Vol.32-No.01 January 1,1993
Recent years have witnessed the growing importance attached to education and training services for businesses in public vocational training. Training provided by public vocational training institutions (hereafter called public institutions)(1) includes 'basic training' for youth, such as new school graduates, 'occupational capability redevelopment training' mainly for unemployed workers and 'upgrading training' for employed workers. Training for employed workers dispatched from firms to improve their vocational abilities, or upgrading training, was the major aid to businesses extended by public institutions. But now, besides upgrading training, public institutions are vigorously offering such aids as dispatching of instructors for intrafirm training, training commissioned by companies and providing a location for corporate vocational training programs. Meanwhile, there have emerged in some large corporations moves to commercially provide their own education and training know-how to outside facilities. This indicates the ongoing standardization of education and training offered by firms. Both public and intrafirm vocational training programs are going beyond their respective boundaries. Thus, a "borderless" phenomenon is occurring between the two. In the wake of the sophistication of technologies and skills, Off-the-job training (OFF-JT) to complement on-the-job training (OJT) is gaining in importance. To be sure, the roles played by public vocational training are important for smaller-scale companies which have no in-house OFF-JT plans. In view of the current situation of these two kinds of training, however, it seems that we are now at a time when we should review the significance of public vocational training. In 1992, the Human Resources Development Promotion Law (HRDPL) was revised to stress public vocational training. Public institutions are never large enough to house trainees, but the role of public vocational training has never been small as a supplier of skilled workers, particularly those in secondary industries such as manufacturing and construction. Taking this into consideration, it seems important to study the backgraound of public vocational training, which is undergoing drastic changes, in understanding Japan's vocational training. The nation's public vocational training policy is designed to train on site workers mainly in manufacturing and construction. Virtually no training is offered to such white-collar workers as those in clerical work and management as well as those in professional and technological jobs. Review of the public vocational training systems is presently under study in this regard.
1. From 'Vocational Training' to 'Human Resources Development'
Let us first clarify how the concept of 'vocational training' was changed and how it is related to public vocational training. The term 'vocational training' is customarily used for vocational skill education carried out under the auspices of labor administration, while on the other hand, a similar vocational skill education program under the setup of educational administration is called 'vocational education.' However, 'vocational training,' in a strict sense, only referred to education and training stipulated under the Vocational Training Law (VTL). In order words, public vocational training and authorized vocational training ( of education and training programs provided by firms, are those the government has authorized as 'vocational training'). It meant what is called 'statutory vocational training.' Furthermore, for the 20 years since the establishment of the present vocational training system, in other words, for a period from the 1958 enactment ot the VTL to its 1978 revision, vocational training was construed conceptually as primarily providing manipulative skills with a secondary emphasis on provision of technical knowledge. This was intended to set forth the uniqueness of vocational training by stressing that it means training of skills and is different from school education. What is more, the nation's vocational training was mainly designed to train blue-collar workers engaged in the secondary industry, which was different in nature from that of Western countries. From this, it is safe to say that Japan's vocational training was different from 'vocational training' in an international, customarily recognized sense and was narrower in concept at least until 1978.
The situation changed, however. Structural changes in the socioeconomic situation, such as technological progress, the advent of an aging society, in a growing weight of the service sector in the economy, growth in the number of women workers and the ongoing internationalization of economic activity, have brought about the increasing importance of occupational and technological knowledge and job abilities with intellectual skills. This, then, prompted the expanded areas and contents of training, thus leading the nation to expand the conceptual framework of traditional vocational training. Consequently, in 1985 the VTL was renamed as the HRDPL. Thus term 'human resources development'(2) has come to used to represent a new concept of vocational training. In addition, the new Law regards 'human resources development' as a comprehensive capability development of workers, incorporating trade skill tests, which is clesely related to training, into the framework.
As we have seen, transition from 'vocational training' to 'human resources development' meant the transition of paradigm of Japan's vocational training, thus drastically changing public vocational training.
2. Development of a Lifelong Training System
'Lifelong training'(3) may perhaps be the keyword for understanding vocational training, or human resources development, in today's Japan. Accordingly, let us consider where public vocational training stands in lifelong training while tracing the history of the nation's vocational training system.
(1)Age of 'vocational training' (idea in embryo)
Public vocational training and in-house training were developed for totally different purposes from each other from the end of WWII to enactment in 1958 of the VTL. Public vocational training called 'vocational guidance' was initially aimed as a postwar measure to cope with unemployment and was different in nature from training designed to train skilled workers in large firms. However, the emphasis of public vocational training was shifted gradually from measures to cope with jobless to training of skilled workers, and thus two types of vocational training finally came to share the same purpose, namely, the education and training of skilled workers. At the same time, the VTL for the first time combined public vocational training and 'authorized training,' which is education and training of skilled workers provided by companies and recognized by the government as vocational training, to create a unified system of vocational training.
Amendment of the VTL effected in 1969 for the first time enabled adoption of the idea of lifelong training whose fundamental and underlying ideal is "to enable individuals to undergo adequate vocational training in a phased and systematic manner at all stages of their working lives." As specific measures and policies toward this end, 'upgrading training' intended for workers on the payroll was institutionalized as a legal type of training. This identified the system of vocational training as consisting of three types of training, including upgrading training, occupational capability redevelopment training and basic training. Futhermore, training standards, which had been different between public training and authorized in-house training, were unified to make the same training standards applicable to both. This still holds true today. Thus, the drastic revision of the Law in 1969, which led to the institution of upgrading training and unification of training standards for both public and in-house vocational training, was recognized as the first step toward the subsequent system of lifelong training.
In addition, enforcement in 1974 of the Employment Insurance Law (EIL) which grew out of the major amendment of the Unemployment Insurance Law (UIL), it is fair to say, further clarified the fundamental and underlying ideal of vocational training on which lifelong training is based. To prevent workers from being jobless and to stabilize employment, the EIL recognized a human resources development program as one of the projects implemented under the employment insurance system to encourage workers to develop and improve their capabilities. This step meant the shift in vocational training for workers from an emphasis on jobless workers in the period of the UIL to that on employed workers in the period of the EIL. Furthermore, the EIL clarified that vocational training projects under the VTL were operated by the special accounting of "employment insurance", and also the system of encouraging paid vacation for education and training toward the establishment of lifelong training was inaugurated, under the EIL. Thus, it may safely be said that enforcement of the EIL sparked development into the present system of comprehensive human resources development and establishment of lifelong training.
In the period from the 1974 institution of the EIL to the 1985 enactment of the HRDPL, the lifelong training system left much to be desired as compared with the present one. However, public institutions endeavored to expand vocational training programs for workers on the payroll in response to the institution of upgrading training. Under those circumstances, 1978 witnessed revision of the Law, which greatly changed the system and contents of public vocational training programs. The first feature of the amended Law was transformation of public institutions from vocational training schools intended mainly for basic training to special institutions called "Skill Development Centers (SDC)" designed mainly for upgrading training for employed workers. The transformation, which was started in the year following revision of the Law, was completed in about 10 years, launching about 70 SDCs throughout the nation. The number of those who undergo public upgrading training offered by SDCs has been steadily increasing (See Fig.1). Moreover, revision of the Law led to relaxed training standards for upgrading training and also to a marked rise in the number of authorized upgrading training programs provided by corporations.
Source: Kazutoshi Tanaka, The Presentation at 33rd annual convention of the Japan Society for the Study of Vocational and Technical Education
(2)Age of "human resources development'(systematization of lifelong training)
Public upgrading training programs offered by SDCs increased the number of those employed workers who receive upgrading training. As already mentioned, however, companies play a large role in education and training of the nation's workers. To specifically promote lifelong training, it has become an important task to recognize a wide range of education and training programs provided by firms in the expanded framework of "human resources developoment' under the Law and to consolidate a system for promotion of and assistance to these programs. This was the primary purpose of the 1985 enactment of the HRDPL which was renamed from the VTL. This is given substance to by the fact that the HRDPL was approved by revision of part of the VTL and that the most important point of the revision was placed on measures taken by corporations to encourage human resources development. Assistance to in-house training as the role played by public institutions was already stipulated in 1978 when the Law was amended. However, with corporate steps to encourage human resources development clearly stated, public institutions have come to be recognized as aid organs for company-sponsored human resources development plans.
In addition, the second point of importance was to make training criteria flexible. As stated earlier, public vocational training and in-house "authorized training' have been provided, based on the same criteria, since 1969. Flexible training criteria were realized to incorporate a variety of education and training programs, excluding in-house authorized training plans, into human resources development programs. This made it possible to offer subsidy and assistance to a wide variety of corporate education and training programs, while on the other hand, this also enabled public institutions to provide diversifying and flexible human resources development plans which are free from training criteria.
It can be said from this that the significance of enactment of the HRDPL lies in the shift in vocational training from an emphasis on public vocational training to that of in-house vocational training both in reality and in policy ideal to consolidate the system of human resources development, centored on in-house training.
Overviewing the aforementioned periods of development clearly shows that during the periods the abstract ideals of lifelong training were developed into concrete measures and policies. Also, this may perhaps be understood as the process in which, while emphasis was gradually placed on in-house training, both public and in-house vocational training programs were expanded and diversified and become more consistent under the fundamental and underlying idea of lifelong training.
3. Features and Significance of Revised HRDPL
It can be considered that the HRDPL was so enacted as to legally place a variety of in-house education and training programs under the category of human resources development. Overemphasis on vocational training within enterprises will make companies the major actors in human resources development. However, in terms of the lofty idea of lifelong human resources development, workers must be the principal players in human resources development. It is undeniable that enactment of the HRDPL has made the principal actor of human resources development somewhat unclear. In this sense, the following may be cited as what should be noted in the 1992 revision of the Law.
(a)Training of the traditional three types were abolished; and instead, it was classified into two categories, "sophisticated training' and "ordinary training' in term of the degree. Also, training courses, which had been subdivided by training classfication, were classified into two simple categories, "long-term course (one year and over)" and "short term course (less than one year)." This has enabled shortcomings, which arose from the fact that training programs did not necessarily adapt to workers' individual and diversified situations, to be atoned for and has also enabled more diversified and flexible training programs to be implemented.
(b)Public institutions "should endeavor to offer," instead of "can offer," assistance to enterprise-sponsored human resources development programs, thus strengthening the role of public institutions as aid organs.
(c)Assistance, such as counseling and provision of information and materials, offered by public institutions, which were only available for employers, is now also available to workers. Thus, the idea of lifelong human resources development, it is safe to say, has been further clarified.
(d)Vocational training can now be provided to individual employers. Only workers could so far undergo training. Though still restricted to individual employers, provision of vocational training is now extended to cover those other than workers.
(e)Training mainly for acquisition of knowledge can be offered as vocational training at other organs than public institutions. The new measures now enable white-collar workers to enjoy the full privilege of undergoing lifelong human resources development programs.
As we have seen, revision of the Law has led to measures for promotion of human resources development at public institutions, and this was intended, it can be construed, to remedy shortcomings involving human resources development offered by public institutions and to make training programs both within enterprises and at public institutions more consistent. Thus, the system of human resources development is still centered on in-house training, but it has become clear that the fundamental purpose of this policy is to encourage lifelong human resources development for workers.
4. Future Role of Public Vocational Training
As stated in the opening portion, public vocational training and in-house training are now going beyond their previous boundaries. In the wake of this situation, public institutions must grope for their public character, which is their raison d'eOtre, in the years ahead. "The skills check clinic', one of the upgrading training programs, can be listed as one such clue to searching for public institutions' public character. This is a program designed for employed workers to compare their own skills with outside ones for improvement. Those employed workers who have received it find the program very important. They look to public institutions for skill standards for comparison to further improve their skills. In short, standards for the so-called in-house special skills may be one solution to the question of "what is the 'public character' that public institutions possess?"
The system of human resources development, it is safe to say, still remains unchanged; individual firms are left to develop workers' vocational capacities and are content for their workers to learn about and adapt to jobs they offer. True, because of this very situation, companies could easily accept technological innovation internally and could implement relocation in a relatively free manner. But from a wider perspective of society characterized by "lifelong learning,' it seems necessary to acquire social means for workers to improve their own skills independently, in other words, to "socialize" human resources development itself. In this sense, making public and in-house training programs go beyond their boundaries is welcome phenomenon, and the role played by public institutions will be far more important. Furthermore, toward this end, public institutions will need to consider what they should do in their relation to educational organs, such as schools and universities, as well as to corporations.
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