It was a historic day at Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant as 12 students received a special certification they've been working on for three years.

They just graduated from the Automation Mechatronic Program, or AMP. The men and women, 10 of whom are from Tennessee, are equipped with the training and skills needed to keep the VW plant operational.

And they're the first Americans to get that certification.

"It gives you so much knowledge that you can take anywhere in the world," said Ian Gwaltney.

Ian Gwaltney is the valedictorian of his class. He's only 21, joining AMP straight out of high school. And like nine of his other classmates, Gwaltney is from Tennessee.

"It was really an honor to be able to represent my whole class like that," he said.

"It's a great sign that Tennesseeans can meet that certification to be world trained," said Gov. Bill Haslam.

Governor Bill Haslam said education needs to be more relevant. He said 600,000 skilled jobs are left unfilled because employers can't find the right skilled workers. Gov. Haslam said partnerships between educators and employers are a step in the right direction. And he cited AMP between VW and Chattanooga State as an example.

"This is about as real world as you can get. Being on the job yet having that extra training in the apprenticeship program," he said.

In the AMP program, students split their time between the classroom and actually working on the production floor with a "learning by doing" mentality.

"This is an example not only for our country but for everyone of how partnerships grow better work forces," said Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. "VW has a wonderful place in our community not because of the people on stage but because the people down here."

This three-year program is the first of its kind in the U.S. And Gwaltney said it guarantees he and his classmates a job at the plant.

Gwaltney isn't ready for the workforce just yet. He's headed back to school at Chattanooga State and then Tennessee Tech to pursue a degree in electrical engineering.

"I think all of this will be useful wherever I may go," he said.

Volkswagen says 24 students are admitted to the AMP each year through a competitive admissions process (12 in the fall and 12 in the summer).