19/05/2017 13:30 SAST | Updated 19/05/2017 14:11 SAST

Working In The Car Industry And Worried About Your Job? Here Are Your Options.

"Just because you have learnt how to assemble a car does not mean you can assemble a plane."

Geoff Robins / Reuters
A worker driving a GMC Terrain leaves the General Motors CAMI car assembly plant where the GMC Terrain and Chevrolet Equinox are built, in Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada, January 27, 2017. REUTERS/Geoff Robins

On Thursday, GM announced it would be pulling its operations in South Africa, selling its Port Elizabeth plant to Isuzu. The decision, the National Union of Metalworkers South Africa says, could affect at least 1,000 workers there. GM has not released details about what would happen to workers affected by the move.

The move seems to be informed by GM doing badly worldwide. Nevertheless, vehicle sales in South Africa were expected to "remain flat", Wheels24 reported in January.

Should you be looking for a new job? It's early to tell right now, given that Isuzu has agreed to buy the production plant as they plan to expand in Africa, and the same Wheels24 article claims production levels would remain on the upward spiral. But if you want to move on, we found out what you can do.

In any industry, some skills can exclusively be used only within that space, while others can be easily transferred across the board.

Industrial psychologist Zurayda Shaik told HuffPost SA on Friday: "An accountant can be employable in different industries if they have already developed the technical competencies. A greater advantage they have is, should the skill not be fully present, further training and development can be done to ensure alignment to the job requirements."

Unlike these business skills, Johannesburg-based HR specialist Tshepo Lephoi explained to HuffPost SA, technical skills are harder to sell because they are normally specialty-based. "Just because you have learnt how to assemble a car does not mean you can assemble a plane. Assembling is the common factor, but what you assemble is technically different," he says.

Lephoi suggests looking for jobs in companies in a similar sector. For people working in car manufacturing plants, the best option would be other South Africa-based companies that do the same thing. But if there's no luck there and time permits, they could consider these options:

  1. Consulting

Lephoi says they could offer consultative services in their fields as experts owing to years on the job and knowledge about the trade.

  1. Lecturing

Although seemingly less glamorous, there are a number of technical colleges in South Africa where skills from a person who has been in particular jobs for a while can be useful for young people wanting to enter the trade.

  1. Entrepreneurship

Because they have been working with cars for a long time, they might be comfortable starting small businesses such as:

  • Panel beating
  • Auto repair
  • Auto electrical components
  • Mobile mechanic services

All these business require direct knowledge and hands-on experience.