VW Donates 31 Atlas SUVs to Trade Schools for Tomorrow's Techs to Learn on Today's Cars

Training the workforce of tomorrow, one technology-packed crossover at a time.

Andrew Trahan Photography/Volkswagen

Cars are getting more complex. Gone are the simple days of carburetors and crank-operated windows; now, there’s variable compression and tri-zone climate control. New tech requires new technicians, and staffing the field is becoming increasingly difficult as the days go by. That’s why Volkswagen has decided to donate 31 VW Atlas SUVs to trade schools around the United States to give students much-needed hands-on experience with a brand new vehicle.

The automaker will couple the crossovers with a trove of diagnostic equipment to help familiarize the soon-to-be professionals with the automaker’s suite of tools and standard troubleshooting procedures. The whole kit and caboodle will be used as a critical teaching aid in classes—and it certainly doesn't hurt for VW to familiarize young minds with its products and diagnostic software, who'd be that much more prepared for a job at a VW shop upon graduation.

“There is a national shortage of technicians, and it’s expected to grow as many technicians are, or are very close to, retirement age. We have to start looking for avenues to backfill these individuals,” says Jon Meredith, Volkswagen’s national service operations manager. “As an industry, we need to come up with different ways of thinking and doing to attract young people to this industry.”

Volkswagen isn’t the first automaker to take this particular route. Ford, General Motors, and Fiat-Chrysler have all done this in the past, with Dodge even donating a number of Vipers to trade schools which they controversially ordered to be destroyed in 2014. Similar interests have surely pushed the automakers to make the donations—it’s not only good press, but it helps ensure that the company has an informal pipeline of knowledgeable technicians as the industry continues to suffer a shortage. And with technology in cars advancing at such a rapid clip, it's paramount for these students to learn on a current-year model, or as close to it as possible

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics has determined that the industry needs around 76,000 new mechanics in the field each year in order to combat demands for growth and fill the gap of retirees. Automakers have attempted to fend off the shortage through their own programs, such as FCA’s Mopar Career Automotive Program and BMW's Service Technician Education Program. Still, an extra step outside of its own footings helps to plant seeds in the young minds of tomorrow.

“It goes far beyond donating a physical car. With the technology, they are providing their entry-level curriculum,” said Darin Lewis, an instructor who will work with his students at Ohio’s Medina County Career Center using a donated Atlas.

“To have something that’s the latest and greatest out there—and to be able to show students, ‘This is where the industry is headed’—is important.”

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