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Delphi Chief: Skills Key to U.S. Factory Turnaround

It's a difficult time for U.S. manufacturers. The economy shed 326,000 factory jobs in the past 12 months, pressured by weakening demand and lower-cost foreign competitors. Steve Miller, executive chairman of giant auto parts maker Delphi Corp., says improving worker skills is key to turning around the embattled U.S. manufacturing sector.

Miller, who is in the process of pulling Delphi out of bankruptcy, came to the company after a career turning around other big, troubled corporations like Chrysler and Bethlehem Steel. His new book is called The Turnaround Kid.

"The main thing in the U.S. that we have to keep in mind is that people are going to get paid for the global value of what they do," Miller tells Steve Inskeep. "And the way that we can keep the U.S. economy strong is to do a better job of educating our people so that they will have the technical skills that are needed to compete in the future."

Miller says the coming generation of workers shouldn't necessarily avoid manufacturing careers.

"But I would certainly encourage them as they go through their schooling to get training in the skills," he says. "Learn about how computers work, because so many things in the factories today are run by computers. Learn how to do sophisticated maintenance work, or electrical work or something like that where companies will pay for those skills."

He says the factory workforce has changed, warning against "the notion that you can just cruise through high school and go get a job that is mindless doing some kind of very simple production process."

"There's going to be very few of those jobs and they're probably not going to pay as well in the future," he says.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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