This paper explores changes in the in-house training systems at major firms in postwar Japan. In the 1950s, companies usually hired new middle school graduates as technicians. As a growing proportion of students began going on to high school, however, companies started struggling to find middle school graduates to fill positions. The recruitment demographics shifted; by the late 1960s, high schools had begun displacing middle schools as the primary source of new technicians. Approaches differed by company and location, however. One example was Fuji Iron & Steel’s Muroran Works in Hokkaido, where the increases in high-school attendance rates trailed the proportional growth on Japan’s main island. In that context, therefore, the Muroran Works continued to provide training and education for middle school graduates into the 1960s. However, changes began to occur shortly thereafter. In FY1961, the facility changed the name of its Wanishi Private Technical School to Fuji Iron & Steel Muroran Technical High School and extended the course of study from two years to three years. In FY1964, meanwhile, the school introduced correspondence courses. The changes effectively altered the nature of the institution, allowing students at Fuji Iron & Steel Muroran Technical High School to obtain high school–graduate qualifications. Mitsubishi Electric offers an example of another approach. Placing its focus on helping technical trainees cultivate the abilities they would need to succeed as versatile, multi-skilled workers with a broad grounding in liberal arts, the company made that refinement the core of its education and training efforts.
In Japan, there is a category of workers referred to as “yōseikō.” They are technical workers who have received special training at private companies’ in-house training institutions. The purpose of this study is to reveal the actual content of “versatility” of yōseikō trained during the 1950s and 1960s. Dealing with the case of the Toyota Motor Corporation, the investigation sets itself two tasks. The first question is: Did yōseikō work at one section of the production line, or at several sections? The second one is: At what sections was yōseikō’s versatility utilized during the 1970s and 1980s? As research sources, the study makes use of yōseikō’s interview records, lists of new employees and those of the recipients of continuous service awards published in a company newsletter called the Toyota Shinbun [Toyota Motor newsletter]. As a result of the investigation, it is revealed that, concerning yōseikō trained during the 1950s, they basically stayed in their specialized sections, and were not transferred to completely different departments. In addition, it is revealed that they were engaged, as highly skilled workers, in the development of new products and factory equipment.
During the late nineteenth century, the Japanese government established the bureaucrat appointment system based on educational qualification. Large private companies also adopted the personnel management system in which employees’ working conditions and career paths were determined by their educational qualifications. It was during this period that “school culture” started to become the dominant force in human resources development in Japan.
On the other hand, it had also been widely understood that the traditional apprenticeship system maintained among craftsmen would not be able to produce workers capable of handling new technologies introduced from the West. The influence of “shop culture” on human resources development was only trivial in Japan.
However, company managers did not place a high evaluation on Japanese education, and in particular university education’s ability to develop human resources.
It was in-house education provided by private companies that complemented the lack of shop culture and the malfunction of school culture. In-house schools dealt with in this study were for high school graduates. This type of in-house schools was established by many large companies during the 1960s, producing second important core workers after those with university qualification.