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Top>Education>Education to Cultivate Employment Ability through Knowledge and Behavioral Characteristics -Necessity of education to cultivate employment ability (competency cultivation)-


Hirokazu Hirano

Mr. Hirokazu Hirano [Profile]

Education to Cultivate Employment Ability through Knowledge and Behavioral Characteristics

-Necessity of education to cultivate employment ability (competency cultivation)-

Mr. Hirokazu Hirano
Professor of Structural Engineering, Seismic Engineering and Environmental Simulation, Faculty of Policy Studies, Chuo University
Chairperson of Graduate School of Policy Studies, Chairperson of Career Education Committee

1. Introduction

Chuo University applied for the program Education to Cultivate Employment Ability through Knowledge and Behavioral Characteristics to be part of the MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) 2010 initiative Project to Support the Cultivation of Employment Ability in University Students. The program was selected for the MEXT initiative on September 28th, 2010. The period of the program will be for 5 years from the 2010 academic year.

A major factor in the selection was the great number of outstanding professionals that our university has produced in a wide variety of fields such as industry, law and government. Since our university was founded 125 years ago, we have produced professionals by conducting practical education based on the founding spirit of fostering the ability to Apply Knowledge to Practice. Based on this record of performance, Chuo University has implemented a program containing a type of educational reform which defines employment ability as a combination of knowledge (specialized knowledge/skills) and behavioral characteristics (practical application). In addition to supporting the formation of future careers, the selected program seeks to realize systematic cultivation of employment ability on a university-wide level. In this article, I would like to discuss the background of a society which requires the cultivation of employment ability (competency cultivation), as well as the form of the Chuo University program which considers such a background.

2. Current environment surrounding universities

The goal of university education is to cultivate human beings with great individuality. This goal is accomplished through systematic study proceeding from general courses to specialized courses. At the same time, as an institution of higher learning which is the final phase in the educational system, a university cultivates employment ability. As a prerequisite for this type of cultivation, it is assumed that, before entering university, a basis has been formed by abilities acquired through activities in society and the home, as well as through elementary and secondary education. However, major changes are occurring in the social environment in which students have been raised. Examples include changes in family structure, changes in the form of communication and diversification of communication tools, and a weakened relationship with society. As a result of such changes, abilities which should have been acquired before entering university are undeveloped. Therefore, the current situation is one in which the improvement of employment ability cannot be sufficiently improved through university education.

In the background of this situation are major changes in the social environment surrounding universities. Such changes include a shift from a period of high economic growth to a long period of stagnation. There is also a shrinking 18-year old population due to a declining birth rate. Finally, there is also a change in the consciousness of students who now fail to make the transition from studying at a secondary level to studying at a university level. I would like to place particular emphasis on how a qualitative change appears dramatically every year in the emotional state of high school students who are poised to enter university. Emotionally speaking, high school students are becoming younger and younger. As the result of declining birth rates, today's high school students are raised in prosperous home environments. Compared to the past, such students have less opportunity for receiving fundamental education as a human being at home, at school and in the community. As a result, students entering university are socially immature to the extent that a 1st year university student could be described as a 4th year high school student. At universities throughout Japan, there are many cases in which students spend their time at university without making an appropriate shift in consciousness from studying at a secondary level to studying at a university level.

3. The goal of Education to Cultivate Employment Ability through Knowledge and Behavioral Characteristics

Let's examine the necessity of cultivating employment ability from the perspective of students. It is no exaggeration to say that new students have spent their time before entering university completely engrossed in taking entrance examinations in order to be accepted to a university. As a result, entering university is the equivalent of a goal to which students have devoted the first half of their lives. However, upon achieving this goal, students are greeted by a new consciousness in which they must make autonomous decisions and be self-responsible as university students. Socially immature students who cannot implement this consciousness will lose their way and spend an aimless 4 years at university. Furthermore, the tough socioeconomic conditions in recent times have many students feeling uneasy about the path that they will follow after graduation. In this way, it is not easy to establish a life plan for the future, including one's path after graduation. There are cases in which students enter their 3rd year and search for employment without sufficient preparation. This leads to students selecting a profession which differs from their personal interests and aspirations. Furthermore, even after beginning to work as a member of society, there are an increasing number of cases in which new employees lose sight of themselves. This occurs because students search for employment and select an employer without conducting sufficient self-analysis and without thoroughly researching corporations. This trend is visible through an increasing number of employees who quit their jobs and leave the work force due to a mismatch with corporations.

As discussed, students entering university possess a variety of problems and are socially immature. Regarding such students, the basic goal of education for cultivating employment ability (competency cultivation) is to equip students with an essential perspective regarding life and work by the time they reach the 3rd year of undergraduate school. Furthermore, by the time students reach their 4th year, education seeks to instill the required knowledge and skills for functioning as a working member of society after graduation. Examples include the development of employment consciousness and a work perspective, as well as the acquirement of fundamental abilities needed for finding employment.

4. Education to Cultivate Employment Ability through Knowledge and Behavioral Characteristics program

(1) Implementation of a student self-inspection/self-evaluation system

The program uses GPA (grade-point average) as an index representing knowledge and uses a behavioral characteristic evaluation index* that was uniquely defined by our university as an index representing behavioral characteristics. In particular, the latter sets a minimum level required of professionals who have graduated from university. Through social adequacy surveys conducted in fields such as industry, students are shown clear attainment targets associated with evaluation indexes set for each field of work. Through such measures, we enable students to clarify their sense of purpose towards acquiring ability which will be immediately useful in actual society, as well as to increase their desire for learning.

Figure 1 shows a 4 step system transitioning from entrance to exit. This system is used to perform cultivation and evaluation while student progress each year from basic education in their 1st year to professional education. Furthermore, using themes such as career education and promotion of internships, the system conducts systemized cultivation instruction through a variety of projects established for each theme.

A student self-evaluation/self-inspection system will be implemented from the 2011 academic year. The system will serve as a base system supporting the education initiatives described above and as a system which enables self-confirmation regarding trends in each evaluation item level for behavioral characteristic evaluation indexes which are correlated with GPA. As a result, students are able to participate in theme-based projects which supplement insufficient behavioral characteristics and to assembly a methodical study/activity plan which focuses on a future career. Faculty and staff provide appropriate instruction and advice based on the academic record, student lifestyle and pre-entrance information for each student. It is also possible to utilize a database of student instruction history and cultivation result measurements for each project.

Efforts to inform and enlighten students regarding this program will be actively conducted from the time that students enter university. Such efforts will utilize credit requirements, the student portal site C plus and various types of guidance. Furthermore, in each syllabus and project, target attainment levels will be set for each behavioral item corresponding to behavioral characteristic evaluation indexes. These measures will encourage proactive participation from students.

(*)The basis of this index is the Staged-Based Education System for Cultivating Competency (Chuo University Faculty of Science and Engineering) that was implemented by our university as a new educational GP in the 2009 academic year. Project representative Professor Makino visited institutions such as Washington State University (U.S.A) and conducted a survey related to the TIDEE evaluation tool for senior design projects which are the keystone of engineering education.

(2) Implementation system

The implementation system consists of establishing a new university-wide project team as part of the management system of the university president. This project team is responsible for operation and promotion of the program. In the 2010 academic year, we established a Project Operation Promotion Working Group and an Inspection/Evaluation Working Group. These steps were taken in order to realize an integrated partnership among internal university organizations in relation to the cultivation of employment ability. Furthermore, the working groups manage theme-based projects and perform inspection/evaluation activities such as measurement of cultivation results. The program has also partnered with self-inspection/self-evaluation activities which are performed every year on a university-wide level under the jurisdiction of the University Evaluation Committee. These measures ensure the functioning of a continuous PDCA cycle for the program.

In terms of education activities through partnerships with the industrial world, we have strengthened lectures given by businesspeople which have been conducted both inside and outside of advanced degree programs. Furthermore, we have increased promotion of extracurricular career formation support. Regarding inspection and evaluation of the program, we have implemented social adequacy surveys in order to appropriately verify the behavioral characteristic evaluation indexes which are required of new university graduates. We seek to evaluate the activities of the program and to improve and heighten the overall program.

(3) Expected results

The following 2 points are related to results of the program.

  1. ①  Systematic program for the cultivation of employment ability on a university-wide level. The program employs both meta-projects for the cultivation of employment ability (based on behavioral characteristic evaluation indexes) and a system for self-inspection/self-evaluation by students.
  2. ②  Continuous operation of a PDCA cycle and constant cultivation result measurements by university-wide project teams.

These actions will be implemented while deepening partnerships with the industrial world. Through the program, we will achieve the stable production of students with even higher levels of practical ability required by society, thus realizing a system which sufficiently fulfills the education function which has been entrusted to our university by society.

5. Conclusion

The program Education to Cultivate Employment Ability through Knowledge and Behavioral Characteristics is based on based on our university's founding spirit of fostering the ability to Apply Knowledge to Practice. After passing through a preparatory period in the 2010 academic year, the cultivation of employment ability will start on a university-wide level from the 2011 academic year. This education to cultivate employment ability will provide each student with an opportunity to for personal reflection and will instill students with new goals. These opportunities are extremely meaningful because they will lead to a rewarding student life and to a desire for learning. I shall put my full effort into this program for assisting the cultivation of Chuo University students.

Figure 1: Chuo University program for the cultivation of employment ability (competency cultivation)

Mr. Hirokazu Hirano
Professor of Structural Engineering, Seismic Engineering and Environmental Simulation, Faculty of Policy Studies, Chuo University
Chairperson of Graduate School of Policy Studies, Chairperson of Career Education Committee
Born in Tokyo in 1955. Engineering Department (currently the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department) of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University in 1979. After completing the Master's Program of the Chuo University Graduate School of Science and Engineering with a major in civil engineering, entered employment at Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co., Ltd. Served as a Part-Time Lecturer at the Chuo University Faculty of Science and Engineering and an Assistant Professor/Associate Professor at the Faculty of Policy Studies. Assumed the position of Chuo University Professor in 1998. Holds a PhD in engineering.
Uses both experiments and numerical analysis to conduct research regarding the prevention of swaying in structures due to factors such as wind and earthquakes. In addition to authoring research theses, has developed various types of vibration control devices that use simple mechanisms for preventing swaying. Such devices are used at companies such as Metropolitan Expressway Co., Ltd. Receives first royalties from his patent at Chuo University.