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Technical Intern Training Program Results Report

Case 8: When a Gentle Smile Turns into the Serious Gaze of an Artisan
(Aisin Shinei Co. Ltd.)

Ms. Guo Smiling with the Certificates

Ms. Guo Smiling with the Certificates

The Chukyo region is known for the number of technical interns who actively engage in the Industrial Training and Technical Internship Program. Here resides a star technical intern who won the Nagoya Mayor's Award and the Chubu METI Chairman's Award at the 42nd and 43rd Aichi Industrial Painting Skills Exhibitions, and has passed the Provisional Grade 3 of the National Trade Skills Test in metal painting. JITCO staffs made a trip from mid-winter Tokyo to see this technical intern in Hekinan, Aichi.

The technical intern is Guo Hui Juan. She is learning metal painting on external auto parts at Aisin Shinei Co. Ltd. Aisin Shinei, established in 1961, is a manufacturer with considerable market share in the automobile industry's resin molding, deformation processing, and surface finishing. The company owns three factories, and Ms. Guo works at the Kinuura factory, specializing in corrosion-proofing and luxury exterior painting. The factory mainly produces external automobile parts, such as division bars, which assist the smooth opening and closing of car windows.

Aisin Shinei Co. Ltd.

Aisin Shinei Co. Ltd.

Ms. Guo, a native of Qingzhou in the Shandong province, grew up in a mountain village in the abundance of nature. Living with her parents and a younger brother, she was a quiet child, yet had a strong will to contribute to her family and to help her brother get an advanced education. Despite numerous objections from her concerned parents, Ms. Guo persuaded them to let her come to Japan, and finally made it when she turned 20.

Ms. Guo is one of the first trainees accepted at Aisin Shinei. The members of the group varied in age and didn't have much in common, so they rarely spent time together outside training. Ms. Guo, being one of the younger trainees, did not stand out and made little impact in her group, which worried the staff at the primary accepting organization and the company. Ms. Guo's instructor, Production Group Leader Ryoichi Nagasawa, recalls her first expression, "She had a natural aptitude for the job, but I didn't feel she was someone who was superior in the group."

Newly-Arrived Ms. Guo at the Initial Group Training (second from the left)

Newly-Arrived Ms. Guo at the Initial Group Training (second from the left)

In the beginning, Ms Guo would shed tears in frustration at not being able to understand the directions or work procedures with her limited Japanese language skills. Being homesick, Ms. Guo called her father in China, but he told her to persevere, saying, "Do not give up on what you have decided to do. If you drop everything and come home, you won't accomplish anything in China, either." She then renewed her attitude and thought she needed to focus on her learning Japanese language first. Ms. Guo began greeting her colleagues in Japanese, and was very excited to get their greetings back. She thought, "I want to learn more Japanese and speak to them." Her study time subsequently increased. In the first year of training, Ms. Guo's Japanese skills were almost equal to or slightly lower than those of her fellow trainees, but her innate curiosity helped her skills improve dramatically. As her language skills improved, she understood work instructions and procedures better. The colleagues started to respect Ms. Guo more, and she was enjoying herself in the second year.

Mr. Nagasawa Instructing Ms. Guo on Importance of Spraying Distance

Mr. Nagasawa Instructing Ms. Guo on Importance of Spraying Distance

Mr. Nagasawa teaches works to Ms. Guo. Our impression of Mr. Nagasawa was exactly what we would imagine with the words the 'artisan spirit'. Mr. Nagasawa says, "The basics are essential. Don't try to assert your opinion first, but just do what you are told, perfectly." Ms. Guo understood what he meant, and was then able to perform the tasks perfectly. Ms. Guo is very happy that Mr. Nagasawa feels comfortable leaving works in her charge.


Ms. Guo and the Chubu METI Chairman's Award-Winning Work

Ms. Guo and the Chubu METI Chairman's Award-Winning Work

Although Ms. Guo rapidly acquired many skills, winning the awards and passing the tests did not come easy. It was when Ms. Guo was getting ready for the exhibition where she first received the Nagoya Mayor's Award, the equivalent of second place. Although she was confident at first, continuous mistakes on the contest piece discouraged her. Mr. Nagasawa patiently encouraged her while she struggled. With regained faith in herself, Ms. Guo kept on trying in order to respond to the expectation of Mr. Nagasawa. Mr. Nagasawa remembers, "Ms. Guo made a breakthrough when she received the Nagoya Mayor's Award." Gaining a strong confidence and pride in her painting skills, Ms. Guo strived to better her skills even further by practicing in the studio everyday after work. In the following year, Ms. Guo received the Chubu METI Chairman's Award, the equivalent of first-place!

When choosing to do the difficult Provisional Grade 3 of the National Skills Test, Ms. Guo said to herself, "I do not want to waste any chances the company has given me. I want to put my skills to the test, and see how far I can go!" She made time after her evening shifts to learn skills that were also to be tested in this grade in addition to what she already knew. Mr. Nagasawa helped her practice applying putty and water polishing. As a result, she successfully passed the test!

Having Passed the Provisional Grade 3 test, Ms. Guo first called her grandmother in China who had always adored her the most. Her grandmother was exhilarated, saying, "You made it! I know studying has always been very difficult for you. I am so impressed!" Ms. Guo was choked with emotion while telling the story, holding back the tears. We could understand the depth of Ms. Guo's joy when her hard work had finally paid off in a foreign country, far away from her family.

We asked Ms. Guo what was on her mind when she works on painting. "What I make goes onto cars, which are very expensive. I would assume customers would be very sad if the quality of the products weren't up to their expectations. So, I want to make it perfect!" Ms. Guo's beautiful smile immediately turned to a serious gaze. She appeared to be no longer a technical intern, but an artisan. Working on the contest pieces and practicing for the test together, Mr. Nagasawa and Ms. Guo strengthened their bond. They do not look like an instructor and an internship, but rather, they should be described as a master and his best pupil.

Ms. Ban Talks about Trainees with Enthusiasm

Ms. Ban Talks about Trainees with Enthusiasm

Wondering how a company can nurture a wonderful technical intern like Ms. Guo, we spoke with Ms. Yayoi Ban, Human Resources Development Team Leader at Aisin Shinei.

Ms. Ban constantly searches for ways for trainees and interns to develop better relationships with factory workers. She uses her ingenuity by utilizing the training program to improve the company's operation and to make an international contribution at the same time. Ms. Ban prioritizes language skills acquisition, just like Ms. Guo. Japanese education for the first dispatch group did not go so smoothly, as it was trial and error. An effective curriculum for trainees, however, has been effectively streamlined as trainees of the third dispatch group are recently accepted.

In the first year of training, Ms. Ban asks the factories to allocate one hour of daily mandatory self-study time for trainees. Monthly Japanese tests are conducted to provide additional instruction for those trainees who do not perform well. This additional Japanese instruction is provided by Ms. Tan Haibo from the Tozai Commerce Cooperative (TSK for Tozai Shoko Kumiai), the primary accepting organization. Ms. Tan works as a conduit between trainees and Aisin Shinei with her motherly presence.

Ms. Ban assigns technical interns to submit internship reports in Japanese on monthly topics. She corrects all the reports, and returns them with individual comments for each intern. Technical interns look forward to reading comments from Ms. Ban, and they also exchange their reports.

Upon proceeding to technical internship, trainees are required to pass advanced grade tests, which must be higher than the Basic Grade 2 in the National Trade Skills Test, to show their aptitude. We asked Mr. Masahisa Onuki, Deputy Sectional Manager in the International Sales Department at TSK, about the significance in taking such advanced grade tests:

"In order to take the advanced grade tests, trainees must have a strong desire to improve themselves and to learn new skills. Experiencing and learning from foreign culture and customs on a daily basis develops positive attitude and motivation. TSK believes that the key to foster these positive attitudes is language, and provides assistance and support for trainees to study Japanese. Specifically, the organization encourages trainees and interns to participate in the JITCO Japanese Essay Contest and the Japanese Speech Contest for International Trainees, as well as to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). Trainees have won the Awards of Excellence at the essay contest, the first places at the speech contest, and passed Level 1 on the JLPT.

"The advantages of taking advanced grade tests for accepting organizations are that it is proof that the genuine and proper operation of the training program has contributed to human resources development, and that the outcome of the training program is objectively evaluated, essential for the development of the training program. Understanding these good points, TSK provides support for advanced grade test taking along with Japanese language acquisition. The organization explains the meaning of advanced grade tests in the program to accepting companies and trainees even during the trainee selection process, and has established a bonus system for successful test takers."

Ms. Guo Painting Division Bars with a Spray Gun

Ms. Guo Painting Division Bars with a Spray Gun

Ms. Guo worked extremely hard to win the awards and pass the test, but also crucial were the people around her, such as Mr. Nagasawa and Ms. Ban, who continuously provided encouragement and unstinting assistance, as well as family members in China who trusted and supported her from far away.

The achievement by Ms. Guo has inspired her younger peers to follow in her footsteps. Hearing the story, we could not help but imagine that there will be another Ms. Guo, and many more to follow.

Lastly, we would like to end with a message from Ms. Guo for new trainees: "Follow the company rules, work and study Japanese hard, and get along with the people around you. You can succeed for sure as long as you give it all the effort you got. Believe in yourself, and act positively!"