Honda’s foundation is strong as it looks to develop future workforce

honda 40th logo

In the 40 years since Honda first began production, the automaker has become an economic juggernaut in Ohio with self-sustaining operations employing 15,000 associates building cars and light trucks while developing future generations of mobility products.

Since Honda of America Manufacturing Inc. began production in Ohio Sept. 10, 1979, with a Elsinore CR250R, the automaker has:

• invested more than $11 billion in its Ohio operations;

• produced nearly 20 million vehicles at its three Ohio auto plants;

• ramped up engine and transmission production to exceeds one million units per year;

• grown its purchasing of parts and materials to $10 billion annually;

• expanded to include research and development and parts procurement; and

• given more than $100 million to Ohio community organizations.

Beyond Honda, there are more than 150 original equipment manufacturers in Ohio and a total of 800 support companies in the region employing thousands which adds to the economic health.

Honda’s economic impact in Ohio — the second largest auto producing state in the nation — now exceeds the combined impact of General Motors and Ford Motor Co. auto production.

But Honda also has been laying a foundation for the future as it expands the local R&D operations with construction of a state of the art wind tunnel and radio frequency testing facility.

Local engineers also are the global leaders for Honda’s connected car technology with a program to install advanced warning technology at dozens of traffic light intersections in Marysville.

The company also will utilize the 33 Smart Corridor development from Dublin to the massive proving grounds at the Transportation Research Center to further connected car technology.

Elsewhere engineers are exploring alternative personal mobility devices to help people move and future propulsion systems.

Tom Shoupe, executive vice president for Honda Manufacturing, has been addressing audiences in West and Central Ohio telling the story of Honda in Ohio.

He notes the company plans to electrify 2/3 of it fleet by 2030 and Ohio will play a significant role globally for the automaker.

The future, he said, will offer opportunities for advancement and high tech training, but it will not be possible without people.

“We’ve always worked to transfer our culture and values to the next generation of associates,” Shoupe said during a recent Columbus Metropolitan Club meeting. “Honda has always put a significant emphasis on its people. It’s always viewed technology as a tool developed by people and without people, you have nothing.” 

He and other corporate leaders now face the challenge of developing a workforce to fill manufacturing jobs of the future.

Toward that goal, the company has been showcasing opportunities to students across the region.

They are targeting middle schoolers because if they wait until high school, it’s too late.

“Most student have already made their career choices by high school,” Scot McLemore, Honda’s manager of talent acquisition and development, said. 

They are using collaborations with educators at all levels to reach students but the middle school outreach may be the most critical, he said.

It gives Honda a chance to show the clean work environment of its flexible manufacturing plants, the types of skills needed and reach the parents, particularly mothers.

McLemore said research shows mothers play a huge role in guiding a child’s career choice. If Honda can get the mothers on board, the children will follow.

Honda uses it Honda Heritage Center, a mobile lab and a computer game to provide a glimpse of the modern manufacturing plant.

Both Shoupe and McLemore said collaborations extend into career centers, community colleges and universities.

Lewis Gleason, an equipment service technician since 2017, took advantage of a Honda program through Marion Technical College that allowed him to be co-op worker for a 1 1/2 years.

He was able to complete an associates degree in electrical mechanical engineering during that time and join full time.

The Marysville graduate grew up with Honda as both of his parents built careers with the company. So choosing to follow their footsteps came easy for him.

“I saw what it did for my mom and dad,” Gleason said. “They were able to work and still remain a part of and support the community. I wanted to be a part of it.”

Honda’s investment in the United States has exceed $21 billion with more than 25,000 associates at 12 plants in America with the capacity to produce more than one million automobiles, three million engines, 400,000 power equipment products and 330,000 powersports products each year, using domestic and globally sourced parts. In 2018, nearly two-thirds of all Honda and Acura automobiles sold in the U.S. were made in America.  

Honda also manufactures the HondaJet advanced light jet and GE Honda HF120 turbofan engines in America.

Vinning still at it 40 years’ later

Neil Vinning was there when the first Honda Elsinore CR250R rolled off the Marysville Motorcycle Plant line in 1979. He was there too to celebrate the first production Accord in 1982.

Honda 40th Vinning

Neil Vinning, one of the original 64 production associates, poses with the first Honda Elsinore CR250R at the Honda Heritage Center. (PHOTO | HONDA)

Now, 40 years later he remains with the automaker having advanced from production associate to chief engineer of the audit division.

“In June, I celebrated my 40th year with the company,” Vinning said. “I often get the question, ‘Why 40 years?’

“I think to myself, ‘How often do you get a chance to be a part of a team that is building a great company?’ Over the past four decades, so many associates have contributed to building this company, and I feel fortunate to be one of them.”

Vinning grew up in Ostrander and remembers well the poor economy in Ohio and the nation. He had a job but was getting laid off every six months or so.

He heard about Honda opening a production facility in Union County and applied for a job.

“I was fortunate they gave me an interview and then they hired me to become a part of the original 64 associates that started the motorcycle plant in 1979,” Vinning said.

Read complete story in Tuesday's Examiner
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