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Job-seekers fill out applications during a job fair with Volkswagen staffing contractor Aerotek held at the Volkswagen Manufacturing Plant on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Aerotek is hiring to fill production slots for manufacturing Volkswagen's new Atlas SUV.
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Danny Scherer, center, with Aerotek, helps Tay Hutchins, left, and Jeanette Dupree with their applications during a job fair with Volkswagen staffing contractor Aerotek held at the Volkswagen Manufacturing Plant on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Aerotek is hiring to fill production slots for manufacturing Volkswagen's new Atlas SUV.

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Volkswagen rolled out a newly built Atlas SUV for a job fair at its Chattanooga factory Friday as the automaker gave prospective employees a close-up look of what they'll assemble if they're hired.

VW staffing company Aerotek still needs to hire more than 600 people between now and mid-March. The new hires help produce the new SUV that the automaker sees as key to jump-starting U.S. sales after its emissions scandal.

"We just completed our last hiring class of 60," said Aerotek's Danny Scherer. They are among about 400 people Aerotek has brought on at the plant in recent months, pushing the factory's headcount to 2,800 workers.

If the plant hits its target of 3,400 workers by next spring, the mark will set a new high at the facility, which started production six years earlier on the midsize Passat sedan.

On Friday, about 30 to 40 people were waiting at the VW conference center when the job fair opened, and a fairly steady stream continued to drop by as the afternoon wore on.

Geoffrey Wright, 19, of Chattanooga, said he'd been looking for the right job for the past couple of months, and he hoped he'd found one at VW.

"I don't want to settle for minimum wage," he said. "I feel like you could move up [at VW]."

Aerotek said pay starts at $13.50 an hour and ramps up to about $16 an hour.

Moritz Dern, 24, said he's from Germany, married an American girl, got his work visa and now wants to catch on with the automaker.

"I'm very familiar with Volkswagen. I'd love to work in the auto industry," he said, adding that he has experience in the purchasing arena.

His friend, Chase Green, said he was checking out the job fair for a possible place to land after he finishes a stint in the military.

Green said his experience with quality assurance and electronics on a submarine could transfer to a slot at VW.

"I could work full-time and go back to school," he said.

Austin Rector, 19, of Harrison, said he sees working at VW as a career position.

"I've done a lot of trades," he said. "It's a foot in the door. I could always learn more."

Scott Lappas, who works for the Orange Grove Center, was among a contingent checking out the job fair to see if the VW posts would fit some of its clients.

"There's so much potential there," he said. "We're constantly exploring options like VW."

The use of Aerotek is the typical way VW hires its production employees. The automaker has said that about 1,500 of its Chattanooga workforce made the move from Aerotek to VW over the years.

Production on the seven-seat SUV started earlier this week, with plans for the vehicle to go on sale at dealerships in April 2017.

VW officials have said the number of new production employees would continue to grow above the 3,400 figure depending on demand for the Atlas. Two years ago, VW pledged to hire 2,000 more workers as part of its $900 million plant expansion to assemble the SUV.

About a half dozen job fairs sponsored this summer by the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce helped woo about 1,500 to 2,000 applicants for the new jobs.

Hiring is more challenging today with low unemployment than it was when about 85,000 people applied for the first 2,000 jobs created at the plant amid the Great Recession, officials said.

Automotive suppliers to VW, such as Gestamp and Chattanooga Seating, also are staffing up.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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