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Start Your Engines: Jobs in Auto Manufacturing Abound

by Heidi Lynn Russell, Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: The GEO Group

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Over the long term, car sales are linked to population growth. People need cars to get to work, shop and take care of their families. So along with the projections for strong and steady U.S. population growth over the next 10 to 20 years, there are projections for increased car sales.

For job hunting veterans, this translates into a bevy of career options within the automotive manufacturing industry say spokespeople from Toyota, Tesla and Nissan. These three companies are hiring and they’re interested in hearing from you.

Veterans have found tremendous success at all levels of Toyota’s North American organization, from hourly “team members” to senior executives, says Shawn Daly, Toyota’s Bodine Aluminum Plant Manager, in Jackson, TN. “(Veterans) are experienced in data-driven analysis teaching and coaching data-driven problem solving. Of course, this helps them to solve problems more effectively, but more importantly it enables them to be more effective in coaching our team members,” Daly says.

Tesla’s military recruiting efforts are building momentum, with veteran numbers averaging six percent of the employee population, says spokeswoman Alexis Georgeson. Tesla is “aggressively hiring” and plans to bring on talent to feed the Tesla Factory in Fremont, CA and the Gigafactory in Nevada.

“Veterans are a wonderful fit at Tesla because of the advanced technical, electrical and mechanical skills they learn while in the service. Veterans also bring integrity, discipline, teamwork and leadership skills that fit well in the Tesla environment, where we encourage employees to think outside the box while working hard towards a common goal to transform transportation,” she says.

With the increased focus on autonomous driving, companies like Nissan will continue looking for talent to help make it a reality, says Darla Turner, Manager, Corporate Communications. Nissan North America Inc. expects to see at least 120 veterans hired throughout 2016. “Veterans bring a disciplined approach to problem solving and a calm outlook that helps them work through stressful situations,” Turner says. Here are the types of opportunities at each corporation, along with tips on how to break into a thriving career in the auto manufacturing arena.

Types of Opportunities

Behind the auto manufacturing industry’s military recruiting efforts, you’ll find a wide variety of opportunities that directly align with the skills needed in most military occupations.

At Nissan: “We have veterans represented in almost every area of the business and the opportunities are endless,” says Turner. Some examples of roles where veterans have been the most successful are in finance, engineering, human resources and manufacturing. In finance, you’ll find jobs that use your skills in building forecasts and managing budgets.

Engineering is an area of opportunity as well.

“While a military engineer may be building bridges or fortifications, our engineers are building cars; the end result is different, but the skills needed are the same,” Turner says.

In human resources, employees are responsible for training and development, personnel issues, organizational planning and recruiting.

“Additionally, our manufacturing positions allow many veterans to excel in the hands-on environment they prefer,” she says.

At Tesla: Maintenance technicians with experience from the aviation, nuclear Navy and other complex technical specialties tend to quickly learn how to maintain Tesla’s systems. Pneumatic, hydraulic and electrical troubleshooting skills learned in the military can be applied in new ways to maintain Tesla’s state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment, Georgeson says.

Junior military officers and senior non-commissioned officers with team leadership experience do well as Production Supervisors. “The Production Supervisor role provides a great opportunity to learn Tesla manufacturing: terminology, techniques, standards and other fundamentals. If these new leaders perform well and earn a reputation for engaged, productive teams, they have the opportunity for career advancements in many directions,” she says.

Most junior enlisted service members are a great fit for Tesla’s Production Associate positions. Production Associates can advance to Lead and Supervisory positions.

“If they have a passion for Tesla’s mission, know how to use basic power tools and can follow instructions, Tesla can teach them the rest. This is a hands-on role that requires attention to detail and the ability to repeat a manufacturing process with minimal defects,” Georgeson says.

At Toyota: “We work in a fast-paced, high-tech manufacturing environment. Our plant produces more than 8,900 engine blocks and transmission cases per day (roughly one every 10 seconds) using computer-controlled equipment, industrial robots and advanced quality control systems. Military veterans are comfortable working in a fast-paced environment and accustomed to working with advanced technology,” Daly says of the Bodine Aluminum Plant.

The Bodine plant has hired veterans in the past year as Production Group Leaders or Equipment Maintenance Group Leaders. Group Leaders are first line supervisors who ensure the training and development of team members and lead them in achieving targets in safety, quality, productivity and cost. Toyota has also recruited veterans in positions in Safety, Engineering, Human Resources and other areas, Daly says.

Toyota has 10 plants in the United States. In addition to the plant in Jackson, TN, there are plants in Alabama, California, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

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