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Chrysler job postings signal course change

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Chrysler job postings signal course change

Most hires through agencies



Chrysler is reaching beyond contract employment houses and is now directly hiring new full-time salaried workers with benefits as a fledgling recovery gains traction and fresh products must come to market to sustain momentum.

Last week at the Mackinac Policy Conference, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said the company has added 1,600 people so far this year to accelerate product development. That number doesn't include the 1,080 hourly workers Chrysler will begin hiring at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant, where a second shift will be added next month as part of the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee production launch. But the hiring is not ending there.

Job seekers logging on to Monster.com will notice a flurry of postings in the last week.

The titles range from assistant chief engineer to head of powertrain development to senior technical specialist. They encompass manufacturing, engineering, design, finance, marketing and information technology.

Transcending survival mode

The postings are significant for several reasons. First, about two-thirds of the 1,600 hired so far this year were hired through contract agencies. While those candidates may be well-qualified and compensated fairly, they are not Chrysler employees, meaning Chrysler does not carry the cost of their benefits.

Second, the variety of positions Chrysler is filling indicates that management envisions the company transcending survival mode.

"It also speaks to what Fiat and Marchionne were left with when they came in. The place had literally been gutted," said Erich Merkle, an industry analyst with Autoconomy.com in Grand Rapids. "They have to be able to deliver product that is timely and of high quality. You have to have people to execute that."

Although Chrysler is relying on sales to rental companies and corporate fleets, U.S. sales in May were 33% higher than a year earlier.

It reported a $143-million pretax operating profit for the first three months of this year and generated $1.49 billion in cash. Now, it can plow much of that money into the people and technology to bring the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, a new seven-passenger Dodge SUV and freshened versions of the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger to market.

Confidence in quality of workers

Through the first five months of the year, Chrysler has built twice as many vehicles as it did in the same period of 2009, when production stopped for its bankruptcy. So a significant number of jobs are in manufacturing and logistics.

The most recent job postings reflect Chrysler's confidence that there are still experienced and highly qualified people available.

Although many of the listings require a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, some also say a master's degree is preferred. Many seek candidates with considerable experience. For example, applicants for the head of powertrain development are asked to have at least seven years of experience in engine and transmission technology.



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