Hands-on Internship Practicum to Broaden Students’ Perspectives

Public Relations Office        October 20, 2017


The Hands-On Internship Practicum is a new subject established by the Hands-On Learning Center this academic year. 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 Hand-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.’

Students who want to take the subject attended a matching event in June and submitted written applications to the companies and organizations they wanted to work in. They later went through three rounds of interviews with the coordinating body and host companies and organizations, before a decision was made on whether or not they were accepted. The successful applicants then underwent pre-program training at the end of July.

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.’

Practical training in Amagasaki

Practical training in Amagasaki

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.’

Practical training in the Noto region

Practical training in the Noto region

Throughout the program, the students experienced repeated successes and failures in unfamiliar environments. Through much trial and error, almost without taking any time out to sleep, they came out of their shells more and more as the days went on. On the other hand, while some days they felt they were doing a good job and that pride led them to become complacent, they felt emotionally uncertain and anxious on other days. Through daily reports, the faculty and staff in charge of the course monitored what the students were doing every day, what discoveries they were making, and what they were planning to do the following day, and sent them guidance and words of encouragement
through individual e-mails. At around the halfway mark of the program, the faculty and staff paid visits to the students at their placements. Through these face-to-face meetings, they helped the students rediscover the goals they had listed prior to the program and guided them to produce results in the limited time available to them. Associate Professor Okunuki commented, ‘All of the students were able to implement the experience-learning cycle well, and their comments were all based on their own experiences and thinking. After about a month, they were able to tell rich stories of their own experiences, and it was obvious from their comments that they had achieved major growth. Some of their comments included, “I was able to grow in ways I never imagined before the program,” and “By associating with people in the workforce, I gained a more concrete image of what I want to become in the future.”

students are at the post-program debriefing session

students are at the post-program debriefing session

At the post-program debriefing session on September 19, each student gave confident reports about their outcomes. The strong expressions on the faces of the students as they received their certificates of completion were almost unrecognizable from before they participated in the program, and it was evident that they felt a real sense of achievement.