical skills, which is why all graduates are guaranteed a job offer in the Plant. In addition, graduates may take part in programs called “Wanderjahre,” an international assignment opportunity to work in a different Volkswagen plant anywhere in the world for a year. This past May the High School Mechatronics Akademie held their first graduation, and 11 of those students chose to continue their training and become Volkswagen Robotronics Apprentices. Can you talk a little about the importance of this program to the Academy? The high school program at the Academy offers students, who are interested in hands-on learning and technical subjects, the opportunity to complete their last two years of high school at the Academy, working on state-of-the-art technical equipment, getting to know the Volkswagen culture and earning over 40 credit hours towards a college education. If they enjoy this learning environment and are interested in Robotronics, we hope they apply for the Volkswagen Chattanooga Robotronics Program. We fill many of our apprenticeship positions with these individuals who already bring commitment and passion to the company. Ilker Subasi, the assistant manager of technical training at Volkswagen Chattanooga How have you seen the program impact the local Chattanooga community? By offering an apprenticeship program that trains skilled workers in the technical field, Volkswagen helps support the local workforce development. The program has not only resulted in individuals starting careers in manufacturing, but has also led to other companies in the region now offering similar apprenticeship programs as a result of the success at the Volkswagen Academy. As an Apprenticeship Program graduate, how did the program affect your life and professional career? I started my own career as an apprentice at Volkswagen in Germany 20 years ago. Just like our apprentices here, I got to know the Volkswagen standards, culture and was taught valuable, professional skills in a modern, hands-on learning environment. The culture and mindset that I learned during those three years have stayed with me throughout my career at Volkswagen. Building on the content of my apprenticeship, I successfully obtained two Master’s Degrees in mechanical/electrical engineering and teaching. In 2010 I was sent to Chattanooga to design and build the dual apprenticeship program, again being able to utilize my own experience. Now, I am managing the apprenticeship program as well the technical training needs across Volkswagen Chattanooga.

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Top tuners take the Volkswagen Jetta and Arteon up a notch at SEMA

Every fall, hundreds of wild custom vehicles and the creative minds behind them gather at the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association show in Las Vegas to show off the latest trends in car modifications on the latest models. While SEMA never fails to draw out the unusual and unexpected, the best in show often demonstrates a flair for making everyday vehicles striking – in ways that might not require access to a paint shop and years of experience. This year, some of the top aftermarket suppliers and customizers in the country chose the 2019 Jetta and the upcoming Arteon to show how cars can transform into personal expressions. Here’s an up-close look at the results. of Volkswagen enthusiast Jamie Orr has a history of cutting-edge builds, and has now taken his talents to a White Silver Jetta S with six-speed manual transmission. His plan to stand out with the Jetta was to go for understatement, but with sharp details. “I’ve been a long-time fan of the Volkswagen Jetta through the years,” he said. “The 2019 model has some really interesting and exciting design elements, which I was thrilled to try to highlight.” Several of the parts Orr chose make their debut on his car, starting with the set of 20-inch Work Emotion T5R 2P wheels, wrapped in Delinte DS8 tires. The exterior carries an ECS Tuning 3D-printed prototype body kit, including a high-rise rear spoiler. Lowered on KW Clubsport coil-overs that feature remote reservoirs and three-way adjustable damping, the aggressive stance also showcases ECS Tuning brake rotors with Brembo six-piston calipers up front and Golf R calipers/carriers at the rear. Inside, Orr installed RECARO® A8 seats and rear seats reupholstered in houndstooth-style material, complimented by a Black Forest Industries color-matched shift knob and boot, “Almost every part that has gone into the car has been developed specifically for it within about four weeks,” says Orr. “I was ecstatic to be able to collaborate on a newly released design, from a beloved car line with such great history.” of Inspired by Jetta/Golf accessories from the 1980s and 90s, Air Design USA’s Jetta SEL plays to the strong retro trend among gearheads today. Nineteen-inch TSW Hockenheim S wheels, shod with Falken Azenis FK510 tires, are a modern redesign of the 90s-era DTM-inspired Hockenheim wheel. An Air Design USA body kit with rear lip spoiler is complimented by vintage look tri-color graphics that echo onto a roof-mounted bicycle, attached with Volkswagen Accessories roof bars and upright bicycle rack. A lowered stance is achieved with EIBACH® Progressive Rate Lowering Springs, while front performance brake calipers get a coat of GLI red paint. Inside, two-tone custom cognac and black colored seating surfaces with matching door cards and steering wheel complete the retro look. “Air Design’s first styling kits were developed for the Jetta Mark 2 and Jetta Mark 3 and have been part of the Volkswagen Euro-tuning cult, with a legion of dedicated fans throughout the world,” states Mariana Lopez, PR and Social Media Manager for Air Design. “When the Jetta A7 arrived this year, we knew we had to make sure we developed a sporty styling package to be available for our customers.” of When it came to customizing Volkswagen’s upcoming flagship sedan, the tuners at H&R Special Springs didn’t see any need to tinker with the car’s striking exterior design. “The all-new Arteon is one of most exciting new vehicles to arrive on the automotive scene,” says Roland Graef, president of H&R Special Springs. “The lines on car are very pleasing, with good proportions — everyone that sees it says it looks great.” The H&R team rose to the occasion instead by lowering the body with its VTF Adjustable Lowering Springs. The stance takes a slightly more aggressive tack thank to 20-inch Rotiform BUC wheels and H&R Trak+ wheel spacers wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero tires, guarding newly aggressive Brembo GT six-piston Monoblock brake calipers. The sole exterior flourish comes from a set of Sticky Jewel Graphics on the lower sides. of Built to highlight the aftermarket suspension offerings from H&R Special Springs, this Jetta R-Line has been lowered via H&R Street Performance Coil Overs and Trak+ wheel spacers. Perching the car on 19 x 8.5-inch Rotiform BUC wheels wrapped in Pirelli P Zero tires has cleared the way for upgraded front performance brake calipers, color-matched to the Habanero Orange factory paint, and 13.4-in rotors. Styling comes by way of an Air Design USA body kit, including a high-rise rear spoiler and Sticky Jewel graphics. A full suite of available Volkswagen Accessories rounds out the build, including Comfort & Protection accessory MoJoMats® carpet floor mats & MuddyBuddy Trunk Liner, Bumperdillo® rear bumper protection, and pop-in sunshades. Even the steering wheel was swapped with a BAK Performance carbon-fiber and leather sport wheel with orange stitching. “The Jetta is a great car out of the box,” says Graef. “Like all of our projects, we always build vehicles that can be repeated by others and utilized by the daily driver enthusiast.” Note: Modifying vehicles can adversely affect warranty coverage & compliance with required safety & other standards

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Taking the VW van life road to cosplay adventure

For many people, the thought of quitting a job and traveling the United States sounds like a dream. For Justin and Megan Webb, it’s a reality. Last year, the Tennessee couple decided they had nothing to lose by pursuing a passion. They sold almost everything they had, donated what they could, and kept only a box each of sentimental belongings. They then traveled to Boise, Idaho, where they picked up the vehicle they would live in and drive across the country—a 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia. When the Webbs first bought the van from a collector at the beginning of 2018, it had about 89,000 miles on it. It now has 110,000 miles in the early stages of the Webb’s dream journey—to attend as many cosplay conventions as possible. Justin and Megan Webb in their Vanagon. Modifying vehicles can adversely affect warranty coverage and compliance with required safety and other standards. To people who aren’t familiar with the world of cosplay: Yes, it’s short for “costume play,” people who dress up as characters from pop culture—movies, video games, comic books, and elsewhere. It’s a way to express creativity, boast fandom and have fun, all at once. Justin describes it as the chance to celebrate Halloween every day of the year: “Cosplay is the chance to showcase your love of a show or game and step out of your skin to be someone else,” he says. The Webbs have dressed as a variety of characters at cosplay conventions and their VW bus is always a hot commodity. Decked out with magnet decals that can be peeled on and off easily, their Volkswagen van is a replica evacuation shuttle from a popular series of video games set in a post-apocalyptic future. “It’s got really cool memorabilia and people can come sit inside and check it out. People think it’s awesome,” says Justin. “The van really fits the shape of the one from the game,” says Justin. “I like the freedom the apocalypse offers to the people in the game. You step out into a wasteland with all new people surviving and building new cities. It’s all about exploration, and the van, outside of the game, offers the same thing—exploration and freedom.” The van is also equipped with solar panels, a solar shower, wood flooring and an awning that Justin has built himself. “Every spare dime went into this van. We might have lost a lot of amenities moving into it, but we gained a lot of freedom,” says Justin. While their friends were jealous of their adventure, Justin admits his family thought he and Megan were nuts, and worried about their finances. But due to the van’s cosplay theme, Justin and Megan are often invited to conventions and paid to attend. The Webbs’ updated van. Modifying vehicles can adversely affect warranty coverage and compliance with required safety and other standards. On the road, Justin and Megan enjoy all the honks and thumbs ups from other drivers, but sometimes wish getting gas could be quicker. They are often stopped by other customers asking about the van and wanting to take pictures. When Justin and Megan want to drive in peace, they simply take the magnets off. Justin and Megan plan to live in the van for a minimum of one year, visiting all 50 states, Canada and Peru. They hope the trip lasts longer though, and they plan to keep going as long as they continue to receive sponsorships. Because of Megan’s German heritage, their end goal is ultimately to take the van to Germany. They are currently in the process of learning German, to learn to read the original owner’s manual. In the meantime, Justin is most looking forward to visiting Anchorage, Alaska to see the Northern Lights, while Megan is most excited to visit all of the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. “That’s what the Volkswagen bus means to us,” said Justin. “We can explore ourselves and the world that was given to us.”

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Exploring the VW and MoMA partnership for art education

Photo by Manuel Martagon, courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art At its best, modern art challenges our way of seeing the world around us. It’s that sense of innovation, of searching for new thoughts and ways of thinking, that has led Volkswagen to partner with The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 (MoMA) since 2011. Photo by Mark Cole, courtesy of MoMA PS1 Together, Volkswagen and MoMA have given life to an array of museum exhibitions, educational opportunities and special event programming over the past seven years. Volkswagen became lead sponsor of MoMA Education in 2015, supporting efforts to significantly expand the museum’s digital education efforts, including free online courses and downloadable resources to reach a global audience. In addition to digital learning, Volkswagen also sponsors a variety of onsite educational offerings at MoMA that target various audiences, including teens, families, teachers and those with disabilities. “VW is the perfect partner for MoMA’s educational programs, as we both embrace an experimental, research-based, global-minded approach to our work,” says Wendy Woon, the Edward John Noble Foundation Deputy Director for Education at MoMA. “We believe art can be a catalyst for critical reflection that opens new perspectives and exchanges. Experiences with art generate innovation and creativity, and VW has enabled us to bring art into the lives of so many people of all ages and abilities, locally, nationally and globally.” In addition to supporting a breadth of education programs for artists of all ages and skill levels, both in-person and online, Volkswagen also funds programming at MoMA PS1 in Queens, N.Y. MoMA PS1 is one of the largest non-profit contemporary art centers in the world and functions as a living, breathing, contemporary art-environment for artists and the public. As part of the MoMA PS1 programming, Volkswagen sponsors the VW Fellows Program, a year-long fellowship for aspiring young arts professionals who are placed across MoMA PS1 departments and work alongside curators and staff to address the daily needs of the museum. Left photo by Kirsten Schroeder; right photo by Manuel Martagon, both courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art Volkswagen also supports the ongoing, acclaimed VW Sunday Sessions performance program, presented in MoMA PS1’s VW Dome. The event series spotlights art in real time through weekly dance, music, film, and performance events that give artists and the public a venue for of-the-moment creativity. “Our partnership with MoMA not only reflects the company’s commitment to culture and the arts, but allows us to support incredible educational and performance programming that impact visitors to MoMA and MoMA PS1 from around the world,” said David Geanacopoulos, Senior Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and Public Policy of Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. In the coming months, we will further examine the MoMA and Volkswagen partnership, spotlight specific programs, and hear from MoMA learners who are benefitting from Volkswagen’s sponsorship. To learn more about the MoMA exhibitions and educational programming, click here.

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Watch the Volkswagen Atlas come together in two minutes

If you’ve never been inside a car factory, you’re missing out on an amazing display of technology – as demonstrated by the Volkswagen Atlas. Earlier this month, the 100,000th Volkswagen Atlas rolled off the production line in Chattanooga, Tenn., a notable milestone for the 3,700 Volkswagen team members who work there. Since production began in late 2016, the largest Volkswagen model ever has found a new home with thousands of American families thanks to its fun-to-drive chassis, huge interior and useful technology. “Our objective for the Atlas has been to assemble an SUV in America for Americans and we have been very encouraged by the success of the vehicle so far,” said Antonio Pinto, CEO of Volkswagen Chattanooga. “This is just the first of many production milestones we anticipate celebrating for the Atlas, and it would not have been possible without the world-class team here in Chattanooga.” The milestone Atlas SUV was a 2019 Atlas SEL Premium in Pacific Blue, with Shetland V-Tex leatherette interior, a top-of-the-line edition. For 2019, three key driver assistance features — Front Assist, Blind Spot Monitor, and Rear Traffic Alert 1 — are now standard on all Atlas trims. Building such machines takes precision and teamwork, and thanks to the short video below, you can see how it all comes together.  

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Meet the Volkswagen platform designed to spawn 10 million electric vehicles

It’s not often that you get to see the future of transportation in such nuts-and-bolts detail. But this isn’t just any future vehicle chassis.1 In German, it’s called the “Modulare E-Antriebs-Baukasten,” which provides the source of its acronym at Volkswagen: MEB. Translated, its name means “modular electric-drive toolkit,” and it’s designed to be the basic building block of the Volkswagen brand’s electric transportation future. The MEB will form the basis of the future anticipated Volkswagen electric vehicles in America, namely the production versions of the I.D. CROZZ SUV, the I.D. BUZZ van and beyond. Around the world, Volkswagen is making plans to produce 10 million copies of the MEB in a variety of styles – the most ambitious electric-vehicle rollout of any major automaker. With the MEB “we have developed a platform designed specifically for electric cars,” said Christian Senger, Head of the Volkswagen E-Mobility product line. “The I.D. models will not be combustion engine versions that have been converted, they will be designed to be 100 percent, thoroughbred electric vehicles. And they will be engineered to be online, upgradeable- and update-compatible. We’re making optimal use of the possibilities this technology brings.” Automotive jargon can be a bit dense, so it’s worth defining exactly what constitutes a “toolkit.” The MEB isn’t just the basic metal chassis, but the layout of key components and, most importantly, how they all fit together. Much like the Volkswagen MQB, the toolkit that underpins Volkswagen models from the Golf to the Atlas, the MEB can easily adapt to many different sizes of vehicles and battery capacities while using common components to help lower costs. Thanks to being designed from the start for electric propulsion, the MEB-based vehicles will have several innovations. Since electric drive components take up less space than gas-powered engines and transmissions, the I.D. models can offer interior space that’s a class-size larger than their exterior dimensions; the I.D. CROZZ can pack Atlas-type space in a Tiguan-size wrapper. All will be engineered to be either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, via one or two electric motors, for more optimal weight distribution and handling. And the battery pack, located in the floor, can be easily redesigned for different sizes and types of batteries, allowing for driving ranges from about 200 miles up to more than 340 miles on the WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure) cycle. “The platform that Volkswagen is developing is more consistent and innovative than many of the other platforms,” said Thomas Ulbrich, Member of the Volkswagen Brand Board of Management, E-Mobility division. “By 2022 alone, we anticipate that four Volkswagen Group brands will be ramping up 27 MEB models worldwide, ranging from compact cars to the I.D. BUZZ van.” ID. BUZZ study charged at a IONITY high power charging station. Concept vehicle shown; not available for sale. Specifications may change. Beyond the basics, the MEB can be designed to help make advanced technologies commonplace, such as over-the-air software update capabilities and 125-kW charging. Ulbrich compares the launch of the MEB to the transition VW made in the 1970s from the Beetle to the Golf – one that changed the company and transportation around the world. “The MEB modular electric drive matrix is probably the most important project in Volkswagen’s history,” he said.

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Five races, five podiums, one championship: Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross in 2018

When Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross launched in 2014, the series was a new experience for many Americans; fast-paced, timed motorsports action on closed courses that mixed pavement and dirt with spectacular jumps and “joker laps.” So was the race car, a competition-bred version of the Volkswagen Beetle with nearly 600 hp, all wheel drive and a zero-to-60 mph time faster than most open-wheel race cars. Five years later, Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross and drivers Scott Speed and Tanner Foust have shown just how powerful the team can be, completing a dominating performance over four American Rallycross races this year and an inaugural appearance at the Nitro World Games. Scott and Tanner each won two of the ARX season’s four races and neither finished off the podium; only the less-friendly skies of the Nitro World Games competition broke the winning streak, with Tanner placing a hard-fought third. The driver’s accomplishments in 2018 brought Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross’ total race wins over its five-year career to 30 victories and four driver’s championships. Catch a glimpse of the high-flying Beetles below:  

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