News 8 lends a hand at GM assembly line training in Arlington



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Posted on December 13, 2012 at 8:13 PM

ARLINGTON -- New hires at General Motors' Arlington plant are getting a new kind of training; A simulated work environment, complete with assembly line.

Instead of expensive SUV's, wooden boxes glide on rollers, like big, sturdy doghouses with wooden bumpers and headlights bolted on. New employees spend 10 hours in the training, learning to work in small teams of four-to-six people.

Longtime GM worker Chris Brown said he got almost no training when he started back in 1979.

"Probably literally 30 minutes, if that," he laughed.

Now Brown helps train new hires, like Tanya Love. The 41-year-old single mom has no manufacturing experience, and never used power tools.

"Pretty good at it, too," she grinned, gunning a power wrench.

Love was a substitute teacher by day and security guard at night. Low pay. No benefits. Plenty of irony, though.

"Actually guarding the SUV's GM made," she said.

Her new job replaced her other two part-time jobs. Love is among 1,000 new GM workers in Arlington, bringing total employment to about 3,500 employees. She earns less than veteran workers, but still about $16 an hour, plus cherished health benefits.

GM invited a group of reporters to see what it's like on the simulated line.

Our goal was 18 vehicles in 20 minutes with zero defects. We finished 12 with 27 defects. We got better in round two, but not as good as we would need to be on the real assembly line, which moves faster. On average, the Arlington GM plant turns out one vehicle every minute. Early next year the plant will add a third shift.

News 8's Jim Douglas doesn't think they want him on the line.

"I dropped a bumper and a headlight made of wood," he said, "but the ribbing from coworkers was real."