Hamilton County schools have come under fire in recent years for veering away from Career and Technical Education.  That is no longer the case, especially since the arrival of Volkswagen in Chattanooga. The new Mechatronics Akademie on the Volkswagen campus allows high school students get college credit, along with state of the art career training.

From basic high school classes, to robotic technology, Volkswagen, Chattanooga State and Hamilton County Schools are providing a two-year curriculum for juniors and seniors from four area high schools.

The students can earn 40 credit hours toward an associate degree in Mechatronics, while in their junior and senior years of high school. 26 juniors from Central, East Hamilton, Ooltewah, and Tyner are part of this first-year program, and there's room to grow.

David Cowan, Hamilton County's director of Career and Technical Education said, "We are thinking about opening up a similar program at Chattanooga State, because they have the technology and instructors to make this happen."

Even while spending their day at Volkswagen, students can still participate in activities at their home high school. It hasn't been easy leaving behind friends, but there are no regrets. Kaylee Hensley of Ooltewah High still sees her friends from color guard at practices and football games.  Cade Daniel and Cameron Gardner of East Hamilton say they encourage their friends to research the program, and apply for next year's cohort group.

As students prepare for careers in welding, engineering, or automotive, the Mechatronics Akademie is offering real-life experience, geared for a grown-up world, far removed from high school.  Instructor Barry Smith said, "They can't miss a day, they can't be late.  Volkswagen doesn't do late, you have to show up and be on the assembly line on time.  It is good they're learning this now."

Plans for expansion are already in the works.  The school district is lining up a similar partnership with Wacker, which could begin as early as next year.