From The Columbia Daily Herald – Tim Hodge
SPRING HILL — A jaunty tune plays over a loudspeaker at General Motors’ Spring Hill Manufacturing facility as workers prepare to take on the assembly line.
Each person stands at the ready, going over his or her job in completing a new car. The tune ceases, and the workers get busy.
About 20 students from across Maury County participated in the inaugural GM Academy summer camp held at the Spring Hill plant. The GM Spring Hill Manufacturing team partnered with the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance to host the two-day event.
The students got hands-on experience in a simulated work environment. The “workers” helped build a wooden “car” on an assembly line designed for training purposes.
Kyle Boshers, 17, an incoming senior at Hampshire Unit School said he was a little nervous working on the line at first.
“I felt like it prepared me for what I might be doing in the future. I felt like it showed what a job like this would be like,” he said.
Boshers said he enjoyed the experience.
Nazareth Duke, 18, who recently graduated from Hampshire, said the exercise was a little hectic at first, but he quickly got in the flow of things after a few minutes.
“It was pretty fun,” Duke said. “I hope it takes me further in life.”
The camp was aimed at showing students the job potential in the manufacturing sector. Friday’s training was a way to reinforce the importance of standardized worker training when manufacturing vehicles, said Kyle Sinko, a GM employee who helped instruct the students.
“The first run, we had some struggles, but that’s how we set the class up,” Sinko said. “The purpose is to show them the benefit of good training and how it truly makes an impact on producing good quality cars. “
The manufacturing sector is quickly recovering from the recession and jobs are starting to come back into that area, SCTWA Executive Director Jan McKeel said.
“We have to do something to jump start and get people to realize that there are good jobs and opportunities in manufacturing again,” McKeel said. “Watching the data, manufacturing is making a comeback, without a doubt, in Middle Tennessee.”
GM Academy was the brainchild of several Middle Tennessee workforce boards that developed the idea during a skills panel, one of which centers around advanced manufacturing, McKeel said.
GM Spring Hill Plant Manager Ken Knight is the chairman of that board.
“Working with the Tennessee Advanced Manufacturing Skills Panel, I’ve seen first-hand a significant gap between actual manufacturing careers and how young people perceive these types of opportunities, especially when it comes to cutting-edge technologies,” Knight wrote in an email. “Offering the chance to experience hands-on some of the types of things taking place in a modern manufacturing environment is one way to evolve these mindsets, hopefully encouraging young people to choose a manufacturing career path.”
The Friday event showed the students what it would be like to work on assembly line, but other parts of the camp discussed additional career options, McKeel added. Students were introduced to potential jobs in engineering or administrative positions, too, she said.
“It is so import for young people, or anybody, to find an industry they are happy with,” McKeel said.
Automotive lighting manufacturer Magneti Marelli in Pulaski recently hosted a similar camp and allowed students to participate in a manufacturing environment. SCTWA placed five interns in that camp, and all were offered full-time positions, McKeel said.
Students participating in GM Academy are also hoping to get some of that trickle-down effect this summer.
“I’ll be working and looking for more work,” Boshers said about his plans.