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Contributed photo by Volkswagen / Volkswagen Chattanooga CEO Tom du Plessis, center, accepted the Pledge to America's Workers Presidential Award on behalf of Volkswagen of America. Also pictured is U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, left, and Ivanka Trump, special advisor to the president.

This story was updated on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020 at 8 p.m. with additional information.

Volkswagen of America has received a national award for workforce development training and education with the company cited for its programs at the automaker's Chattanooga plant.

The company was one of nine entities receiving the Pledge to America's Workers Presidential Award in recognition of industry-driven programs to train and educate American workers.

"It is an honor to receive this award in recognition of our commitment to workforce development and our commitment to growing our economic presence in the U.S.," said Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America.

Keogh said that at the Volkswagen Academy in Chattanooga, the company combines academic studies with on-the-job training.

"The success of this program and its graduates is directly tied to our ongoing partnerships with local colleges throughout Tennessee," he said. "Our graduating apprentices are well-trained, well-prepared and have the proper skills to seize the opportunities that the transition to electric vehicle production is creating."

Volkswagen Chattanooga CEO Tom du Plessis accepted the award for the company in Washington, D.C., at the White House.

As a company, Volkswagen of America said the automaker is making large investments in the U.S. workforce to support the technological changes needed to remain a leader in mobility. The company said it's committed to training the current and future workforce to build electric and innovative vehicles for the North American region.

On Wednesday, Volkswagen revealed a new electric SUV which it termed "the most important launch for VW since the Beetle." The compact SUV, called the ID.4, will be built in Chattanooga by 2022 when the company finishes an $800 million expansion.

Also Wednesday, the German automaker recommitted to hiring 1,000 more workers at the Chattanooga factory, which now employs 3,800 employees.

"That's a solid number. That plant has never been running harder than right now," Keogh said about the factory that builds the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport SUVs and Passat sedan.

Volkswagen of America said it's workforce development strategy in the U.S. focuses on engaging local talent, recalibrating programs to meet future needs, and fostering a culture that encourages innovative thinking.

The company cited "strong partnerships" it has developed with educational institutions which dramatically increase the company's training capacity, particularly for its on-site apprenticeship, technical skills, and professional skills training.

The company mentioned partnerships with the state, Hamilton County Schools and the Public Education Foundation to establish 16 digital fabrication labs.

The Volkswagen Academy also hosts on-site high school, apprenticeship, and professional development programs, all of which enable the company to reach an audience ranging from middle school students through established professionals.

Ivanka Trump, the daughter of Donald Trump and an advisor to the president, said at the ceremony that Volkswagen of America "has demonstrated a meaningful and substantive commitment toward re-skilling and investing in the futures of their workers, more urgent now than ever before due to the changes brought on by the pandemic."

"Prioritizing American workers and ensuring they are well prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow will guarantee the continued exceptionalism of our country's workforce for decades to come," she said.

The Pledge to America's Workers initiative recognizes the role companies play in training America's workforce, challenges them to commit to providing new job training and education opportunities in the coming years, and celebrates that commitment. Since its founding in July 2018, more than 430 organizations have joined the effort.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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