[Letter] Finding hope at Meister high schools
Recently, I visited Korea as a part of the “Korean Talent Pool” program and had a chance to give a special lecture at Busan Automotive High School, one of the Meister schools. I already knew that the latest trend of avoiding science and engineering majors among Korean students was due to the economic and social disadvantages. Also, I was informed that the Meister high schools were established to improve the reality and educate professional engineers.
When I arrived at the school, I was surprised to find out that many large companies “pre-hire” first-year high school students in order to secure talented and skilled workers. The attendees of my lecture were the first-year students who were preparing for the employment in the second semester. They were proud and wanted to find a job to help their family finances. I was proud and felt sympathetic at the same time. I was also deeply impressed by the 21 billion-won school facilities with top-of-the-line engine lab, electric and electronic lab, painting and spraying lab and metal welding lab. In certain industries, Korea has already taken leading positions in the world. When engineers design products using new technology, the first thing they consider is “whether it can be made.” The prerequisite to become a global leading company is the capacity of the field workers who can materialize new design concepts. Therefore, the future of Korean industries depends on developing new technologies by integrating engineering caliber with production capacity.
At Boeing, where I work, engineers and manufacturing workers collaborate organically and take pride in designing and producing best aircrafts in the world. Of course, the plant workers receive compensation and rewards they deserve. If the companies that hire Miester school graduates work with the government to offer life-time education and training program to help them develop skills constantly, the future of the Korean industry would be bright. When they receive social respect they deserve, Koreans will respect one another based on ability, not educational background.
*Lee Sang-wook Researcher at Boeing with a doctorate in aeronautics