Leaders with Volkswagen and Chattanooga State Community College announced Friday that their two mechatronics programs will be upgraded from a technical diploma to an associate's degree, which will include general education courses such as math, science and language arts.
"[Students'] critical-thinking skills and their communication skills will be enhanced by adding those general education courses," Dr. Jim Barrott, vice president of technology at Chattanooga State, said.
Leaders at the Volkswagen Academy will be hosting three upcoming open house events. This is a chance for potential students, families, educators and other interested community members to tour the academy and learn more about the programs.
The events are:
—March 20, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
—March 21, 5:30-8 p.m.
—April 18, 5:30-8 p.m.
For more information, click here.
The three-year Automation Mechatronics Program and Car Mechatronic Program will be upgraded from a technical program to an associate's of applied science in mechatronics engineering technology.
The degree will be offered through Volkswagen's ongoing partnership with Chattanooga State.
There are currently 51 students in the Automation Mechatronics Program and 10 in the newer Car Mechatronic Program.
This year, officials will take in 36 more students to the two programs.
The programs will also be certified by the German American Chamber of Commerce in Atlanta, which will give the program international reach, leaders said.
Barrott said that the offering of an associate's will be beneficial to students because it is a more recognized degree and can provide a pathway to a bachelor's degree. He said leaders are working on a plan that would allow students to go for two years working on an associate's and then do two years to finish a bachelor's degree.
Ryan Whary, 27, is currently in the automation program and said that some students were disappointed that they are already enrolled to get the technical diploma and can't get the associate's. But he also said all students had the option to take classes to work toward a degree, which is what he is doing.
He wanted to join the program because it will provide valuable skills, he said. And the hands-on experience is priceless.
"The biggest thing that I like about [the program] is the fact that I could learn a whole bunch of different skills," he said. "So, by the time I'm done with this, I should be a multi-trained employee."
He will be finished with the program in a about a year and a half.
Miranda Comstock is also in the automation program and said she was drawn to the "untouchable" quality level of learning opportunities.
"The company is great. The benefits are great. The program overall is great," she said. "The teachers are wonderful, and you couldn't ask for better hands-on materials to learn with."