American Axle founder Dick Dauch was a huge presence at the Management Briefing Seminars, attending the annual event pretty much every year.

So it’s understandable some may confuse any “Dauch” with him. His son David, who replaced him as CEO last year following his death, spoke at Monday morning’s session and was called “Dick” not once but twice by the CAR moderator.

The third time was the charm, though, as he caught himself and got “David” out.

Knows All About Non-Profits

Focus: HOPE has been part of the Management Briefing Seminars for more than two decades: Its Detroit engineering students participate in the event with the industry’s movers and shakers.

William Jones Jr. was recruited to head Focus: HOPE about five years ago. “I resisted,” he says. “But they told me that after 27 years at Chrysler and Nissan, I had a lot of experience in non-profits.”

Drug Tests Weeding Out Workers

A refrain from the morning session on manufacturing at the MBS was the need for new employees good in science, technology, engineering and math. According to one report, there are 70,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs in Michigan.

“Don’t believe everything you hear,” Mustafa Mohatarem, General Motors’ chief economist, says of the auto industry’s rumored demise. “When Volkswagen hires in Chattanooga, there are a hundred applicants for each job.”

But a harsh reality lies behind such truths. About 25% of applicants for new jobs fail when tested for drugs, says John Basso, president of Diversified Tooling Group of Madison Heights, MI. Many of the rest are not capable in math or communications skills, which today are required, he says.

Basso has trained eight or nine tool-and-die makers every year since the early 1990s and now has 175 journeymen among his 430 employees. The Detroit automakers used to have such training but have dropped that role, he says, and he supports a Michigan proposal to encourage German-style apprenticeships.

Finally Getting to Sleep In

Auto manufacturing engineers are morning people, so they show up wide awake for the start of the MBS.

“An event that starts at 8 a.m. means manufacturing people get a chance to sleep in a couple of hours,” says Jay Baron, head of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, MI.

Or not. Some attendees rose early to get a pre-dawn jog in, he says. “Manufacturing people like to get up early.”