Create system in which employees, job seekers can pursue new learning

Investment in people is a source of growth. An environment must be created in which working people and job seekers who want to acquire new knowledge and skills can learn again in a variety of ways.

The government’s Council for the Creation of Future Education, inaugurated at the end of last year, has begun discussing the promotion of “relearning” as part of measures to strengthen the development of human resources.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s signature policy of promoting digitization in rural areas across Japan has a goal of fostering 2.3 million personnel in the field of digitization. This can only be achieved by securing such people not only from younger generations but also from among middle-aged and older people.

In the past, relearning was often regarded as a form of self-development for an era in which many people can be expected to live 100 years. However, it is also becoming a means of self-protection for working people, as companies’ efforts for human resources development based on lifetime employment, as well as working styles, have been changing in tandem with the novel coronavirus pandemic.

There is an increasing need to strengthen expertise and acquire new skills, so as to improve people’s abilities in the workplace as well as increase their options for changing jobs or starting a business.

According to a government survey, more than 80% of respondents had pursued new learning or “hoped or were interested” in doing so. Systems to respond to these needs must be created swiftly. The efforts made by companies and universities will come under scrutiny.

Some companies do not allow their employees to study at universities or other institutions for such reasons as it could interfere with their work, or they might not be able to apply what they learned to their work. Employees themselves cite such hurdles as insufficient time due to busy work schedules and high tuition.

Companies need to consider what areas of education should be outsourced, the cost burden, and work and leave arrangements. How to evaluate the results of study, and how to handle employees after they return from leave, are also issues to be addressed.

It is important for universities to provide practical programs that meet the needs of people who want to learn. Unlike in-house training or acquiring qualifications at vocational schools, the results of university and graduate school programs are not always readily visible.

Many universities offer courses that they say are for working people, but actually conduct those classes mainly during the daytime. Actively incorporating evening and weekend classes and online classes, as well as increasing the number of faculty members with practical experience, will likely lead to an increase in the number of students.

There has been a notable number of cases in which young people unable to find meaning in their studies and work have become desperate and turned to crime. It may be necessary to strengthen efforts to provide such people with opportunities to study again and recover.

Attention must be paid to a wide range of human resources.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Jan. 16, 2022.