First-Class Dual Education System
How do you get 650 specialists for a new polysilicon plant in rural Tennessee? You train them. In collaboration with the Chattanooga State Community College, WACKER set up a training center and has so far invested three million US dollars in the project.
“Without the institute, we would never have managed to meet our demand for personnel,” reveals WACKER HR head Dr. Erika Burk. She is referring to the WACKER INSTITUTE at the Chattanooga State Community College, which has been training process technicians, electronics and instrumentation systems technicians and mechanical systems technicians since the 2011 autumn term for WACKER’s new polysilicon site in Charleston (Tennessee). By the time the expansion is complete, there are expected to be 650 new high-tech jobs there.
Practice-Oriented, Certified Training
The WACKER INSTITUTE’s recipe for success: the trainees regularly switch between classroom and on-the-job training.
The WACKER INSTITUTE is bringing the dual education system that has proven successful in Germany to Tennessee. During the approximately two-year training, classroom lessons alternate with practical skill development on machines or in the site laboratory.
The interest in an in-depth dual education is high among Americans, as they are generally only familiar with college degrees or on-the-job training. In the first year, Dr. Burk and her team sifted through some 10,000 applications. By the end of 2015, the first 200 trainees had obtained their diplomas. Most of them found a job at WACKER in Charleston or one of the neighboring companies.
“A Resounding Success”
In 2013, the WACKER INSTITUTE was honored with the Bellwether Award for the best worker training program in the USA.
The WACKER INSTITUTE has attracted interest far beyond Tennessee’s borders. In 2013, the institute, which was set up jointly with the Chattanooga State Community College, was already the proud recipient of the Bellwether Award in the Workforce Development category. “The WACKER INSTITUTE has been a resounding success,” says Dr. George Graham, head of the institute. “What we have created here differs fundamentally from the American system, in which apprenticeships are not as common.”