Officials from Volkswagen and state and local government announced Tuesday the establishment of a $1 million program that will allow all Hamilton County middle and high schools to apply for funds to create a science lab in their schools.
The program, called Volkswagen eLabs, will mean students get access to new technologies that could help them get work after graduation and fill positions that boomers will soon be vacating.
Tennessee Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Randy Boyd, who was at VW Tuesday, said that education helps support a great workforce and create jobs for Tennessee residents.
"How successful our state is in the future depends on the readiness of our workforce and aligning our education offerings with the job needs of Tennessee industries," he also said.
The new program will also allow students to connect with automated manufacturing equipment, 3-D printers, robotics, programmable microcomputers, renewable energy kits and other science-related activities.
Leaders made the announcement at Volkswagen's local campus. And officials said this new program represents the company's continued commitment to education and workforce development.
"At Volkswagen Chattanooga, hands-on learning is a crucial part of our educational programs, and we are very pleased to partner with the state of Tennessee to bring the opportunity for laboratory-based science exploration to engage the minds of students here in Hamilton County," Christian Koch, president and CEO of Volkswagen Chattanooga, said. "Volkswagen places the highest priority on education at all levels, and we are proud to continue our support for education here in Tennessee."
The Public Education Foundation—an independent, nonprofit organization that provides training, research and resources to teachers, principals and schools in Hamilton County—will administer the program.
Schools will have to identify a team of teachers committed to investing a significant amount of time to develop the knowledge and skills to take advantage of the laboratory opportunity, according to a news release.
A school’s principal must also demonstrate a personal commitment to the project, agree to engage in professional learning and provide release time to at least one teacher who will manage the lab.
Each school must also commit to raise at least $5,000 annually for materials to ensure that the lab is continually refreshed and materials are replaced.
"We are thrilled that Volkswagen recognizes all of the amazing things happening in our schools, and we know this partnership will mean more of our students can access a world-class innovative education," Dr. Kirk Kelly, interim superintendent of the Hamilton County Department of Education, said.
Updated @ 7 p.m. on 1/24/17 to correct a typographical error from a news release.