Gm Hangs help Wanted Sign to Hire 400 Tech Engineers

By: Lauren Woods

Amid the slashing of tens of thousands of jobs to shrink its workforce, General Motors Corp. is now hanging out by its gates a 'Help Wanted' sign. The largest automaker around the globe intends to hire 400 people for highly specialized engineering and technical positions. The move is aimed at improving fuel economy of their vehicles and at the same time creating energy alternatives to oil.

On May 5, the automaker will hold an invitation-only job fair with the intention of filling up to 400 new engineering and technical positions in different fields including powertrain engineering, product development and fuel cells. GM also is looking to fill openings in its OnStar and information technology divisions.

GM intends make the event public during next week's Society of Automotive Engineers conference in Detroit. Prospective candidates must register for the fair and submit a resume online. There is no stepping on the for the automaker is set for a big haul.

The competition among applicants is quite intense. This is because the jobs needed belong to the growing fields that require highly specialized skills. "We're looking for people with the technical expertise to help us change the way the world drives," said Troy Clarke, the GM North America president, in a released statement.

GM is looking for a handful of highly-skilled employees to help develop the battery technology to drive a vehicle such as the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid car which is equipped with an electric drivetrain and an internal combustion engine that recharges the vehicle's batteries while on the road. The Volt is expected to go on sale by 2010 if GM can develop the battery technology required to operate it.

Other jobs would go to workers with expertise in a broad range of areas such as hybrid vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells, and diesel engines. While GM's new jobs do not come close to restoring the 218,000 manufacturing jobs Michigan has lost since the year 2000, the additions are well received in a state whose unemployment rate has soared well above the national average for over five years.

"It's that one step forward after the one-and-a-half steps backwards," said Scott Watkins, a consultant with the Anderson Economic Group which is based in East Lansing. The new jobs are welcome, "but when you put it next to the jobs that have been cut, it's a small drop in the bucket."

Amid the thespian downsizing of the American automotive industry, Michigan has pinned its future on growing jobs in high technology fields like the advanced manufacturing and information technology.

The state has seen a steady decline in advanced automotive jobs like the ones GM looks to fill. The state had 127,800 of those jobs in 2004, down from 163,485 in 1998, according to data compiled by Automation Alley, a technology consortium based in Oakland County.

The jobs that remain in the field, however, are becoming increasingly lucrative, according to the data. Workers with an advanced automotive job earned an average salary of $62,500 in 2004, up from $53,500 in 1998. "The lower-wage, less-skilled jobs are the ones leaving," Watkins said. "The more advanced ones that really involve the future of the industry and developing new products are the ones staying."

In the previous years, GM has added about 1,000 employees a year in some of the most technologically advanced positions, said Brenda Rios, a GM spokeswoman. "We're trying to tap the best people we can," Rios said. "This is an expanding area."

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