Laid-off auto workers find solar job power

Evening News - Help Wanted Series

MIDLAND, MICH. - Few states lost more jobs in the Great Recession than Michigan - where nearly one out of every 10 jobs disappeared. But, as CBS News senior correspondent Anthony Mason reports, one CEO is fighting back.

"We have a war today," Andrew Liveris says. "It's an American crisis on our jobs."

Liveris, who runs Dow Chemical, says the country needs a new plan to attack unemployment. "It needs to reinvent how to put those workers to work," he says. Liveris says it's the responsibility of both the government and businesses to deal with it.

Dow is doing its part. The company is developing a new solar power technology. Dow has started hiring laid-off workers, many from the auto industry, and retraining them to be solar shingle assemblers.

Jim Rogers worked for an automotive supplier for almost 24 years. After 15 months out of work Rogers, 51, has a job again.

Is re-invention the blueprint for a new career?

"If you want to work, you have to do something," Rogers said. "Old School isn't cutting it anymore."

Jim Dorcey went into bankruptcy after he was laid off from a major automaker. "I lost my house, I lost my car," he says.

Now, he's a quality control manager for Dow. Dorcey says it's a "new lease on life."

Over the past decade, one-third of the manufacturing workforce in the U.S. - 5.5 million jobs - have vanished.

Liveris says creating manufacturing jobs must be America's priority. After President John F. Kennedy said, "We go to the moon," Liveris says, "it actually created whole new industries because of a national mission. I think we need a national mission."

A mission could help the entire economy take off. For every $1.00 in sales generated from manufacturing, another $1.40 is created for the businesses that support it.

"Since when did making stuff become a bad thing?" Liveris asks. This past year, Michigan has created more than 30,000 new manufacturing jobs - more than any other state. To make solar shingles over the next four years, Dow expects to hire 1,300 workers with starting salaries of $30,000.

"It's jobs where workers from displaced industries can be retooled and retrained," Liveris says. "We not only can do it. We are doing it."

  • Anthony Mason
    Anthony Mason

    CBS News senior business and economics correspondent; Co-host, "CBS This Morning: Saturday"