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|Training Skilled Workers|
|At Japanese manufacturing facilities, highly skilled workers cooperate with researchers and engineers to develop and manufacture products. This is one factor underlying Japans manufacturing excellence. Moreover, many companies train their own skilled workers. Sumitomo Forestry Co., Ltd. even set up a school for this purpose.
Sumitomo Forestry School of Professional Building Techniques was founded jointly with the Sumirin Construction Group, a group of 16 directly-managed construction companies, to train skilled construction woodworkers.
Principal Michio Marugasa recalls, Japan was at the height of the bubble economy when we opened our doors in 1988, and the labor shortage was becoming severe in the construction industry. With the shortage projected to worsen, we decided to set up our own school to train young skilled workers.
Housing company Sumitomo Forestrys products are wooden houses based on traditional construction methods. Although woodwork associated with factory-made two-by-four and prefabricated houses consists mainly of assembly and is relatively basic, more advanced skills are needed for traditional wooden housing, especially working wood with the saw, chisel, and plane. Hence training skilled woodworkers is a priority for Sumitomo Forestry.
The students of the school are freshmen at the Sumirin Construction Group companies. In recent years, about 30 aspiring carpenters have joined every year. The curriculum consists of lectures and practical work. All students live on campus and acquire the basics over a years intensive training. Both the lectures and practical sessions are comprehensive, including unique practical assignments like building a model house and hands-on housing construction.
For the former, the students build two houses of around 50 square meters each on a site near the school. In the latter, the students build a house for which Sumitomo Forestry has received an order from a customer under tutors supervision. These projects are both possible solely because the school is owned by a housing manufacturer. Building model houses is expensive when you take into account material expenses, but building a real house is highly effective training. There are very few schools that offer this kind of experience, says Marugasa with pride.