By JOHN HUDSON
Capital News Service
Possible GM-Chrysler merger could impact retraining levels
LANSING- With anxiety over a potential merger between General Motors Corp. and
Chrysler, officials of worker retraining programs in the state are bracing for an influx of
unemployed job seekers.
“We’re going to be hit very significantly,” said John Bierbusse, director of Macomb and
St. Clair Michigan Works!, a government workforce development agency.
The two automotive companies recently announced plans to lay off more workers, and
many autoworkers fear that a merger would usher in a new wave of job cuts.
“A lot of the jobs that will be lost are the white-collar jobs out of Auburn Hills,”
Bierbusse said. “That’s where most of the duplicated jobs are.”
Bierbusse said layoffs at Chrysler offices in Auburn Hills would hurt many of the
company’s employees from Macomb and St. Clair counties who commute there to work—as
well as those who live in Oakland County.
Michigan Works! offers career counseling, occupational skills training and job search
Fed up with near-constant job cuts, many autoworkers are looking to leave the industry,
“If they’re going to stay in manufacturing, many of them are so discouraged they want to
go on to some other industry like medical, technology or computers,” he said. “They’ve been
experiencing this over and over again.”
The unemployment rate in Michigan has increased statewide over the past year, with
most counties experiencing a 1.5 percent increase in joblessness, according to the Bureau of
Labor Market Information. The metro areas hit hardest have been Monroe, Flint, Niles-Benton
Harbor and Muskegon—all experiencing increases at or above 2 percent.
Flint has the highest unemployment rate of 10.5 percent.
Liza Estlund Olson, director of the Bureau of Workforce Transformation in the
Department of Labor and Economic Growth, said her office is poised for changes in the
“We’ll look at infrastructure and capacity and see where we need to redeploy resources,”
she said. “If we normally accepted 50 people at one place but now have to find space for 150
people, we’ll build up capacity.”
With automotive jobs dwindling, Olson’s bureau and Michigan Works! are looking to
other industries to pick up the slack.
Olson said there’s been success transitioning auto engineers into hybrid diesel engineers
as part of a larger initiative to create green jobs.
In Macomb County, some laid-off engineers and designers will find jobs in the defense
industry. General Dynamics Corp. and BEA Systems Inc. in Sterling Heights are currently
BEA Systems will add over 1,000 jobs, almost half in engineering, over the next 14
years, Bierbusse said.
Workforce development groups aren’t the only ones gearing up for a rise in laid off
Patrick Faircloth, a licensed counselor at Oakland University, runs a therapy group called
“Men in Transition” that helps displaced workers deal with the personal grief associated with job
As more workers get laid off, there’s a growing need to deal with the emotional
consequences, Faircloth said.
“As the layoffs continue, we’re going to see ripple effects throughout society,” he said. “I
anticipate that we’ll fill the group and put on an additional group.”
The next free session will run in November from the Oakland University Department of