IMABARI, Japan >> An increasing number of high schools in the Chugoku and Shikoku regions have launched courses aimed at supplying the local shipbuilding industry with skilled workers.
Although the shipbuilding industry — long a pillar of these regions’ economies — has been recovering recently from a long period of poor performance, it is now having problems with procuring personnel. Shipbuilding courses are seen as a way to foster young workers with strong technical skills while also creating employment and encouraging people to get jobs and settle in the region.
In late May, second-year students in the global technology for mechanics and shipbuilding course at the prefectural Imabari Technical High School in Imabari, Ehime prefecture, were taking part in a practical class. Students earnestly studied how to operate a device that cuts steel plates with jets of plasma in the lesson.
When the high school launched the course in fiscal 2016, it received more applicants than there were places available.
The 40 students who started in fiscal 2017 were about evenly divided between the mechanics course and the shipbuilding course, and have started the practical learning they’ll need to acquire advanced knowledge and skills.
“I enrolled in the school because I want to work in the shipbuilding industry in the future. I enjoy learning specialized knowledge at school,” said Hiroki Matsumoto, a 17-year-old student.
The prefectural Tamano Commercial High School in Tamano, Okayama prefecture, plans to start an industrial course in fiscal 2018. The plan is for students to take practical classes on technical abilities such as operating machinery and cutting and welding iron sheets at the Technical Skill Hand-Down Center, a skill training center operated by Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co., which has a shipyard in the city.
In the 1970s about 20 schools nationwide had specialized courses on shipbuilding-related skills, but by 2015 this had shrunk to only the prefectural Susaki Technical High School in Susaki, Kochi prefecture, and two other schools.