The Hands-On Internship Practicum is a new subject established by the Hands-On Learning Center in 2017. Eleven students took part in the subject in Amagasaki in Hyogo Prefecture, and ten students took part in the Noto region in Ishikawa Prefecture. They underwent practical training at host companies and organizations for about a month from August.
The Hands-On Internship Practicum is a practical educational program in which students engage in problem solving projects at host companies and organizations for about a month and a half. The students gain not only simple work experience, but also a real sense of self growth through experiential learning, via a process of “ Concrete Experience → Reflective observation → Abstract Conceptualization → Active Experimentation.” The result is that goal-setting and the PDCA cycle become common practice for them. A feature of the subject is that the faculty and staff in the Hands-On Learning Center act as “mentors” for the students, providing them with thorough support and guidance throughout the course. Course coordinator, the Hands-On Learning Center’s Associate Professor Maki Okunuki, commented, ‘ We designed the subject so that students could realize at an early stage of their university lives where they stand in society and what they are lacking, so they can connect those realizations to new learning and challenges in the rest of their years at university.’ In Amagasaki, which has many small and medium enterprises, six companies hosted students. These included a video and images production house, a long-established Japanese confection company, and an industrial cartridge filter manufacturer.
Seiya Sudo (1st Year, School of Human Welfare Studies) applied for the subject because, in his words, ‘I wanted to test my current strengths and use this as an opportunity to overcome my own issues while still at university.’ He was placed with Eisui Chemistry Inc., a company that has contracts to clean office buildings. As well as regular duties such as greeting visitors, he also helped plan and run a social contribution event to foster independence in kindergartenand elementary school-aged children through cleaning. He came up against many obstacles, having to arrange things in short time frames and re-work his proposal many times, but each time, he thought things through himself and actively consulted with the company’s employees, and brought the event to a successful conclusion. He recalled, ‘The employees pointed out many things to me and I felt keenly the gap in consciousness between myself as a student and those already in the workforce, but it also helped me to look at myself objectively.’ He expressed excitement about things to come, saying, ‘My own horizons have been so narrow. I want to tackle many challenges during the rest of my time at university and experience many different worlds.’
Seven places in the Noto region, including companies that had close connections to local resources, such as restaurants, farmstay accommodations, and a fishing port, hosted the students. The students experienced life in a town that none of them had ever been to before. Nao Iida (1st Year, School of Sociology), who worked at the 126-year-old Wakura Onsen Hotel Kaibo together with another intern, was given the task of using the hotel’s in-house newsletter to change the mindset of the hotel’s employees, whose average age was 60 years. In addition to undertaking regular hotel duties such as serving meals and cleaning, the students made improvements to the in-house newsletter and produced a manual for the future. The employees made some harsh comments, such as “your propositions are naïve” and “you should do this more when making proposals in a business setting,” and they had to re-work their proposal many times, but they put their all into the task. ‘We had to work to a very tight schedule to get everything done, so I learned just how important self-management is when working. It was very hard work every day, but everyone gave us guidance based on their abundant experience and I felt the warmth of the people in the workforce. It was a wonderful experience that we could only gain in the real world.’