He's a laborer who's happy to have part-time work. She's a college graduate whose manual dexterity makes her a valued full-time member of an assembly team.
Each of them lives in a semirural area of the country where good jobs are scarce. That makes a person happy to have a job - especially if the job requires him or her to think.
Thinking will mark the future factory worker more than almost anything else, says Jeffrey Liker, a University of Michigan researcher who studies organizational behavior and how humans adapt to technology.
Liker wrote the 2004 book The Toyota Way, an outgrowth of years of research into the differences between American and Japanese automotive work-force trends.
Liker believes that future factory jobs will be split between two different work forces. One, the full-time force, will consist of clever workers whose abilities, dedication and skills will make them worth investing in with long-term training and employment security. Typically, this includes skilled trades, which often require years of training, Liker says.
The other work force will be a contingent group of employees, essentially self-employed journeymen working as hired pairs of hands. They may work at a location for several years at a time, but the company will never invest in them or guarantee their jobs.
While organized labor and traditional management thinking are obstacles, cost and competitiveness advantages are already imposing this new model on would-be workers.
It's the model that Toyota Motor Corp. and other global manufacturers have used to build successful transplant factories far from traditional manufacturing centers in North America, and it's the model that General Motors is falling into with the hiring of $18-an-hour contract "replacement workers" following the massive June buyout of more than 40,000 former full-time, full-benefits workers.
'A pair of hands'
"In the past, the worker was a pair of hands," Liker said. "It was talked about 20 years ago with the quality movement that the worker would check their brains at the door."