Toyota is struggling to sell trucks and SUVs like everyone else, but unlike the competition, no full-time workers from stalled factories are getting laid off. The 4,500 workers at idled plants are instead bettering themselves through eduction by taking classes on safety, diversity, and Toyota history. They're also doing community service while on the clock and even some gardening. The workers will be learning how to work faster and smarter during the down time, and are even being shifted to busier plants on a temporary basis to help plants that are working beyond capacity to keep up with demand.

Toyota's plan to keep its workers busy at all costs isn't cheap, as about $50 million is being spent to keep workers busy with training programs. Of course, you can't please everyone and the plan isn't sitting well with all of Toyota's workforce, as workers at running factories don't like the fact that laid off workers are getting a leg up on training. A more skilled plant could have an advantage over others in getting earmarked for future products, so unaffected workers also want the extra training.

While expensive and a bit of a logistics nightmare, Toyota's plan is a good one if you can afford it. It should help create a more loyal, better trained workforce that also forges ties with the surrounding community. We bet Toyota hopes it will prevent any talk of unionizing, as well. And with Toyota's record profits over the past few years, $50 million is a drop in the corporate bucket.

[Source: Automotive News - Sub. Req., Image: Junko Kimura/Getty]