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Volkswagen plans to kick off worker training for the Chattanooga plant in October, likely with high-skilled people dealing with the prototype of the new vehicle.

Gary Booth, manager of training and development for VW's operations in Chattanooga, said the early 2011 opening for the $1 billion plant seems a long way off, but to him is just around the corner.

"We better be ready to start in October," he said.

While ground has been broken on the Volkswagen Training Academy at the Enterprise South industrial park site, VW and Chattanooga State Technical Community College are working on training modules such as technology, quality control, leadership and lean manufacturing processes, the VW official said.

"It's going to be a world-class training system," Mr. Booth said. "The launch curriculum is being assembled now."

VW TEAMS

He said one of the "common denominators" that will cut through all the jobs at the plant will be the use of teams.

"An individual who comes to work at Volkswagen will immediately go into a team meeting," said Mr. Booth, who came to VW after an 18-year career with parts maker Denso in East Tennessee. "If they punch a time clock, they're not going to go to their line and start working."

The team will talk about production, systems and issues and challenges it will face along with the goals and objectives for that workday, he said.

"It's not an opportunity to punch a time card, go to work, go on a break, punch a time card and go home," Mr. Booth said.

He said maintenance people who work on the factory equipment will be multiskilled.

"We will not have electricians. We will not have mechanics," Mr. Booth said. These workers may not be able to solve every electrical or mechanical problem, but they'll at least diagnose the issue so a specially skilled person can be brought in, he said.

Whether an employee is an assembly operator, paint team worker or body welder, during the day or at least the week he will attend a team meeting sometimes called a quality circle, Mr. Booth said.

"They'll begin to look at their own processes. It might enable them to do their job more efficiently," he said.

Also, people won't just work on their own positions; they'll rotate during the day into other processes, Mr. Booth said.

"While you might be assembling wire harnesses at one point. You might be doing something completely different on the same line," he said. "There's going to be a mix of skills."

Mr. Booth said he can't underestimate the importance of math ability among employees.

"It will be part of the pre-employment exercise," he said. "I strongly recommend people have the skills in math. It goes into reasoning. It goes into problem solving."

Jeff Olingy, CSTCC's vice president for economic and community development, said one of the challenges the college hears from business is producing employees who show up on time and are willing to work.

"When it all comes together ... it's about producing results," he said. "Nobody cares about how hard you work. It's what did you produce today that's valuable to the organization."

VW is to employ about 2,000 people when it is up to full production of a new midsize sedan. In addition, an array of suppliers is expected to move into the area, creating more jobs.

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