Gestamp Chattanooga has been a part of Tennessee’s fast-growing manufacturing industry for almost a decade and currently employs nearly 700 Tennesseans. Most recently, the company announced it would expand its operations in Chattanooga, creating more than 100 new jobs.
The project will allow Gestamp to acquire new equipment and expand its current facility in Hamilton County to make room for a new production line.
Gestamp is a trailblazer in work-based learning programs, with its innovative apprenticeship program launched in 2016. The Gestamp apprenticeship program is the first program in Tennessee to earn the U.S. Department of Labor’s registered apprenticeship designation. The program is designed to help Hamilton County students learn the skills needed for the workforce, including advanced manufacturing skills. Through this program, students take online academic classes at Gestamp as well as complete real-life work experience at the Gestamp facility. The program also pays students for their work, with students being compensated $9 an hour for their work when they begin the program and once completed, students can earn up to $12 an hour.
Gov. Lee continues to be an advocate for vocational training in Tennessee. In February, he announced his first legislative initiative, the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) to expand access to vocational and technical training for Tennessee students. The GIVE initiative utilizes regional partnerships to develop work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities.
“I said in my State of the State address that high schools need to look a lot different, and Gestamp’s apprenticeship program highlights what one company is doing to help,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said. “When I toured Gestamp last month, I saw firsthand the important work being done there, and I’m excited to see all they will accomplish with this additional investment in Chattanooga.”
Tennessee has put a major emphasis on work-based learning in recent years. In 2017, The Work-Based Learning Grant program was developed by the Governor’s Rural Task Force and funded through the Rural Economic Opportunity Act. Since its inception, 40 work-based learning grants totaling $1 million have been awarded across Tennessee. The grants are designed to assist the development or expansion of work-based learning programs that promote career awareness and student readiness in grades K-12. Work-Based Learning is an education strategy that provides students with experiences to learn and develop career and job skills.
Gestamp is one of the many Tennessee companies putting work-based learning first and continuing to be successful at preparing middle school and high school aged students for the workforce. Since the program launched, all 22 of the participants graduated in 2018 and the program recruited 19 more students in 2019. Gestamp’s program continues to grow and will continue to create a stronger future workforce.
“Three years ago, we needed to fill three plants with qualified people with a dwindling and competitively sought-after workforce. We came to the realization that we had to build a labor pool”, said Corey Jahn, Gestamp Chattanooga 1 Plant Director. “The goal aimed as well at having a positive presence in the local schools, teaching young folks how to work. In short, to do the right thing for Chattanooga.”
For those interested in the Gestamp apprenticeship program, visit Hamilton County Schools.