Although the first car isn’t expected to roll off the assembly line until late 2018, some 43,000 people already have applied for jobs at Volvo’s new plant in Berkeley County.
Katarina Fjording, vice president of purchasing and manufacturing for Volvo Cars U.S. Operations, said last week during her keynote address at the 2017 Workforce Development Symposium in Columbia that the automaker wants to develop locally the workforce for its first U.S. manufacturing facility.
The plant, located on a 3,000-acre site at Camp Hall Commerce Park off Interstate 26, will need 2,000 workers, Fjording said. Of the 43,000 people who have shown interest in working for the company, approximately 1,500 will qualify because of the company’s hiring procedure, according to the Palmetto Workforce Connections newsletter published by the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.
“It is our job to figure out how to make that lower number higher,” she said.
Volvo doesn’t want to bring in too many people from outside South Carolina as other companies have done, Fjording said. She noted that original equipment manufacturers have told her that 60% to 70% of the workers they’ve hired are from outside the state.
Fjording plans to take the money that the company would spend for relocating workers and instead invest it education, according to the workforce agency's publication.
Volvo is working with Trident Technical College in the Lowcountry to develop curriculum that will help people interested in working for the company know which qualifications are needed and provide the education and training people would need to compete for a job.
“What we need are a log of technicians and first-level maintenance engineers,” she said. “A lot of our jobs don’t need someone with a rocket science education.”
Also, it is up to all involved in workforce development to educate the community that manufacturing is not the dirty, greasy job that many people imagine when they think about manufacturing, Fjording said.
Once the company’s S.C. operations launch in 2018, the facility will be the global production home of the new S-60 sedan, which is currently under development at Volvo Car Group headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden. Initial plans call for the plan to produce 65,000 cars annually, with 30,000 of those vehicles being exported through the Port of Charleston.
Volvo plans to expand to 120,000 cars produced annually and an estimated 4,000 employees as volumes grow.
“This is a very clean and safe environment, and there are loads of good jobs in the industry,” she said. “We want good people who care to work for us. They are wanted.”