- General Motors announced plans to cut more than 14,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada, in addition to stopping production at five plants, according to reports from The Wall Street Journal and The Detroit News. The company offered buyouts to 18,000 salaried workers on Halloween, but only 2,250 accepted them. Since GM had set a target of nixing 8,000 jobs through the buyouts, it will need to lay off 6,000, according to The Detroit News.
- This move comes as GM anticipates shifts within the industry, GM CEO Mary Barra told reporters at a press conference Monday. "This is what we're doing to transform the company. The industry is changing very rapidly," she said. "We think it's appropriate to get in front of it while the business and the economy are strong."
- As Barra announced the cutbacks, she also said GM plans to acquire "skillsets of the future" by hiring in software development, battery and fuel cell technology and autonomous vehicle development, The Detroit News reported. "You will see us having new employees join the company as others are leaving," she said. "We still need many technical resources across the company."
While GM's announcement sparked criticism from President Donald Trump, other political figures and unions, the job cuts may not come as a total shock. The company, though healthy right now, is both bracing for an anticipated downturn in the U.S. car market, as Barra pointed out, and responding to sluggish sales of sedans and similar cars.
As GM makes changes to prepare for the future, other employers, especially those with a strong manufacturing presence, may want to pay attention, not only to the company's plans but also to the economic conditions surrounding the nation's blue-collar workforce. Researchers at the Brookings Institution found that employment growth rates in smaller communities outpaced the national rate and the rates of other community types. These areas may not be able to keep up with skyrocketing growth rates due to skill shortages and education gaps, Brookings said, making them highly vulnerable to automation and globalization.
Researchers have named technology as another force that will transform manufacturing, though researchers continue to speculate what that transformation will look like. Last year, a Cornerstone Capital Group study predicted that computers could usurp 7.5 million retail jobs. More recent reports have predicted that technology may not replace or eliminate jobs so much as redefine them. If GM's decision to fire thousands and make room for more tech talent signals anything, it's that manufacturing-heavy businesses need to consider how their workforces will meet the needs of a more tech-focused future.