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Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Chamber Hosts Virtual Automotive Hiring Event

Ready for some good news/bad news?

The bad news first: Yes, there are a lot of people out of work, some people who are not sure their jobs are coming back post-COVID, and others facing instability in their current jobs and careers.

But there is a lot of good news for these people: Huntsville has jobs available, and lots of them – particularly in the automotive industry.

The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce is hosting a virtual North Huntsville Automotive Hiring
Event Wednesday with Mazda Toyota Manufacturing and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama, as well as other automotive industry-related companies.

The companies will do virtual presentations about the work they do and what their jobs entail. They will meet with job seekers to discuss the jobs they have available (entry-level and above); and talk about the companies’ culture and expectations.

According to Lucia Cape, senior vice president of Economic Development at the Chamber, they will be using a platform called Remo, an interactive online recruitment environment.

“Ideally, we would do this in an auditorium where we could get people in the room talking to each other face-to-face,” Cape said. “But this is the closest thing we could find with COVID still a threat.

“There will also be a presentation from AIDT, Alabama’s statewide industrial training and recruitment group which does most of the hiring for production jobs.”

Cape said there are openings now with great opportunities to make a career change.

“If you know someone who is out of work, or concerned about their job or their career, given the changes in our economy, encourage them to check this out,” Cape said. “We are experiencing a lot of growth – we have never had this kind of OEM activity before … we are always looking for ways to support these companies, while making sure the community benefits from these great job projects.”

There are two sessions Wednesday: 4-5 p.m. and 5-6 p.m. with spots for 200 people per event.

Cape said if they max these two sessions out, they will host another one. She said there will likely be similar events well into the first quarter of 2021.

“Remember, the Chamber’s job site at https://asmartplace.com/work/find-a-job has jobs posted from other industries and other employers all the time,” she said. “But we had a particular push right now with Mazda Toyota and Toyota Alabama for specific positions that are available now.”

To register in advance for the 4 p.m. event, go to bit.ly/NorthHSVautojobs1.

To register in advance for the 5 p.m. event, go to bit.ly/NorthHSVautojobs2.

Automotive companies that would like to join the job fair should contact Cape at lcape@hsvchamber.org.

 

Toyota Names Jason Puckett as President of Huntsville Engine Plant

Jason Puckett, who currently serves as vice president, Administration at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana, has been named president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Alabama in Huntsville.

Jason Puckett

The Huntsville plant assembles four-, six- and eight-cylinder engines – the only Toyota facility to assemble all three engine styles.

Puckett succeeds David Finch, who will return to Toyota South Africa Motors as senior vice president, Manufacturing. Finch has been instrumental in leading the Huntsville plant’s $288 million expansion effort, including a new 150,000 square-foot V6 engine assembly line, and the creation of 450 jobs.

David Fernandes

Puckett started his career with Toyota in 1997 as a specialist in Assembly preceding TMMI’s start of production. He has held a variety of roles in Indiana including vice president, Manufacturing; general manager, Bodyweld and Stamping; and general manager, Production Control. Puckett spent two years at Toyota’s manufacturing and engineering headquarters as general manager, Corporate Strategy, responsible for overall manufacturing strategic initiatives in North America.

David Fernandes, the former president of the Huntsville facility who is now senior vice president, Manufacturing, Toyota South Africa Motors, will become president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Mississippi. The plant just north of Tupelo assembles one of Toyota’s core vehicles, the Corolla.

In this role, Fernandes will be responsible for all manufacturing and administration functions.

KTECH Expands Workforce Training Initiative in Partnership with Toyota Plant

It was a matter of seeing is believing for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama.

After company representatives toured the classrooms and labs at Huntsville’s KTECH, the two forged a partnership for KTECH to provide workforce training support and advanced technology capabilities to the Huntsville engine plant’s growing  team.

Launched in 2016, KTECH is a workforce development program created by founder Lee Marshall for her Kids to Love Foundation, targeting young adults who have aged out of the foster care system.

The program also reaches out to anyone in the community, such as veterans, who can use the skills. It focuses on providing certified skills training that will leverage them into good-paying career jobs and, since then, has proven to be a successful workforce training model.

According to Marshall, officials with the engine plant approached in February with a request for customized training. In August, KTECH trained the first Toyota team members.

“Innovation is a key component to the advanced manufacturing industry,” said Marshall. “The ability to train for that industry has been part of KTECH’s strategic plan from the beginning.

“Adding this component positions KTECH to expand our student base beyond those pursuing education alone, and includes students who have careers, but want to hone their expertise.”

Joe Steder, the plant’s maintenance and facilities manager, said after touring the KTECH facility, company leaders saw first-hand the superior caliber of students enrolled and identified KTECH as an opportunity to further support their training needs.

“KTECH developed customized courses that our skilled maintenance technicians can take locally, which provides tremendous benefits to our team,” said Steder.

“The objective of the class is to introduce, familiarize, and build skillsets for using cobot and vision tools,” said Keith Laney, Skilled Maintenance Group leader.  “The top down training approach reflects how technicians actually perform on the job, making it very effective.”

KTECH Workforce Development Director  Dorothy Havens said the organization hones in on the skills companies are seeking.

“Our biggest challenge is filling the number of advanced manufacturing jobs in our community, and connecting with the current workforce so our students have instant industry access. It is a win for everyone,” said Havens.

To date, KTECH has awarded 134 certifications and found graduates jobs at more than 20 local companies.

Toyota Engine Plant Has 150 Job Openings in Production and Maintenance

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama is recruiting for 150 positions to meet immediate production and skilled maintenance needs.

The job openings are part of the Huntsville engine plant’s $830 million expansion, originally announced in 2019. In a news release, the company said assembly lines will increase annual engine production to 900,000 with 1,800 total employees by the end of 2021.

“Toyota is looking for outstanding individuals who like to problem solve and work as part of a team,” said April
Mason, TMMAL general manager. “Manufacturing experience for production positions is not required because we train employees on our processes using Toyota Way principles. Skilled maintenance jobs require experience or an associate’s degree in industrial maintenance.”

Starting wages are $17.38 an hour for production employees and $26.31 for skilled maintenance, with an additional premium for 2nd shift. All positions include health insurance and paid time off.

To apply online visit (for production) www.toyotamanufacturingjobs.com/al-production and (for skilled maintenance) www.toyotamanufacturingjobs.com/al-skilled-maintenance.

Toyota employees represent various backgrounds and previous job experience.

“Our focus on diversity stimulates creative solutions for continuously improving our operations,” said Mason. “We need more people to join our incredible team.”

TMMAL was recently named Supplier of the Year by the Alabama Automotive Manufacturing Association and is Toyota’s only facility globally to produce 4-cylinder, V6 and V8 engines under one roof.

Community Foundation Reignites Emergency Relief Fund with $50K Donation from Toyota

Initiated after the tornado outbreak in North Alabama in 2011, the Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville has  reignited its emergency relief fund thanks to a donation of $50,000 from Toyota. The funds are intended to support community nonprofit organizations who are providing basic needs and health and wellness relief throughout the community in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce and WAAY-TV have also partnered with the Community Foundation and Toyota to kick off the Take 5 to Give $5 campaign, which will culminate on May 5 for the global GivingTuesdayNow Day.

The partnership is challenging other companies to give anything from $5 up to $50,000 to match Toyota’s donation. Melissa Thompson, executive director of the Community Foundation, said their goal over the next two weeks is to put $500,000 into this fund.

In just a few days since launching the campaign, the Community Foundation and its donors have deposited nearly $200,000, not including the Toyota donation.

“We are supporting 28 different grants from 27 different nonprofit organizations to date,” said Thompson. “But the needs are still beyond what we are able to fund, so we have received grant applications in excess of $800,000. Our grants committee continues to work to get this money out to those organizations on the frontlines of our COVID-19 response.”

The Community Foundation usually relies on fees for managing company funds to cover operations. However, during the pandemic, the foundation is waiving its fees for the management of the emergency relief fund, to ensure that 100 percent of every dollar contributed goes directly to the nonprofits recommended for funding.

“Managing these contributions is our way of giving back to the community,” said Thompson.

The Community Foundation website at https://communityfoundationhsv.org/Covid lists the organizations that have already received grant funding, and visitors can also see the Foundation’s grants committee recommendations.

“Our grants committee is trying to prioritize needs and is very conscious of the fact we are spending other people’s money who have donated to this fund and also, that by endorsing a grant, we have a responsibility to stand behind it,” said Thompson. “The community can have confidence in the grants we are recommending.”

For questions about how an agency on the frontlines of this pandemic can apply for a grant and become a part of the Community Foundation, those agencies can find the application at the bottom of the webpage.

“We try to make it a pretty easy application,” said Thompson. “Our grants committee is meeting weekly right now to turn these applications around quickly, so get your application in as soon as possible.

“Just note the money is specific to basic needs and health and wellness right now.”

Companies Step Up to Help Produce Protective Equipment during Pandemic

Innovative thinking and ideas know no limits in the Rocket City, famous for finding solutions to complex problems and managing complicated situations.

The list of needs from the hospitals as they ramp up preparations for a potential surge in COVID-19 cases include surgical and procedural masks, N95 masks, isolation gowns, gloves, face shields, face goggles, ventilators, and swabs. However, it is the “other things” category that breathes life into Huntsville’s smartest minds during this unprecedented medical crisis.

Huntsville Hospital and Crestwood Medical Center are, of course, at the heart of these efforts. The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce has taken unprecedented steps to coordinate small business and manufacturing efforts to provide additional equipment and supplies to health care providers throughout the community, in the event our area gets overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases.

From the very beginning of the coronavirus crisis, Madison County companies and manufacturers large and small have been participating in these efforts, some adjusting their operations, while others are adapting to needs as they arise, and donating goods and services.

Lucia Cape, senior vice president of Economic Development at the Chamber, is spearheading the manufacturing efforts, maintaining an ongoing list of needed items and locations where businesses can drop off those donations, including the Chamber office on Church Street downtown.

“The manufacturing of these supplies, whether it is something you already manufacture, or something you can modify, the Chamber is running that information down and giving it to Huntsville Hospital and Crestwood to help them coordinate it,” Cape said. “Both hospitals are getting overwhelmed right now with the medical aspects of COVID-19 and this helps keep things in the proper channels.”

The Chamber holds regular calls with manufacturers to get clarification about what items can and can’t be made outside and over their existing supply chain or existing distributor base; and what the procedures are for getting a design approved.

Many of the requests are in reference to face shields, but Cape said several companies responded, offering anything from machine tooling shops that can make metal parts for ventilation carts and shelves, to 3D printers, and shops which specialize in custom injection moldings that can make pretty much anything.

And anything can mean taking on unexpected problems.

One of the things that has arisen from the making of N95 masks, for instance, is that prolonged wearing of the masks has shown to cause some skin breakdown on the bridge of the nose of clinical staff. There may be an opportunity for a device that could cushion the nose and prevent that from happening.

Cape said it is things like that that create unexpected opportunities that might not be on an original list of needs, but for which the Chamber is happy to be a clearinghouse.

“If you have things to sell, donate or have some great ideas, bring them to the Chamber so we can make sure they pass through the right channels and we will connect you directly,” Cape said.

Also, if the hospitals reach a point in which they don’t need some of these items any longer, the Chamber is setting up distribution throughout the community to doctor’s offices and clinics inside and outside our community to help.

Other creative ideas consist of converting CPAPs into ventilators; using plexiglass to make intubation domes; and making ventilator helmets based on a design from a company in Texas that looks like a space suit helmet. One manufacturer on a teleconference call with the Chamber hinted that surely someone in Huntsville can make that.

Study: Ventilator helmets said to be better than traditional face masks.

A couple of companies are assessing whether local doctors and respiratory therapists would embrace that kind of therapy if it were available.

Yet another company is tooling up a sanitization assembly line at Lincoln Mill that can bleach manufacturing parts intended to go into the supply chain.

Another company has offered to repair broken or failing electronic, plastic, or metal equipment.

Companies are also looking at ways to be more efficient, for instance, cutting the filtration material used for making N95 masks differently, and basically getting four masks out of what was originally one.

“We just want to make sure before anyone goes down that track that it is something the hospitals can accept, made by someone from outside the supply chain,” said a spokesperson for the company.

A representative from Huntsville Hospital said he thinks the FDA has waived some of the rules during this pandemic and if they begin running low on anything at some point, emergency authorizations they have already received, give them clear guidance that if reasonable health care professionals and doctors agree these ideas are an acceptable way to do it, then it will be okay.

Many large companies have stepped up to the plate as well.

PPG, which employs 700 people in Huntsville, announced it will donate 50,000 surgical masks and 10,000 N95 masks to several hospitals in the United States including Huntsville Hospital and Crestwood Medical Center.

“PPG is proud to support the medical community as they courageously continue their work on the frontlines of this global pandemic,” said Michael H. McGarry, PPG chairman and chief executive officer. “As One PPG family, we will continue to work with our community partners to provide support and deploy resources wherever possible. We look forward to a brighter future, together.”

Several local companies have donated personal protective equipment (PPE) to help hospitals and medical workers stock up on supplies. Adtran, Aerojet Rocketdyne, ATI, Brown Precision, Bruderer, Dynetics, Facebook, HudsonAlpha, Huntsville Utilities, John Blue Company, Matcor-Matsu, Mazda, Toyota Manufacturing USA, Inc., Mitchell Plastics, Navistar, Polaris, Remington, Turner Construction, TVA, and the UAH College of Nursing have all donated several thousand pairs of reusable protective eyewear to Huntsville Hospital, Madison Hospital and Crestwood Medical Center.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama, one of the area’s top employers, has kicked into high gear in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. TMMA is helping curb the spread of the virus by donating masks, safety glasses, shoe/boot covers, gloves, blankets, and cotton swabs to medical personnel.

The automobile engine company is also utilizing its facilities to mass fabricate 3-D printed face shields here in Huntsville.

According to Jeff Samms, COO of the Huntsville Hospital System, Toyota has a nice design for the shields and are now making hundreds of them for the hospital..

“The unknowns for all of us on this is what’s going to affect utilization,” he said. “COVID-19 patients use this isolation equipment at many times the normal rate, so there is an exponential growth in our use of the product, and we don’t know what the demand is going to be.”

Most of the hospitals admit their normal supply chains are broken right now and they are never quite sure what they’re going to get.

Toyota is also offering manufacturing and engineering expertise in support of any company seeking to increase their capacity for making medical supplies and equipment like ventilators and respirators.

The automaker continues to assist in providing essential supplies and emergency relief through local organizations and nonprofits, including significant monetary, “in-kind” donations to the United Way, community food banks, and to other key non-profit organizations geared towards helping those in need.

“Toyota’s core value has always been to contribute to society in meaningful ways beyond providing mobility for our customers,” said Ted Ogawa, incoming CEO, TMNA. “With our plants idled and our dealers focused on servicing customers, we are eager to contribute our expertise and know-how in order to help quickly bring to market the medical supplies and equipment needed to combat the COVID crisis. Our message to the medical equipment community is we are here to help, please utilize our expertise.”

Although currently, the “numbers” – that is the number of infected patients in Madison County hospitals – have not reached the critical level first projected, Chamber President and CEO Chip Cherry said, “We are incredibly grateful for the response from our business community to help our hospitals and first responders stock up on their supplies.

“It has been so good to see boxes of items come in over the last few days. We know these will help in the days to come. We know there is strength in numbers, and we and our members are committed to getting through this together.”