WACKER POLYSILICON’s lead chemical operators—who have been training for six months at the WACKER INSTITUTE at Chattanooga State Community College—leave for Germany this week. At WACKER’s Burghausen plant, these 51 employees will train with their professional counterparts for six months.
“We are invested in our employees,” said Dr.
Konrad Bachhuber, vice president and site manager for WACKER POLYSILICON North America. “WACKER’s economic success is chiefly due to our dedicated employees; it is important to us that we provide conditions which enable them to develop their abilities to the fullest extent. Our skilled workers enable us to remain innovative and competitive.”
“We need a very sophisticated workforce at our plant; this is a highly technical production process,” said Dr. Erika Burk, human resources director for WACKER POLYSILICON North America. “Their intensive education at the WACKER INSTITUTE coupled with their on-the-job training in Burghausen will truly be a unique overall learning experience.”
Not all WACKER employees, however, are required to travel to Germany for training. “As these employees are the trailblazers for this plant,” Burk added, “they will need to be trained in Burghausen and bring their knowledge back to train others. This will not be required for our other chemical operators.”
At the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, WACKER employees shared their excitement about traveling to Germany and training on-the-job.
“We’re all excited,” said Christopher Barry, who will work with WACKER analytics. “This is a great opportunity, and I think we’re well prepared. I am grateful. There aren’t too many companies out there right now that have this kind of opportunity. So I think it’s great for the area, and definitely great for me.”
“I’m just ready to go,” said Aaron Franckhauser, who will work with WACKER infrastructure. “I’m ready to just get on a plane and get there. I’m excited about the culture, and ready to get to work.
For one week, this group of WACKER POLYSILICON lead chemical operators participated in cultural training as well as 20-30 hours of German language coursework. Training included topics based on culture, etiquette, business, relationships and linguistic differences.
“A lot of it was very interesting,” said Chris Spors. “Going to a new land, obviously, we’re not familiar with their culture. We learned about everything from road signs to relationships. How to best communicate with our counterparts over there was one of the most interesting things to me.”
The employees shipped over several personal items ahead of time, including their bicycles for traveling around the city and the plant.
“I packed lots of clothes,” said Mr. Frankhauser. “I’m hoping to find a laundromat with a dryer…but just in case, I packed a lot of clothes.”
“I think I packed everything,” said Mr. Barry. “I don’t think there’s much I forgot. I sent over my bike, my laptop, a lot of adapters for every electronic thing possible, external DVD players, a phone card…”
“I made sure that I had a European map,” said Mr. Spors, “and obviously anything to do with German communication—phrasebooks, dictionaries, cultural books—anything to help me learn the country and how they interact.”
“We brought our computers so we can communicate with our friends and family back home,” said Mr. Spors.
“I will keep up with everyone on Facebook,” said Mr. Frankhauser.
“I will keep a journal,” said Mr. Spors. “For trips during time off, I will take some notes so I don’t forget.”
“The WACKER INSTITUTE prepared me very well,” said Bryan Hurt. “I think they did a really good job. I’ve never been associated with a company who will pay to train you, because they want you to do a good job and be safe.”
“I will miss the WACKER INSTITUTE,” said Mr. Barry. “I plan to go back to finish up; I have six more classes and then I’ll have a chemical engineering technology associate’s degree. I never had a chance when I was younger, so I want to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Those interested in learning more about the WACKER INSTITUTE are encouraged to attend a public information session and tour at Chattanooga State. The information sessions will be held twice weekly through April 23.
Information sessions will be held at the WACKER INSTITUTE, recurring every Wednesday from noon until 1 p.m., and Thursday from 5-6 p.m., in the Resource Room. These sessions will be held every week until April 23. Due to the limited number of seats, attendees are asked to RSVP to Deanna Swiney at 423 697-2601.
The sessions will include an overview of WACKER and the WACKER INSTITUTE; a tour of the pilot plant and WACKER INSTITUTE facility; and an overview from Chattanooga State student services and engineering technology representatives.
For more information about the WACKER INSTITUTE, please visit www.chattanoogastate.edu/engineering/wacker/. For more information about WACKER, please visit www.wacker.com.