Wednesday, August 20, 2014 · 8:23 p.m.
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A $5 million pilot plant and training facility for Wacker Polysilicon employees—the Wacker Institute—opens its doors next month at Chattanooga State Community College. 

“This is truly a state-of-the-art training facility with world-class science labs," Dr. Jim Catanzaro, president of Chattanooga State Community College, said in a prepared statement. "The Wacker Institute enables us to provide a unique learning experience to prepare our students for a career in the growing photovoltaics industry, one of the fastest-growing industries in the world.”

The Wacker plant in Bradley County will serve the growing demand for hyperpure polycrystalline silicon used by industries in the manufacture of solar panels and photovoltaic devices. Wacker employers will get training from the Wacker Institute. (Photo: Contributed by Wacker Chemie AG)

The institute's grand opening will be Feb. 8 from 2 to 4 p.m. at 4325 Amnicola Highway. 

Shorts, sandals, open-toed or high-heeled shoes should not be worn in the plant. Guests are asked to wear comfortable walking shoes with solid, nonslippery soles.

Visitors will have the opportunity to learn more about the Wacker Institute program of study at Chattanooga State Community College, view the pilot plant and take a guided tour through the facility, officials said. 

Local representatives from Wacker Polysilicon will be available to answer questions about working for the company and will educate visitors on the technical production process.

Dr. Erika Burk, Wacker Polysilicon’s director of human resources, said the grand opening is a great opportunity for local residents to learn more about a career with Wacker Polysilicon.

Company leaders want to hire as many people from the Tennessee Valley as possible, she also said. 

“We need a very sophisticated workforce at our plant; this is a highly technical production process," Burk said in a prepared statement. “We developed a partnership with Chattanooga State to form a program that will ensure our future employees are fully trained and ready to work when our plant begins operation next year.”   

The Wacker Institute is part of the engineering technology division at Chattanooga State Community College.  

The four main areas of study include chemical technology, chemical laboratory technology, mechanical technology and electrical and instrumentation technology.

Other technology programs will be housed in the Wacker Institute, a 25,000-square-foot facility located in the former Olan Mills building adjacent to Chattanooga State Community College.

The Wacker Polysilicon North America LLC, Charleston, Tenn., plant in Bradley County is scheduled for completion in the fourth quarter of 2013, with production beginning 2014.

The $1.5 billion plant will employ some 650 full-time workers.

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