[FOUNTAIN]Toyota’s education gambitIn Japan, Toyota Motor Corp. has a reputation for producing superb talent as well as quality cars. Toyota’s passion for education is well known. The carmaker thinks that nurturing human resources is the key to becoming a world-class company. With a 50 billion yen fund, Toyota set up the Toyota Foundation and established the Toyota Technological Institute in Nagoya in 1981.
It is easy to assume that the institute is a vocational school affiliated with the company. But Toyota Technological Institute not only offers a four-year college curriculum but also confers master’s and doctoral degrees. There are only 300 students on the 18-acre campus, and the institute keeps the student-faculty ratio at an impressive 7 to 1.
In addition to teaching students on campus, the school arranges practical training and internship opportunities at such companies as Nippon Steel Corp., Hitachi and Mitsubishi Electric, not to mention Toyota. Upon graduation, students can immediately make a contribution through their hands-on knowledge and experience. Every year, the institute produces about 80 elite technical workers in mechanical engineering, material engineering and information technology.
Toyota Technological Institute topped a private college evaluation conducted by Toyo Keizai, a Japanese financial weekly. The institute received high marks for its solid financial condition and its curriculum, which emphasizes both fundamental knowledge and practical skills.
Toyota’s desire for a quality workforce does not stop here. In September, the carmaker established the Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago in conjunction with the University of Chicago. The school makes Toyota the only Japanese company operating a graduate-level educational institute awarding doctorates in the United States.
Toyota is now eyeing secondary education as well. It plans to establish a school with a six-year curriculum combining middle school and high school in 2006. The school, modeled after Eton, a prestigious school in England, would offer a world-class education to 120 male students.
Why would a company want to enter the education field? One of the reasons is that the existing public school system fails to provide the quality education demanded by companies. Toyota might be saying, “Wake up, schools. We are coming if you don’t.”
by Nahm Yoon-ho
The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.