By Clint Confehr
CHATTANOOGA, TN — Volkswagen is hiring for job openings because of growing production at its plant in Tennessee’s Scenic City.
Hiring continues through mid-June, Volkswagen spokesman Keith King reports. That and attrition prevent him from stating an exact number of jobs to be filled.
“We were at 2,400 employees as of last summer,” King said. “This surge will probably peak at 3,200 … and then continue … on an as needed basis.”
VW’s diversity hiring goal is one in five, or minorities’ part of the local workforce.
“Our annual production capacity for the newly-expanded factory is 250,000 vehicles per year, up from 150,000 per year,” King said.
The factory has two shifts, each has had a capacity to produce 378 cars daily, King said. So, VW’s production increase of 100,000 more cars annually reflects an increase of two thirds. Production is Monday through Thursday. Fridays are for resetting work for the next week.
Workers placed by a staffing agency were checking in at the plant some 150 miles from Nashville when The Tennessee Tribune toured the plant with VW’s Diversity Committee.
Committee members and visitors saw Volkswagen’s new Atlas, a mid-size SUV. Its production started Dec. 14. It’s why VW needs more employees, says Lisa Brown, a diversity and inclusion consultant working for Volkswagen Group of America.
King led the tour.
“Our diversity hiring goal has always been to reflect the communities in which we do business,” King said. “The minority population in our plant is in-line with population in the civilian labor force, which is about 20 percent of our employee population.”
As for diversity in VW’s suppliers, “Our target is 10 percent. General purchasing was 10 percent. Production purchasing was 11 percent,” he said.
VW job openings include internships for college students and recent graduates. Engineers, supervisors, factory workers and other experienced personnel are needed. A review of vwjobschattanooga.com shows VW wants people knowledgable in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer control and information technology.
The factory’s production line is highly automated. Robot maintenance is a key position. There’s a three-year program for prospective company employees. During the tour, King said that, to his knowledge, all graduates of the program have been offered company jobs.
The body shop is 77 percent automated, he said. Much of that is MIG and laser welding. There’s no manual welding except for repairs. Production employees wear clothing without metal such as rivets on jeans to avoid scratching cars, King said.
The Atlas was unveiled in October and will “hit the market this year,” King said.
VW manufactured 500,000 Passat sedans in Chattanooga from April 2011 to July 2015. There’s no indication that another model will be produced in Chattanooga. Internet reports say in 2020 VW may be selling an electric car with a range of up to 375 miles.
VW’s plant is LEED Certified; it achieved an environmentally friendly building rating, King said. Rain drained from the roof is recycled through commodes. Eastside Utility District water is pumped through a waterproof testing chamber and that water is recycled. VW test track asphalt has a white coating to prevent heat islands.
The company’s solar park “generates 9.58 megawatts of power on a sunny day” to help heat and cool the plant, King said.
The plant is on 1,400 acres, much of which is open land close to VW’s factory. “The potential is there” to expand the plant, King said. There’s no plan to increase the 3,442,350-square-foot factory. That’s 26.36 percent larger than before expansion.
VW Job Fact Sheet
• Production workers start at $14.50, up from $13.50 in January, with a potential to earn up to $17 hourly after a year of employment.
• VW’s Partner in Education Program funds training at Tennessee State and Fisk universities, UTK, UTC, Oak Ridge National Lab, Hamilton County Schools and University of Memphis.
• Descriptions of a vocational program and an application web portal are at: https://www.chattanoogastate.edu/engineering-information-technologies/partnerships/vw-academy
• As for hiring of felons, VW looks at convictions based on standard guidelines and criteria. A VW spokesman says each situation is different so severity, type, and time since conviction are considered.
For more, go to www.vwjobschattanooga.com, or www.aerotektn.com, or call the Aerotek Recruiting Agency at (423) 242-2620. Applications must be submitted through those websites.