As the region readies for Chattanooga’s new Volkswagen plant, work force development professionals are beginning to make sure the area is prepared.
A conference next week at Chattanooga State Technical Community College is designed to help them figure out what they need to do to get ready as speakers answer the question, “How can Chattanooga prepare its work force?”
“The event is centered around making sure we prepare our work force the best we can,” said Sheila Boyington, president of North Shore-based Thinking Media.
Dr. Bill MacMillan, formerly with the City Colleges of Chicago, will talk on how the Chicago area worked to train thousands of residents there for jobs at a Ford assembly plant and related supplier companies.
Tom Edd Wilson, president of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, said part of the negotiation process with Volkswagen involved assuring it the city had a trainable work force.
“When a community gets a plant the size if VW, the responsibility that goes along with that is to have a work force that is willing and able to perform the work and we have that,” Mr. Wilson said, who will speak at the event.
Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, Chattanooga State president Dr. Jim Catanzaro and Randy Lane of Eastman Chemical in Kingsport, Tenn., also will take part.
The event is targeted at those who will be working with individuals to improve their skills, such as professionals who work in work force development agencies or other human service agencies.
Since Chattanooga and surrounding communities do not already have workers in place who are skilled in automotive manufacturing, employers will have to find employees that can learn in an “on-the-job” teaching scenario, Mrs. Boyington said.
Their skills can be measured using a program called WorkKeys. It measures the foundational skills necessary to be trainable in specific jobs, and then gauge individuals on the same scale.
The speakers will present models of work force development initiatives that have been successful in other communities where either auto plants, tier 1 suppliers or others have come in and created a need for thousands of qualified candidates at one time.
“The goal is to start working on a model of work force development we can place in our community to prepare ourselves for the growth we have coming,” said Mrs. Boyington, who helped coordinate the event in conjunction with Chattanooga State.
Volkswagen plans to start construction on a $1 billion plant that is to employ 2,000 workers. Production is to begin by early 2011.