Shifting gears: How Ford helps transition its workforce

by Miklos Bolza20 Jul 2016
In May 2013 when Ford Australia announced the closure of its Geelong and Broadmeadows production facilities, the firm knew there was only one way forward.
“What we said at that time is our priorities would be to put our people first, help them find their new futures, treat them with dignity and respect through the process and help the industry,” Ford spokesperson Wes Sherwood told HC.
The firm kept the plants running through three stable years – despite predictions that the supply base would collapse – by working with employees, suppliers and the government to help employees transition to new positions elsewhere.
Funding new job opportunities
Ford Australia invested $10m in a job creation fund for the Melbourne and Geelong areas affected by the plant closures called the Innovation and Investment Fund.
“Those funds were designed to create economic activity in those areas in preparation for people looking for new opportunities,” Sherwood said.
“Since we announced that three years ago, the funds have now generated nearly 1,500 commitments for new job opportunities from firms in those communities.”
While these are not one-for-one job placements, Sherwood noted that firms taking part in the fund will eventually deliver these new jobs to the community.
For instance, Carbon Revolution – a start-up firm producing carbon fibre wheels for automobiles – formed a global deal to provide wheels for Ford’s speciality Mustangs in America.
Carbon Revolution was thus able to commence production with an expanded workforce that included a few former employees from Ford, Sherwood said.
Making future connections
For the 850 workers still with the company, Ford has handle the redundancy situation as expected, offering financial and career planning and hosting jobs fairs for staff.
“We will continue to have jobs fairs through October including one in Geelong next week to help connect them with potential employers,” Sherwood said.
Redeploying a skilled workforce
One of the advantages that Ford has at its disposal is that it has the most extensive product development system in Australia, Sherwood noted.
“From our design centre and engineering facilities in Broadmeadows to a test track in Lara outside of Geelong and a research and development centre also in Geelong, we have a network of more than 1,100 designers and engineers.”
With this capability, the company will work with the government to re-train its workers and identify employees who can be redeployed to the product development team.
“We’ve already identified about 150 of those employees who will continue with us and just move into roles in the product development group,” he said.
This group is not only here to stay in Australia but is also growing as Ford gets more and more development work.
“Other manufacturers do not have that kind of investment and R&D in the country, so it’s very unique and something that will continue on with us moving forward,” Sherwood told HC.

Image: Ford Fiesta MK5 TDCi X100 by Marcin Mincer / CC-BY-SA-3.0
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