Mazda Toyota Manufacturing has to fill 4,000 jobs, with 3,000 of those expected to be hourly production positions, over the next two years, at its vehicle assembly plant in Limestone County.
Normally, a ramp-up of this size would take about three years, according to Jamie Hall, a Toyota advisor for staffing.
To meet its employment goals, MTMUS estimates it needs about 40,000 applicants since the company expects 7 to 10 percent of the applicants to make it all the way through the hiring process and receive an offer, according to Hall.
To make matters more challenging, as Hall puts it: “This work isn’t for everyone.”
But, MTMUS has a clever way of figuring out who will shine on the company’s assembly line thanks to a detailed hiring process and its hands-on skills assessment center.
A successful hire will have to pass three stages before receiving an offer.
Stages one and two take place online.
Step one is a regular job application.
This is the first taste an applicant gets of what the job will be like thanks to questions about working overtime, rotating shifts and weekends. They also learn about the pay, MTMUS’ eye toward safe practices, along with other standard job application questions.
“We want candidates that this type of work is good for,” Hall said. “So, it’s a two-way street, because we can only be happy if both the candidate is happy and we are achieving what we need.”
If an applicant makes it past the initial application stage, then they’ll take an online assessment that’s looking for things like their ability to problem solve, use applied learning and measure their leadership potential.
If a candidate fails to pass this assessment, they have two options: They can wait a year and reapply, or they can take a remedial class and restart the process immediately after completing the course.
“If you don’t make it through that point, one of the things that we recognized … was if there is a way that we could train these candidates who didn’t pass the first go-around, maybe they could come back into the system very quickly if they had some additional coaching or training,” Hall said.
That training comes from Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT) and the state’s Ready to Work Program, according to Hall.
If a candidate passes the online assessment, then they are scheduled for MTMUS’ Day of Work Orientation.
This on-site orientation includes the hands-on assessment, an in-person job interview and a job placement interview. Even though this part of the process takes a full day’s commitment from the applicant, it also means a job candidate doesn’t have to take multiple days out of their schedule.
“We want to make sure this is a one-stop-shop because what we learned is, if you get a candidate and you have to pull them multiple times, then you start to lose the candidate,” Hall said.
The hands-on assessment is the star of MTMUS’s hiring process. It features seven car bodies with four stations to test an applicant’s ability to follow instructions and perform tasks in a comparable environment to an assembly plant.
For example, background noise is piped into the warehouse, the temperature is kept at 75 degrees and applicants are decked out in full safety gear.
Each station takes about an hour, which includes instruction, a practice session and then a timed session preforming the task a candidate was just taught.
The tasks include installing various wire harnesses, tightening bolts, tracing various patterns with your left and right hands.
It sounds simple when it’s written on paper, but in the real-world environment of the assessment center, applicants quickly learn it’s not.
The Day of Work Orientation is the last hurdle before an applicant gets a contingent job offer pending a drug screen, physical and background check.
The center can process 36 candidates per shift or 72 per day.
“That is a big improvement,” Hall said. “Previously we have been able to asses 12 per shift.”
MTMUS plans to ramp up its major hiring effort for team members with a target to start the hands-on assessments in January 2020 and have those first applicants on the job by March or April 2020, according to Hall.
Candidates must be 18 years or older and have a high school diploma or GED.
The team leader jobs will open up at the end of October.
The plant will assemble a new, yet-to-be named Toyota SUV along with Mazda’s yet-to-be named crossover model.