For the first time since the 1980s, General Motors’ Town of Tonawanda plant is hiring some electricians “off the street,” instead of filling positions with GM workers transferring from other plants.

While the plant is hiring for only a handful of jobs, it is a sign of progress for the Tonawanda complex. “It’s just another benefit of the business and the growth at GM,” said Mary Ann Brown, a plant spokeswoman.

GM is advertising for six electrician journeymen, with high levels of skills and experience. The jobs pay $32.73 per hour. Applicants must submit their resumes by Feb. 9. A firm that GM works with, Development Dimensions International, will review the candidates. GM will also have its own in-house test for potential hires.

The hiring from outside of GM Tonawanda comes as the plant ramps up employment and production for two new engine lines, representing a combined investment of $825 million. One of the new engine lines was launched last year; the other is set to launch this year.

Hiring skilled tradesmen from outside of GM has been rare lately at the Tonawanda site; the plant did hire some millwrights in the 1990s, the last of them in 1999.

The last time the plant hired electricians “off the street” was in 1987, Brown said.

The plant has brought in some people from plants in Lockport, Saginaw, Mich., and a closed facility in Shreveport, La.

GM also has people in an in-house electrician apprenticeship program, but that is a five-year program, and GM could not wait that long, Brown said.

GM Tonawanda currently employs 1,277 hourly and salaried workers.