Steve Marsh went to work for Nissan when he was 16 years old and never looked back. Now, almost 30 years later, he is the vice president of manufacturing at Nissan’s plant in Canton, Mississippi. But that wasn’t the original plan.
Marsh grew up in Newcastle, in the north of England, and had plans to enter college when he was 18. “Graduation from high school in England is quite different than in the U.S., ” he explains. “You can graduate at 16 or 18, and all the kids who graduate at 16 go into the trades, and all the kids who graduate at 18 go to a university or college and get a degree. I was going down the second path, in high school and moving toward a college or a university.”
But then a couple of things happened. Friends who had graduated at 16 and who had gone to work were making money, and Marsh liked the idea of having money in his pocket. “Then my uncle came to me one day and told me that Nissan was looking for kids, to take them and put them through a college program, let them get a degree and give them a job while they’re doing that, ” Marsh says.
“So I got on with Nissan when I was 16 and really never looked back since, ” says Marsh, 45, who holds a higher national diploma in electrical and electronic engineering from the Nissan Engineering College Program.
Before working in Mississippi, Marsh’s most recent assignment was deputy managing director of a plant in France owned by Nissan’s Alliance partner, Renault, where he worked three years. He also worked two years as production director at a Nissan plant in Pretoria, South Africa.
“I’m blessed that everywhere I’ve worked and every job and every opportunity I had has been interesting, ” Marsh says. “Each one has been satisfying in its own way. And the job I have today, maybe it’s because I have a short memory, I don’t know, I would argue is one of the most challenging but also it’s very rewarding.”
Nissan’s Canton plant opened in 2003 and now has a 450, 000-vehicle production capacity. It produces about 360, 000 vehicles a year and employs more than 6, 400 workers, who turn out Titan and Frontier trucks, NV vans, the Murano SUV and the Altima sedan.
It’s the most complicated plant that Nissan has in its alliance with Renault, in Marsh’s opinion, largely because it has three different production lines running different shifts and making six different products.
“I’m not sure people understand the scale of the plant we have here. It may look easy when we’re making 1, 600 vehicles and day, rolling them off the assembly line and sending them out to our customers, but it’s really very challenging. That’s pretty cool.”
It’s also pretty cool that Marsh appreciates his start as a teen at Nissan and is now on the other end of things.
“We do a lot of work to prepare young kids for work in the automotive industry, ” he says. “We recently gave out $2, 500 for individual scholarships to 10 kids, who are children of our employees. We call them Titans of Tomorrow. Seven or eight of those are going forward with a STEM-related major in college, so I’m confident they’ll be getting into the engineering field, which is what we at Nissan here in Canton like to see.”
Marsh and his wife have two children. His 17-year-old son is considering a college on the West Coast, and his 19-year-old daughter is in college in the United Kingdom.
Speaking of the UK, Marsh isn’t spending much time there these days. It’s been about a year and half since he has been there. He hasn’t been spending much time on the golf course, either. But there is a reason for everything.
“Work here in Mississippi is keeping me pretty busy, ” he says.
Text by Charlie Ingram