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Organizational Change
Japanese Companies, Schools Join Forces on Career Education to Promote Sustainable Society

Companies are keen to get involved in school education to improve awareness and understanding of their products and industry, but also to nurture human resources and potential future employees.

In recent years, junior high and high schools throughout Japan have started implementing programs to help equip students with the ability to participate proactively in society. As potential future employers, many companies — including Asahi Shimbun, one of the country’s national newspapers; and Lawson, Japan’s answer to 7-11 — endorse this action, and the spotlight is increasingly focused on study programs that teach students about real-world corporate issues, corporate philosophies and practical workplace skills.

A new subject was added to the Japanese high-school curriculum in 2019: The Period for Inquiry-Based Cross-Disciplinary Study is an extension of the Period for Integrated Studies taught in elementary, junior high and high schools since 2000.

In Inquiry-Based Cross-Disciplinary Study, students form a hypothesis on an assigned theme, which they then repeatedly pursue, investigate, express and summarize. The lesson is designed to help students apply the inquiry skills acquired through deeper consideration of issues to building robust life skills as responsible adults. Many educators in Japan hope that career education can nurture the skills students will need to actively participate in society after leaving school, since companies are potentially best-positioned to understand which skills they will need.

Companies are keen to get involved in school education for various reasons: to fulfil their corporate responsibility duty as a global citizen to create a better future; to pursue a long-term vision of nurturing human resources and potential future employees, and simply to improve awareness and understanding of their products and industry.

The Twice Research Institute’s Company Intern Work program seeks to combine the needs of schools and companies and promote student capability-building.

Linking corporate products, services, student awareness, ideas to revolutionize learning

The Company Intern Work program seeks to help address cooperating company issues. Participant interns investigate the company’s philosophy, history, products and technologies, and present potential solutions to specific problems. Cooperating companies include top names from every industry, such as Asahi Shimbun, Lawson, Otsuka Pharmaceutical, Morinaga Milk Industry and telecom giant KDDI. Let’s look at a few concrete examples.

In 2018, KDDI’s directive asked students to: Propose an entirely new school that KDDI and high school students could produce together using the power of smartphones and tablets to transform learning!

First, the intern students surveyed how students and caregivers viewed smartphones and tablets. They collected information on people’s expectations and concerns, and KDDI’s existing schedule management and video conferencing systems. They then used this information to explore solutions to certain study problems they themselves experienced, and to devise new learning methods, and an entirely new school format.

The Meiji University Meiji High School team, which won the Grand Prix runner-up prize at the FY2018 Twice Awards — which recognize significant growth and success on the TWICE PLAN study program — addressed the directive by proposing an app that features a virtual character to help manage study progress. The virtual character, which grows as learning progresses, also deals with idle grumbling about studying. The added motivation and diversion of nurturing a virtual character is designed to help resolve concerns many students face, such as concentrating for long periods or studying consistently.

Learning to perceive social issues as your own

In 2019, seven companies cooperated on the Company Intern Work program. Their directives give us a glimpse of the attributes companies want students to acquire, and bring to the table:

Asahi Shimbun: Propose a new medium for Asahi Shimbun that would serve as a partner for young people tackling social issues. Today, people are surrounded by a variety of media from newspapers to TV, radio, computers, tablets and smartphones. Asahi Shimbun is currently developing digital and other web-based media; and using data and social media to transmit feature articles, primarily about Japanese and global social issues. The Asahi representative encouraged students to apply the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to social issues. Nowadays, SDGs are frequently mentioned and taught in school, but this emphasized their usefulness in actual society.

Lawson: Propose a PR event where local stores join with local machi (communities) to achieve a positive outcome that bolsters Lawson’s reputation as the No.1 recommended store among customers. Lawson has approximately 15,000 stores in Japan, which serve 11 million customers daily, so students are familiar with the company. So, its representatives aren’t there to promote familiar products and services, but to convey the company’s social contributions — including reducing instore power consumption and other eco-friendly initiatives; fund-raising activities for next-generation children; and the role of mobile catering and home delivery in building local shopping communities. Lawson recognized the essential role of social contribution in building its reputation, and encouraged students to explore the social issues in their own local communities.

The presentation rounds off the Company Intern Work program. Learning how to create an attractive plan, deliver a readily comprehensible presentation, and compile easy-to-view materials are all vital skills, both here and later in the workplace. What is even more important for companies, however, is to convey to students through direct interaction and joint learning the aims that inspire their product and service planning, and the future perceptions that shape their business activities.

If, during the Company Intern Work program, students become interested in addressing social problems and learning about relevant corporate initiatives, that alone would be a huge plus for cooperating companies and their promotion of sustainability.

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