In sifting through the 16,300-plus applicants, Flex-N-Gate also has prioritized individuals who have two or more years of continuous work experience and have 313 and 734 area code phone numbers that indicate they likely live in Wayne County, said Karrie Szalony, director of human resources at Flex-N-Gate's Warren stamping plant.
"Even if it's not auto-related [work], I want to ensure they're a reliable employee," Szalony said. "We can teach you the auto skills."
But with a tight labor market for experienced workers, Flex-N-Gate also has begun interviewing automotive parts production workers facing an impending layoff at Integrated Manufacturing and Assembly in Highland Park, Szalony said.
Integrated Manufacturing and Assembly, a seat supplier and joint venture of Lear Corp. and Comer Holdings LLC, informed state officials in March that it would permanently lay off 127 manufacturing employees by May 3.
"The market is so tight for talent, that where you can find it, you're lucky to find it," Szalony said.
Approximately 6,948 of Flex-N-Gate's 16,370 applicants — or 42 percent — listed a 313 area code phone number, indicating they likely live in or near Detroit, according to human resources data Flex-N-Gate shared with Crain's.
More than half of the total applicants — 8,442 — applied for production jobs, with just 183 coming from within the 48213 ZIP code that covers the neighboring residential area.
Flex-N-Gate received another 138 applications for jobs in skilled trades, management and professional positions from the plant's ZIP code among a pool of 7,928 applicants in those job categories requiring more formal education and training, according to company data.
The location of the plant along corridors serviced by existing Detroit and suburban bus transportation lines also may be driving some of the interest from applicants who don't have cars.
"So many of the manufacturing jobs are outside of the bus lines, because they're so far out in [suburban Detroit]," said Anthony Franklin Sr., 53, of Eastpointe, Mich.
Franklin was hired into the second cohort of trainees with previous auto parts and materials-handling experience in jobs at Android Industries and Lear Corp. He hopes to work his way into a skilled trade position.
"Everybody is excited because it's new," Franklin said of the plant. "We're the groundbreakers and get the opportunity to set the pace."
The Detroit Employment Solutions Corp., the city's workforce-development agency, has budgeted $150,000 to fund Focus: Hope's training of Flex-N-Gate workers, DESC spokesman Robin Johnston said.
The second class of 24 trainees finished a weeklong training course last week.