As an 18-year-old, Scott Mackie spent a short time before college as an automotive line worker, mounting pedals and brake assemblies. His training for the job was minimal.
But he learned a new approach from the Japanese auto industry.
Today, as managing director of General Motors Poland, Mackie is recruiting 2,000 people for the Astra production plant he is setting up at Gliwice in southern Poland. Each new line worker will receive about 450 hours of training before being allowed on the production line.
Mackie learned the art of Japanese assessment and training techniques while he was treasurer and director of CAMI Automotive Inc. in Ingersoll, Ontario, from 1988-90.
'They were very different from anything I had seen in GM,' he says of the Suzuki Motor Co. and GM joint venture. 'People used to get jobs because a family member already worked in the plant or because they had a friend who did.' Today, though, prospective workers must pass a multistage assessment process.
After completing an application form, potential Gliwice workers are assessed on their dexterity, group-working and communication skills. Those applying for supervisor posts also are tested for managerial ability.
'By the time you are done with this process, not only have you picked the best, but they have also picked you. They'll know by the end what it is going to be like to work in a car plant,' Mackie says.
For the jobs at Gliwice, GM has handed out more than 80,000 application forms and received 30,000 back. The multistage assessment process will enable the numbers to be whittled down so that training can then commence. Production is due to start in September.