Trade Sep-Oct Interactive - page 14

German American Trade Sep/Oct 2013
14
S P O T L I G H T S
Between work bench and class room: for the longest time, the German dual
vocational system was frowned upon abroad – now it’s becoming Germany’s strongest export
C
hattanooga, Tennessee –At first
glance, steel does not look all that
impressive. The gray chunk is as big
as the palm of a hand and relatively
heavy. To work this chunk of steel
with simple tools in a way that
produces a thin, finely polished frame
is quite the challenge for the young
people who are embarking on their
professional careers and are currently
completing a dual vocational training
following the German model to
become a mechatronics specialist.
With this, they are walking new paths.
This is how it works: The German
Dual Vocational Training System
traditionally combines classroom and
business, theory and practice, learning
and working. The training usually
lasts about three years during which
students will apply what they learn in
class in a working environment. This
type of training has been recognized
worldwide as a highly effective model.
In Germany, it results in one of the
lowest youth unemployment rates
(7.9%) among any industrialized
nation in the world.
"Today, in a somewhat decent shop, a
computer-guided machine is used for
that," says Ilker Subasi. "Here in our
shop, it is important, however, that
the young professionals learn their
skilled trade from scratch." Subasi is
kind of a cultural liaison. As the head
of vocational training at Volkswagen’s
Chattanooga plant, he is responsible
for transferring this standard into the
New World. In day-to-day business
this means: despite state-of-the-art
milling machines, VW employees
should be just as familiar with a
rough file and a smooth file as
mechanics of former generations were
with such tools. "Even the latest
machines can be operated in a better
way if you manually complete each
work step yourself beforehand."
Subasi appreciates traditional
craftsmanship: Born in Hanover,
Germany, he attended Georg-Büch-
ner-Gymnasium [German high school]
in Seelze, Germany, and joined
Volkswagen when he was 16. After
completing his vocational training to
become an industrial mechanic, he
added several additional qualifications
until he was promoted to head of
vocational training in Chattanooga
last year. He enjoys his life in the US.
"What a great country full of open-
minded people."
At the same time, living in the US
presents a unique challenge for
Subasi. Since 2011, VW has been
manufacturing a Passat model
specifically designed for the US
market. And here, vocational training
of the local workforce plays a central
role. "Quality is the nuts and bolts of
our cars. We will not lower our
standards in this regard," says Subasi.
That is why Volkswagen together with
the Chattanooga State Community
College now offers a vocational
training model that is to set a
standard in the US. Standards are
identical with the requirements in
Germany: “Volkswagen’s Automation
Mechatronics Program is at the
forefront of establishing high quality
standards for vocational training in
the U.S.,” said Martina Stellmaszek,
President & CEO of the German Amer-
ican Chamber of Commerce of the
Southern U.S. (GACC South). “This is
the first program in the U.S. that is
fully accredited by the Association of
German Chambers of Commerce and
Industry and the German American
Chambers of Commerce.” This is a
first in the US. At least until now.
Among the first young professionals
to complete the training is Windy
Scott. The African American feels like
a pioneer. ”If I pass my final exam
this summer, I can immediately start
working at VW in my area of
expertise. In addition, I would be able
to apply in any of VW’s other plants
as well since the training is acknowl-
edged in Germany,” says the 38-year-
old woman. She has already success-
fully completed a Bachelor’s degree in
electronics engineering. ”But that does
not compare to this practical approach
to learning.” The number of partici-
pants shows that it was a rocky road
to get to the program: Windy’s class
started three years ago with 20 male
and female participants. Eight of them
left the vocational program – or were
poached by other employers.
The three-year vocational training for
a trade profession, comprised of equal
parts of theoretical and practical
learning, has been relatively unknown
in the US until now. Many businesses
limit training to only the basics.
”Employers shy away from investing
huge amounts of money into their
employees, since they never know
how long said employees will stay
Be Bold, Go Vocational!
By Stefan Koch, courtesy of HAZ and Stefanie Jehlitschka, GACC
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