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Hired! Finding work in the auto industry

The automobile industry has been rocked by layoffs, but Margaret McManus still managed to snag a job.

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By Jessica Dickler, CNNMoney.com staff writer

In April, Margaret McManus got a job at an auto supplier in Georgia making $8 an hour. She had been out of work for nearly a year and a half.
Millions of job openings!

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- In the middle of all the Big Three bankruptcy chatter and auto plant closings, Margaret McManus stands out. She just got a job at an auto supplier in Georgia.

For the average American auto worker, these are desperate times. During the first four months of the year there were over 101,000 job cuts announced in the auto industry, according to the latest data available from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

The sector took another major blow when General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) announced plans to cut 23,000 jobs by 2011 and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy last week.

But McManus, 52, is just one of the people being put to work in West Point, Ga., home to Daehan Solutions Georgia, a new parts supplier for Kia Motor's first North American automobile assembly plant.

Like McManus, most of the people hired by Kia and its suppliers do not have automotive experience, but were unemployed workers in the textile industry, which has been particularly hard hit in Georgia.

McManus was laid off in February of last year when the textile manufacturer she was working for closed down. With so many residents out of work and the local industry declining, new jobs were hard to come by.

While collecting unemployment benefits, McManus decided to go back to school at Southern Union State Community College in Valley, Ala., to study information technology in hopes of finding administrative work.

Then, in April, she attended a job fair and interviewed with Daehan Solutions. The company sent her to a training session at Georgia Tech and she was offered a position as a trainer for the other workers making the noise, vibration and harshness (or NVH) system for Kia. She started the next day.

Although working at in the automotive industry is unlike anything McManus has done before, "I think I'm going to like it," she said. Ultimately, she is happy to be employed again.

"Until you go through something like that you don't realize what kind of struggle it's going to be," McManus said of her year and a half out of work. Her husband of 33 years was laid off from the same textile manufacturer and is currently working full time at Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500). "Things are looking up now."

Beating the odds

John Weiss, owner of Atlanta Resume Service in Atlanta, Ga., believes other job seekers can also find opportunities around West Point. "That's going to be a very good area to be looking for a job," he said.

And, like McManus, they don't have to have previous experience in the automotive industry to find success. "They have to train people for the right jobs as well as find people with experience."

"Job fairs are a great place to start," he said. But it is extremely important to make the appropriate impression, he cautioned, and that means wearing professional attire and having a polished resume.

"If there is a job fair, then people are hiring," he said.

West Point's Mayor, Drew Ferguson, estimates that the opportunities at the assembly plant, auto suppliers and in the surrounding city can bring about 20,000 jobs to the area.

Between retail positions, restaurant workers and other opportunities, Ferguson believes that the impact could be great. "We do have this opportunity which is right in front of us, people are becoming employed," he said.

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