Just when the job-eating, downsizing management mindset seems to be spinning out of control, here comes a group of cock-eyed optimists from the University of Michigan's Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation.

The Big Three will hire 250,000 over the next eight years -- that's in the United States alone. Up to 129,000 of those hires could happen in Michigan.

That's the thrust of "Driving America's Renaissance," a weighty, 87-page study conducted for the Michigan Jobs Commission by labor economists Sean P. McAlinden and Brett C. Smith.

Nearly a quarter of the 700,000 U.S. employees of General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp. are more than 50 years old. Many of them will retire or transfer to jobs in other industries in coming years. Most will have to be replaced.

New hiring at the Big Three may fall below OSAT's 250,000 estimate if the trend toward pushing more engineering and manufacturing work on to suppliers continues.

"Yet we believe that even if this happens, the same number of openings will occur in the industry as a whole," Mr. McAlinden writes. "The period of retrenchment and decline for Michigan's auto industry has certainly ended."

The big Challenge: educating this new generation of manufacturing workers. A group of automotive suppliers interviewed for the study came down hard on teachers and public school administrators.

"All suppliers said that a critical barrier is the perception among educators that manufacturing is a second-rate career choice," the study says. Several suppliers suggested that the state fund internships for teachers in which they would spend summers with local manufacturing companies.