Building workforce for Tennessee's future

Toyota vehicles are built to last, and we expect the same of our workforce, which is why training and retraining our employees is a critical part of our success. But building the workforce of the future isn’t something we can do alone, and that’s a message I want to make sure our political leaders understand.

As general manager of Toyota Bodine Aluminum here in Jackson, I know a company's workforce is the backbone of its success. More than half our employees are Skilled Team Members who build and repair the advanced tooling and equipment that we use to produce top-quality engine blocks. Each year, we sponsor a group of students to attend Jackson State Community College where they split their time working and studying to achieve an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree in Industrial Technology.

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The Perfect Storm for the Manufacturing Workforce

If the manufacturing sector hopes to sustain its growth in the coming decade, it must come together to address three critical workforce challenges.

Just as American manufacturing seems to be hitting its stride, the sector now faces the perfect storm when it comes to finding and developing the workforce of the future:

  • Baby boomers are retiring from all sectors at a rate of 10,000 a day in the United States, taking their institutional and technical knowledge with them into retirement.
  • The number of American youth with sufficient STEM education for a shop floor or R&D department is inadequate – and those who do have these skills typically do not entertain manufacturing as a career option, often favoring the tech sector.
  • In recent years, the opioid crisis has reached critical levels, and a new report by the MAPI Foundation shows an ominous geographic overlap between U.S. manufacturing-centric regions and opioid abuse.

Let’s take a closer look at why these factors threaten to undermine the healthy manufacturing resurgence unless measures are taken to manage them.  Click here to read the full article>> 


May 8, 2018

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (8 May 2018) — Volkswagen Chattanooga today announced that it has achieved a production milestone with the completion of the 700,000th Volkswagen Passat assembled in Chattanooga.

Assembled in the LEED Platinum-certified production facility in Chattanooga Tennessee, the 700,000th Passat is a 2018 Passat GT, finished in Reflex Silver, with two-tone black and grey interior. The limited-edition model uses the 3.6-liter VR6® engine and a 6-speed DSG Tiptronic® dual-clutch automatic transmission.

“The history of Volkswagen Chattanooga is intertwined with the history of the U.S. Passat. As we grow and add models, we take pride in continuing to produce quality Passats in the state of Tennessee,” said Antonio Pinto, President and CEO of Volkswagen Chattanooga. “I am very proud of our team for reaching this important milestone and look forward to more to come.”

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GM Adding Third Shift At Tennessee Plant To Meet SUV Demand.

Reuters (4/25, Carey) reports that GM announced on Wednesday that “it will start a third shift at its Spring Hill assembly plant to meet strong demand for its popular GMC Acadia midsize SUV and the Cadillac XT5 crossover, adding around 700 jobs.” The new shift is expected to come online in September, driven by the fact that “retail sales for the GMC Acadia were up 15 percent in the first quarter versus the same period last year, while total sales for the XT5 were up 10 percent.” According to Reuters, “As US consumers have shifted away from traditional passenger cars in favor of roomier, higher-margin sport utility vehicles, crossovers and pickup trucks, automakers have been left juggling production capacity to catch up.” The Tennessean (4/25) also reports, quoting GM’s Spring Hill Manufacturing Plant Executive Director Ken Knight, saying, “This shift addition is not only an indication of the popularity of these GMC and Cadillac crossovers with customers but is testament to the great work being done by the Spring Hill Assembly team. Their commitment to building quality vehicles is visible every day.”


Tennessee Gains Manufacturing Jobs

Tennessee manufacturing employment inched up for a sixth straight year, according to new data collected by Manufacturers' News Inc. (MNI). MNI reports the state added 3,251 jobs over the past year, a 1 percent increase, and is now home to 6,517 manufacturers employing 382,972 people. Manufacturing employment in Tennessee has grown at a steady clip over the past six years, rising 5 percent since October 2011.

"Tennessee’s pro-business environment and generous incentive programs have helped attract a great deal of foreign investment, and existing manufacturers are generally thriving," said Tom Dubin, MNI president. "However, Tennessee’s post-recession growth has largely been based on the auto industry, which now shows signs of slowing, while competition with neighboring states continues to be tough."

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Jobs market: Labor shortage means longer hours but more cash for workers

In a survey by the National Association of Manufacturers late last year, 73% of manufacturers said attracting and retaining a quality workforce was a chief business challenge. Two-thirds said they were responding by giving more work to existing employees. There are other remedies, including hiring temporary workers, installing robots and partnering with schools to develop a new generation of employees. But, “the short-term response is to keep giving workers a lot of overtime,” says Denise Rice, director of the Tennessee Manufacturers Association.

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Finding workers for today's jobs is biggest challenge for most employers

Surveys by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry show that the labor shortage is now the biggest business concern and likely to remain so for years to come.

"As I travel across the state, different regions have different needs," says Denise Rice, director of the Tennessee Manufacturers Association. "But the one thing that I hear that is consistent everywhere is the concern over the skills gap and the challenge of getting a qualified workforce. I think this problem is at an all-time high and this is not a short-term problem."

Unemployment in metro Chattanooga peaked at 10.2 percent in June 2009 but fell to as low as 3.2 percent by last fall, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Growing need in manufacturing - Larger skilled workforce urged by TMA director

The director of the Tennessee Manufacturing Association said Tuesday that Bradley County is in the top tier of counties when it comes to manufacturing, while emphasizing the need for workforce development.

Denise Rice was the keynote speaker for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce's annual Industry Appreciation Luncheon Tuesday afternoon held at the Cleveland Country Club.

"I feel like I am home," Rice said.

Rice said 75 percent of U.S. manufacturers are experiencing a moderate to severe shortage of workers, and 93 percent are predicting future talent shortages.

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Manufacturing wants Corker's budget vote

“The truth of the matter is our current tax code lets other countries win. … It’s about jobs, it’s about paychecks, it’s about higher standards of living,” Timmons told reporters.

But Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said repatriated cash from overseas wouldn’t likely boost private investment.

Jackson said manufacturing employs about 340,000 people in Tennessee.

“This is a great opportunity for Tennessee,” Jackson said of the budget resolution vote. “Manufacturing is a tremendous economic driver for us. … A healthy manufacturing economy benefits the state.”

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Williamson County school children attend Manufacturing Day event, tour local business plants

A group of 40 Fairview Middle School students congregated inside the Horn USA plant on Friday as part of an event to celebrate Manufacturing Day.

A total of 180 students from Page High School, Fairview middle and high schools and Summit High School participated in the event hosted by the Williamson County, Inc. Chamber of Commerce.

Manufacturing Day, according to the official website, occurs on Oct. 6 and is meant to celebrate modern manufacturing and to inspire the next generation of manufacturers.

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