Jobs for Laid-Off Assembly Line Workers

Automation has replaced hundreds of thousands of assembly line workers and Human Resource Departments have not succeeded in finding jobs for many of them.

All too often assembly line workers are considered by management as “interchangeable work units” who are only capable of bolting on parts as they come to their stations. With automation a large factory structure is frequently replaced by a smaller building housing new machines that do not require as much lighting, air conditioning or heat. A business that once employed three shifts of 200 workers each now only needs 30 workers per shift. What happens to the now-redundant workers?

The already small Human Resource Departments are overwhelmed. While they attempt to select the best workers to be transferred to the new factory and may refer workers to state unemployment facilities, they frequently cannot find enough jobs for their former employees. Some employees who are approaching their 60s may be forced into an unwanted early retirement. A few others with better skills might be retrained and shifted to other jobs, but for many these well-meaning efforts are insufficient to find them work at anything near the same salary levels.

Unions, whose members may have been fatefully paying their dues for decades in hopes of insuring their jobs, can do little when entire plants are relocated to non-union-shop states or even to other countries to take advantage of less expensive labor costs and better climates. Their work rules and strict job descriptions have confined workers to very narrow categories and left workers with fewer work experiences to draw on and consequently less of a chance to find jobs that pay nearly as well.

Workers may find employment in service industries or flipping burgers, but these are often insufficient to pay rent, buy groceries and meet medical costs, much less maintain the lifestyle that they had enjoyed for decades. Workers pushed into such positions may have to take multiple jobs to survive, and a single illness or adverse event can easily push them into homelessness.

Another category of former assembly-line-workers may be young enough, healthy enough and have sufficient training to move with the factory or to another state, but are restricted by family obligations from relocating elsewhere. Such obligations often include caring for parents or older relatives, periodically helping out on the family farm or not wanting to leave a state that supplies excellent services for a disabled child.

Jobs for former assembly-line workers

A company may employ a separate firm to aid their employees in learning how to do a job search, write resumes, go for interviews, etc. This is often done over a brief period after a mass layoff. This training has value and should be taken advantage of. It is free and the associations gained and friendships made during such trainings may be more significant than the training itself. Another valuable aspect of such trainings is that it helps with the grieving process that comes from losing what you had previously expected to be a life-time job.

Unfortunately, the economy has moved away from the years when a person might expect to be with the same company his entire working life. Those positions are now being replaced by the “gig economy” where workers are hired to fill positions as they are needed. When the project is completed the workers are dismissed. Anyone who has ever worked any part of the construction business has known about working “gigs” for decades. This work method has now expanded to nearly all parts of company and corporate operations. Team members no longer have to be in the same location or even in the same country.

Frequently overlooked in retraining line workers is the possibility that they could start their own businesses, stay in their communities and be even more productive members of society. Part of the reason that this is ignored is that “workers are workers and not managers.” This is self-defeating, short sighted and outright WRONG. Such thinking is a relic of medieval system where lords ruled over the land and controlled everyone beneath them. If you were not a member of the nobility, you were stuck at whatever position you were born into. Everyone who has lived independently is a manager. They have managed their own lives and those of their families for all of their adult lives, and they can certainly be taught to use their existing skills, acquire others and manage their own businesses.

This is the approach that I take in my new book, “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife.” What I advocate is that people seek out entrepreneurial activities as early as High School by doing things like mowing lawns or providing services for older members of the community. Then seek advance training in college or elsewhere and pick up some business courses either on-line or as electives. In the meantime they invent, alone or with others, a business that they start and run on a low level while they are working for someone else, getting health insurance, etc. Should they be unexpectedly laid off they have their own businesses already running to ramp up with their severance pay and start making serious money.

In “Create Your Own Job” I show how to sort out various business possibilities into those to act on immediately to get some money in the house, others to be implemented later after some professional training or certifications , and still more that require college degrees, partners or perhaps co-owners to implement successfully. Such businesses may be done by anyone, anytime, anywhere and often at very little costs. I also provide chapters with detailed information on topics like coming up with a name for your new business, possibilities for financing, nearly no-cost advertising and even what to do with your business after you no longer wish to run it.

The best results from your business will often be obtained when it combines your skills and experience into something new that might be an invention, production method, book, screenplay, physical art, new marketing approach, public service or a configuration that combines invention-marketing-art in a new way. The possibilities are unlimited and extremely personalized – exactly the opposite of the people as interchangeable-work-units concept.

I will be giving a two hour free seminar in Augusta, Georgia, on March 15, 2019. This will be in Music Room B at the Salvation Army Headquarters at 1833 Broad Street. This Create Your Own Job Seminar will began at 7:00 PM and conclude at 9:00 PM and include a workshop where I will assist participants in sorting through a set of job opportunities that they generate. Although the event is free, seating is limited. If you are going to attend contact me at with the words “Augusta Event” in the subject line. I am also available to present at other locations and work with companies undergoing restructurings.

Author's Bio: 

Wm. Hovey Smith is a registered Professional Geologist in Georgia. He is also a member of several writers’ organizations including the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) and the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association (GOWA). He is the author of 18 books with his most recent title being “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife.” He has been a radio host and does public speaking on work and environmental topics with appearances in the U.S., Europe and China. He is an active blogger and the producer of over 725 YouTube videos on outdoor and business topics.