Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia is seriously considering reopening the application process for production jobs at the new West Point plant, a company official said Thursday.
The South Korean automobile manufacturer has already hired 1,143 workers as it gears up to begin production of the Sorento crossover utility vehicle in mid-November. Those workers came from a pool of more than 43,000 people who applied in January 2007.
“It makes sense,” said Kia Georgia Director of Human Resources and Administration Randy Jackson. “You have higher unemployment and plant closures. A lot of people in this region’s lives are not the same as they were two years ago.”
Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond agrees, saying it is a good idea to reopen the process because of all that has happened in the economy in the last two years. The state’s unemployment rate was 4.3 percent in January 2007. Today, it’s 10.3 percent. There are about 280,000 more Georgians looking for work.
“There are thousands of people looking for work today that were not in that position a couple of years ago,” Thurmond said. “As a result, you will have people with higher skills and are more qualified than what you might have had a couple of years ago.”
Kia will have about 1,250 workers hired by the time production begins. The company will then hire an additional 1,250 for a second production shift that will be working by the middle of next year.
Jackson did not give a date for reopening the application process — which was done online the first time — but said it would likely be in October or November,
The company will work closely with the Georgia Department of Labor and QuickStart, the Technical College System of Georgia’s job training arm.
“The likelihood that we open it back up is good,” Jackson said.
The Department of Labor would work with Kia any way possible, Thurmond said.
“We obviously will support and assist Mr. Jackson and Kia in their hiring efforts in any way that is appropriate,” Thurmond said. “We will be there to support them.”
Kia officials have discussed a couple of ways to approach the second round of applications. In 2007, the process was open for about a week.
“There is the possibility this time we could open it and leave it open,” Jackson said.
There is another reason to seek new applicants, he said.
“When we were beginning, we didn’t have a lot of cheerleaders,” he said. “Now, we have a lot of people who have been in there. They love the working conditions, pay and benefits.”
The production jobs start at $14.90 per hour and top out at $23.50 per hour. The hourly maintenance jobs start at $20.80 and top out at $27.
There will be plenty of advance publicity if the application process is reopened, so those interested can apply, Jackson said.
The company is now hiring about 100 salaried employees — mid- to lower-level managers, Jackson said. Opportunities exist in fields such as accounting and finance, quality engineering, training and public relations.