Tech Workers Dodge a Bullet in California Auto Plant Closing
By Doug Bartholomew Nearly 5,000 Bay Area manufacturing workers lost their jobs April 1 when the joint venture GM-Toyota New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plant, California's last auto manufacturing facility, closed. But the impact on IT professionals should be limited, given that NUMMI was a showcase for the Toyota Production System and lean manufacturing, which depends little on information technology. Instead of relying on ERP systems to manage its production and supply chain, the Fremont plant typically placed daily orders to suppliers via fax. In fact, most plants that are totally committed to the principles of lean manufacturing as pioneered by Toyota eschew the use of ERP, instead depending on various techniques to implement a "pull" system of production. Even so, the fallout of NUMMI's closing on hundreds of Bay Area suppliers is expected to result in the loss of up to 15,000 additional jobs, according to the California State Treasurer's office. While some of these losses will affect IT professionals, most are held by manufacturing workers making component parts such as door panels, interior trim pieces and truck frames. A Good Sign in Silicon Valley Hiring At the NOVA Job Seeker Center in Sunnyvale, about 200 people participate in the non-profit's "ProMatch" networking initiative by sharing job leads and seeking skills-to-jobs matches among their peers. How're they doing? "We had more people from our ProMatch networking fill jobs in March than we have for any month in the last couple of years," says Director Kris Stadelman. "This is a bigger number than we've seen in a while. And although these results are only anecdotal, we see it as a leading indicator of the job market." Still, larger firms that imposed major layoffs have yet to recoup their IT staffs in any significant way, Stadelman says. "The big companies that had the big layoffs are hiring, but only in onesy-twoseys." Who's Hiring IT Contract Workers Some major Bay Area companies are starting to add IT contract workers on a three- to six-month basis, and are holding out the possibility these assignments could become full-time staff positions. Some additions are due to IT restructurings, while others result from mergers or acquisitions. According to one IT contract firm, companies adding contract workers include Wells Fargo, Pacific Gas & Electric, Charles Schwab, VISA, and Macys.com. "We're seeing demand for a lot of project-based managers, business analysts, and people with ERP experience," says a source at the firm.