GM tries new tools to lure young talent

GM's Cathy Clegg: "It’s our ability to attract people back to manufacturing,” she said. “I can assure you that our team is up for that challenge." Photo credit: Greg Horvath

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- General Motors needs new workers, and lots of them. But young people have the impression that factory work is dull, dingy and monotonous.

Some 70,000 manufacturing jobs of all types are going unfilled right now in Michigan alone for various reasons.

That partly explains why GM is experimenting with a stream of new tools and innovative factory ideas, such as Google Glass. GM is trying out the Internet-connected eyeglasses at its Orion Assembly plant near Detroit, just to see where it might lead the company, Cathy Clegg, GM’s new vice president for North American manufacturing, said during the 2014 Management Briefing Seminars here today.

Another experiment has GM trying 3-D laser scanners to analyze and improve factory layouts. The company is also throwing together employees from different plants and different responsibilities, without rules or assignments, just to see what new ideas they might come up with.

It’s a disruptive process, acknowledged Clegg, who started her new position in July. But GM will be competing for talent in the years to come as industry sales volumes grow, and it will be a challenge.

“It’s our ability to attract people back to manufacturing,” she said. “I can assure you that our team is up for that challenge.”

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com

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