VW cites public school needs in area

VW cites public school needs in area

July 13th, 2011 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Volkswagen and Hamilton County officials Tuesday called for bolstering education levels, saying future jobs will require it.

"The more we develop the community in math and computer literacy, the better prepared they'll be for future opportunities," said Mario Duarte of Volkswagen at a jobs forum.

The VW human resources official said a high school diploma is a minimum qualification for the auto company's production jobs at its Chattanooga plant.

Hamilton County Commissioner Warren Mackey, who hosted the forum, said public schools need to be strengthened.

He said there are 42,000 students in Hamilton County public schools. But there are another 15,000 in private schools, the commissioner said.

"That's kind of [a] statement of where we stand relative to our schools and training and what they're doing," Mackey told the more than 50 people who turned out for the forum.

J.Ed. Marston, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's vice president for marketing, said manufacturing is the county's largest employment sector after government, education and health.

He said VW is closing in on hiring its 2,000th person, while 15 area suppliers expect to have about 1,000 workers.

Guenther Scherelis, general manager of communication for VW's local operations, said more responsibilities at the plant are being turned over Americans.

He said that many of the first 180 or so overseas experts brought in to start the plant are leaving.

Kristy Foster, of Smryna, Tenn., said she was at the forum because she wants to move back to Chattanooga.

Employed at the Nissan plant, her skills translate well to VW, she said.

Rick Horton, of Chattanooga, said he is looking for new opportunities after his company went under. He has been unemployed for more than a year.

He hoped to learn about the availability of jobs and how to get one.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, VW reported that it set a new record for half-year global sales of more than 4 million cars as demand rose in all its markets.

Sales at VW's namesake car division rose 12 percent in the first six months of the year to 2.53 million vehicles, the company said.