JACAC 2015: Education as a Vessel for Work and Training Opportunities

After a week of lectures at JACAC, the main event is at the end of the week when each of the 7 groups presents on the topic to the larger consortium including esteemed guests and judges. The last time I can remember presenting to a group like this one was in first year at the Coordinated Arts Program conference, and even then Montreal’s  Consul General to Japan  didn’t show up and shake my hand at the end of the event like he did this time around! Our group, ‘Roku Rocks’ created our name out of a language play on words. In Japanese ‘six’ is roku, which also is the word for rock. And in English, it’s common slang to say that something ‘rocks’ / is awesome. So Roku Rocks was born!
Julia, studying Biomedical science from Queens, Hiro studying International Development at Ritsumeikan University, Natsumi studying Gender Studies at Tsuda College, and myself studying English Lit and Asian Migration to Canada were all part of group six, which was really cool because of the diverse backgrounds: culturally, academically, and generally!

When I first applied for this conference, I wasn’t sure what to expect mainly because I didn’t think that my area of studies was relevant. Still, this year’s topic, “Youth, Work, and a ‘New’ World in the Making” greatly intrigued me: as an arts student graduating from UBC in something like 6 weeks, the topic of employment has great resonance to my current reality. While I have made my post-university plans, I still wish that I would have had more support in the transition from a university undergrad student to a young adult in the ‘working world’. Similarly, upon meeting my group mates and fellow conference delegates, it became clear that most of us applied to the conference because the topic was of great interest, or with a desire to deepen cross-cultural relationships.  
I’ve enjoyed being exposed to a different culture of learning, and hearing about a typical Japanese university student’s life. Even though we may be separated by a great big sea, we aren’t so different after all with similar goals, concerns, and hopes for the future.  One commonality we discovered between countries was the uneven societal value placed on academia as a post-secondary option, as opposed to other opportunities such as technical work. Rooted in traditional thinking of high school> university> job > success, a negative stigma is still placed on ‘non-traditional’ routes. I can attest to this personally. 
So, in response to this concern, our focus on the topic of youth, work, and the new world explored how educational and labour institutions could work in tandem to better support the needs of youth as employees and employers in all sorts of industry sectors, traditional or not. We based this claim off the misaligned needs of the two parties, and proposed elements as add ons to pre-existing work and schooling systems in both Japan and Canada. Lots to learn and hear from! For example, in Japan upper year uni students have a specific month where they all go out and apply for jobs- this is job hunting season. This period is meant to assist students so that they have secured employment once graduating from post-secondary. Conversely, Canada doesn’t function based on a specific period in which people go out and apply for jobs, you could say that job hunting occurs all the time and whenever the individual wants to find a job. We see this difference in many North American uni grads who spend the first couple years post undegrad graduation travelling the world, looking for jobs, or working at unpaid internships. That was a interesting discussion to have. 
Some proposed solutions involved taking components of Japanese and Canadian educational systems and applying them to each other. These were roughly talked about: 
For education: 
  • Work and experience opportunities through education (co-op, internships, project based courses, volunteering)
    • in Japan, volunteering isn’t as highly valued as it is in Canada. Students are often evaluated on the basis of their potential (ie- their foreseeable ability to stay with a company for a long time). In doing so, students lack access to job exposure or real experience in the field they are interested in.  
  • interdisciplinary exposure amongst students to expand exchange of ideas 
  • promoting exchange programs at schools which supports learning of soft skills or immeasurable ‘qualitative training’ 
  • equal promotion of the types of post-secondary options to students beginning in high school/ uni but also in the home 
For work:
  • Employers  supporting internships for students (perhaps subsidized by the gov’t) 
  • Participating in education through job fairs/ career talks at school
  • Acting as job-clients for project-based courses which allow students to brainstorm and propose solutions to a company’s case study or problem
  • Rotation system for new employees
    • In Japan, this system is used to allow employees to get a good understanding of how a company functions as a whole and by individual sectors. Employees will be exposed to a variety of skills training, and will choose an area they are interested in. Employee retention is likely to increase if employees are happy with where their working, and employers won’t have to waste time training for a position that an employee will vacate eventually. 
  • Employers supporting lifelong training of employees who are interested in upgrading their skills to remain competitive in the job market or even just relevant in the job market 

As the world continues to modernize in the age of globalization, the world continues to act in a fluid manner: cultures colliding, industries collaborating, languages mixing, the list goes on.  We are becoming ‘globalized individuals’, but I almost would suggest that we need to move beyond an individualistic mindset and consider how we can be global citizens: people who are unified as being a member of the world, being responsible to each other and society at large. This kind of thinking is quite different from traditional ideas about how society should function and ‘prosper’, mainly with goals of economic success and stability. Seems pretty individualistic. In Japanese, hatarakigai refers to the mindset that work should be fulfilling beyond a monetary sense. One should achieve wholehearted satisfaction for the work that they are doing, including personal fulfillment that isn’t only driven by $$. A shift in a societal mindset is obviously a large and complex process that won’t happen overnight. But with the proposed solutions, overtime hopefully this kind of thinking might shift starting on a personal level, and moving to be more widely influential.

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