U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez Visits Wolfsburg to Learn About Dual Vocational Training and Co-Determination at Volkswagen

  • Board Member for Human Resources, Dr. Neumann: “Specialist knowledge, skills and employee involvement are prerequisites for economic success”

Wolfsburg, October 28, 2014 – The United States Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez, visited the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg on Tuesday to find out more about dual vocational training and co-determination in the Volkswagen Group. The Secretary of Labor was welcomed by Dr. Horst Neumann, Board Member for Human Resources at Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft. The program included talks with further representatives from management, a discussion on education with Works Council member Gerardo Scarpino, a visit to a vocational training center, a meeting with vocational trainees and instructors, and a tour of the factory.

Perez was extremely interested in the dual vocational training system and Volkswagen’s vocational groups (German: “Berufsfamilien”). Neumann said: “At Volkswagen we attach the greatest importance to first-class dual vocational training with its close links between theory and practice. The specialist knowledge and skills of each employee are the prerequisite for a powerful team, for top-quality outstanding products and for our economic success.” At Volkswagen, vocational training and skills development take place in 36 vocational groups (German: “Berufsfamilien”) which include all employees who perform activities based on similar technical skills. Internal specialists share their theoretical and practical knowledge with employees who in turn are trained as skilled workers and specialists and subsequently pass on knowledge to others. As Neumann explained: “That makes Volkswagen both a teaching and a learning organization.”

Gerardo Scarpino, the Works Council member responsible for education and training, said: “Dual vocational training is a success story and brings opportunities not only for vocational trainees, but also for the company. Young people who train under the dual principle acquire knowledge and skills that lay the foundation for good professional development.”

Today, most of Volkswagen’s approximately 20,000 vocational trainees throughout the world are training in their vocation on the basis of the dual principle. At the Chattanooga plant in Tennessee, USA, for example, 68 vocational trainees are currently training as mechatronics technicians and automotive mechatronics technicians. Volkswagen cooperates with governments and regional training institutions to implement the dual vocational training system at its international locations.

During the visit, Volkswagen vocational trainees and their instructors gave the U.S. Secretary of Labor an insight into day-to-day training routines. To illustrate the practical side to their training they introduced the guest to the e-Golf* as well as the Golf GTI Wolfsburg Edition, which twelve vocational trainees from four trades created in line with their own ideas and showcased at the Wörthersee GTI Meeting.

Perez was also interested in finding out more about labor relations and the dual model of co-determination which combines proactive employee involvement via works councils and sector-wide collective bargaining via unions. Neumann said: “Co-determination and employee involvement are success factors for Volkswagen all over the world. The dual model which functions well for Volkswagen in Germany and many other countries features strong works councils which act as the voice of the workforce, and unions to represent the interests of their members and as collective bargaining partners. This model creates the basis for constructive cooperation at our plants and reliable decisions in the interest not only of the location, but also of the company and its workforce. It has also met with a positive response from many parties in the USA. We are optimistic it will be possible to find a good American way to implement this in the States.”

*Electrical consumption in kWh/100 km: 12.7 (combined); CO2 emissions in g/km: 0 (combined); efficiency class: A+