Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Challenges towards Employability: Higher Education's Engagement to Industrial Needs in Japan

Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Challenges towards Employability: Higher Education's Engagement to Industrial Needs in Japan

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper examines the challenges and strategies of twenty-three Japanese universities working towards the improvement of employability skills. These universities have been selected for the national project "Improving Higher Education for Meeting Industrial Needs" funded by Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The purpose of this project is to improve the higher education systems that help develop employability skills that industry seeks by sharing their challenges and strategies in collaboration with companies. This paper analyses these challenges and strategies from the reports submitted by these universities for the preparation of the Second Conference of Industry-University Partnerships that took place in Nagoya, Japan on November 14, 2013. This paper concludes with discussion drawn from the reports and the conference.

Keywords: higher education, employability, industry-university partnerships, active learning

1. Introduction

In September 2012, twenty-three universities in the Chubu area, the central region of Japan, were selected for a three-year national project entitled "Improving Higher Education for Meeting Industrial Needs" funded by Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, Sports and Technology. The purpose of this project is to improve the higher education system's ability to develop industry-needed employability skills in university students by sharing information and knowledge about challenges and strategies with the other universities and with companies.

In order to do so, the Japanese government supports groups of universities in nine regions of Japan: Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto/Koshinetsu, Chubu, Kinki, Chugoku, Shikoku, Kyudyu and Okinawa. Each group set a specific theme to address such as internships and career development. For the Chubu area, which focuses on improving active learning and internships, the universities selected to participate in the project consist of: Aichi Sangyo University, Aichi University Junior College, Chubu University, Doho University, Fukui University, Gifu University, Kanazawa Institute of Technology, Kanazawa University, Kinjo College, Meijo University, Mie University, Nagoya Sangyo University, Nagoya University of Business and Commerce, Nihon Fukushi University, Shizuoka Eiwa Gakuin University Junior College, Shizuoka Institute of Science and Technology, Shizuoka University, Sugiyama Jogakuen University, Tokai University Junior College, Toyohashi Sozo University, Toyohashi Sozo Junior College, Toyama International University and Toyama Prefectural University. These universities were selected based on the feasibility of their project proposals by the Committee of Improving Higher Education for Meeting Industrial Needs established by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

Since the project started, the participating universities have periodically met and discussed challenges related to the project's objectives and strategies to address these challenges. In order to review challenges and strategies, the Second Conference of Industry-Universities took place in Nagoya, Japan on November 14, 2013. This paper analyses challenges and strategies documented in the reports submitted by the universities.

2. Employability

The term employability can be interpreted in multiple ways. The Confederation of British Industry (2013), for example, defines it as the skills and attributes "that help people respond to the changing demands of the workplace and contribute positively to their employer's success" (p. 4).

The skills and attributes related to employability vary. For instance, Andrews and Russell (2012) and Burrows and Wragg (2012) cite the following as employability skills and attributes: self-management, team working, business and customer awareness, literacy, communication and problem-solving skills. Wagner (2008) argues for what he calls the Seven Survival Skills essential for students to seek decent employment and become active citizens in democratic societies. …

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