Engineers in Japan and Britain: Education, Training, and Employment

Engineers in Japan and Britain: Education, Training, and Employment

Engineers in Japan and Britain: Education, Training, and Employment

Engineers in Japan and Britain: Education, Training, and Employment

Synopsis

Engineers are a key occupational group in the transformation of the modern world. Contrasts between Japan's "economic miracle" and Britain's relative economic decline have often been linked to differences in education, training, and employment of engineers. Engineers in Japan and Britain uses careful and systematic comparisons to examine the approaches to the training and education of engineers in the two nations.

Excerpt

Japan, as the new century begins, has been experiencing a turbulent period in which some of her most cherished institutions and practices are placed under critical scrutiny. the financial crisis that began in the latter half of 1997—but whose origins go back several years earlier—gravely affected Japan as well as other Asian countries. Quite apart from the economic and political implications of recession, including bankruptcies and increased unemployment, the crisis had a marked impact on the psychology of ordinary people. They had been accustomed to steadily increasing proseprity and the international respect generated by the successes of their politico-economic model. Now, however, they were coming to wonder whether attitudes and ways of doing things that had been central to their lives and outlook over several decades were still appropriate to the disturbingly unstable world in which they now found themselves.

One straw in the wind was a hugely popular soap opera on Fuji Television in the spring of 1998, entitled Shōmu 2 (General Affairs Section 2), in which a group of women office workers egotistically assert their rights as individuals and challenge time-honoured working practices. By challenging the prevailing atmosphere of inefficiency, refusal to face up to responsibilities, conformism, sexual harassment of women and mindless deference to hierarchy, this feisty group of ‘office ladies’ succeed in saving the company from bankruptcy.

However much of a caricature the Fuji tv soap opera may be, it is symptomatic of a sense that not all is right in what used to be seen as an unbeatable set of methods for running society. Grave though the crisis being faced by Japan was, the impressive human and material resources that the country was still able to command were advantageous in the struggle to overcome the crisis. Whatever might be the outcome at the economic level, however, a troubling intellectual problem remained. Few could doubt that radical reform was needed, but if this reform were simply to be a case of conformity with the norms of an America-centred global economy (following the principles of the free market and egotistical individualism), where did that leave the status of Japanese values? History suggested that simple acceptance of foreign models was an unlikely outcome, and that ultimately a creative solution might emerge, mixing

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