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The WorldSkills Competition is held every two years.The WorldSkills Competition was scheduled to be held in Shanghai, China in September 2021, but it was postponed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and then cancelled because of the lockdown in Shanghai in June 2022.
The 46th WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition took place in divisions as an alternative measure in 15 countries including Japan from September to November 2022. In the competition, Tetsuya Takayanagi successfully won the gold medal in welding, representing Hitachi Works.
At the Hitachi Group, Hayato Shiozawa (CNC Turning) and Riku Kawabata (Construction Metal Work) performed excellently alongside Takayanagi, despite the severe situation with the contest being postponed, cancelled, and held in divisions.
Tetsuya Takayanagi welding in the WorldSkills Competition
Hitachi's success is not limited to just the 46th WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition.
Hitachi Works, which includes the energy division, and the Hitachi Group have participated in the National Skills Competition held in Japan since the first one in 1963 and the WorldSkills Competition in the same year ( Dublin, Ireland) to train excellent technicians working at production sites and pass down skills.Representatives of Hitachi have won medals and achieved brilliant results to date.
Looking back at Hitachi Work's history in the competition, 652 employees have participated in the domestic competition, 419 participants have won prizes, and a total of 90 participants have won the excellence prize. 53 representatives of Japan have participated in the international competition, and 13 of them have won gold medals. This reflects the emphasis that Hitachi Works puts on handing down skills. The success that has been achieved motivates young technicians. Some joined Hitachi Works to participate in the WorldSkills Competition.
Previous participants in international competitions and their results displayed at Hitachi Works
Participation in WorldSkills Competition may sound glorious. However, only one employee can represent Japan. How have they achieved great results while motivating the participating employees over such a long training period spanning a couple of years, including the qualifying domestic competition?
Participants representing the energy division compete in four of the many jobs included in the competition: Welding, Construction Metal Work, Mechanical Engineering CAD, and CNC Turning. Representatives of Hitachi Works train at the Hitachi, Ltd. Hitachi Factory Training Center on the premises of Hitachi Works on weekdays and sometimes even on Saturday.
Tetsuya Takayanagi chatting with the administration staff in charge of the WorldSkills Competition at the training center
"They start exercising at 7:50 in the morning and begin drills at 8:50 a.m. when we start working. Common elements in their training include working on previous tasks and practicing to overcome the difficulties they face. Tasks are given differently by job. So, participants must achieve slightly different goals," explained mechanical engineering CAD trainer Hiroaki Tanaka.
In mechanical engineering CAD, participants have to take on new challenges in undisclosed tasks. It is important to try many different tasks during training, rather than digging deeply into one task. In construction metal work, participants are required to complete undisclosed tasks in international competitions while the tasks are disclosed in domestic competitions. "This is a difficulty unique to international competitions," noted Trainer Akihito Sakamoto.
Trainers Hiroaki Tanaka and Akihito Sakamoto
The trainers who previously participated in domestic and international competitions currently train participants everyday. How they trained is different than how Generation Z trains. According to Takuma Suzuki who is training Takayanagi, the gold medal is the result of Takayanagi's love of welding.
"The recent trainees are clever. They get information about skills through YouTube and the like. Perhaps because of this, I have to explain them what the training is for theoretically. When I was a trainee, trainers told us to just do it (laughs)," told Takuma Suzuki.
Tetsuya Takayanagi and Trainer Takuma Suzuki
Trainers said that Generation Z participants were very clever, having grown up with digital technology and having naturally learned to research and analyze issues using the Internet. To further develop their capabilities, trainers determine training schedules that suit the characteristics of each trainee.
"What is important is not only technical guidance. It is important for us to analyze trainees and think about how to train them. It is the role of trainer to develop trainees that can think independently. I always think about how I should talk to them when I am giving them guidance," said Hiroaki Tanaka.
The trainees will go back to their production sites in the future. It is important for them to think and work independently. I introduce undisclosed tasks in training to prepare trainees for domestic competitions where tasks are generally disclosed so that they can develop independence. I want them to be successful at their production sites too," said Akihito Sakamoto.
The trainers cooperate to provide training while considering the future of trainees, rather than just helping them to achieve better results in competition. If trainees later become trainers, they will hand down their skills. People who previously participated in competitions have shared skills with others at production sites.
Yuichi Miura (Senior Engineer, Nuclear Equipment Manufacturing Dept., Hitachi Works), a senior of the gold medal-winning Takayanagi, explained the importance of the WorldSkills Competition for job sites.
"Welding is done in many different environments. It is necessary to accumulate experience while applying skills for many different products to master skills. At the WorldSkills Competition, you can learn this ability."
Not only the trainers, but also the employees working at job sites think it is important to develop the ability to learn independently through tasks in training for the WorldSkills Competition. Training is a very important activity because it helps develop communication skills, the ability to prepare for work, technical capabilities and other basics that will be necessary when trainees return to work. To use these abilities and skills effectively, superiors at production sites get the people who have participated in the WorldSkills Competition to accumulate experience and become managers so that they can play a pivotal role in the workplace.
Watching the trainees practice, the Energy Administration Department of Hitachi Works believes it is essential and meaningful to cooperate with production sites in initiatives for the WorldSkills Competition. Training in schools is an important opportunity to develop mental toughness as well as skills in the nurturing of talent. Watching the development of the trainees who train every day, Hitachi Works wants trainees to be influential as key people in the workplace when they return to work.
The accumulated efforts of the cooperating trainees and trainers and the long-term support of Hitachi Works enable them to combine their strengths, achieve great results and support the MONOZUKURI (manufacturing) of Hitachi.
Hitachi, Ltd. Hitachi Factory Training Center
Hitachi's Energy Sector will preserve the basics of MONOZUKURI, develop talent and promote initiatives for the WorldSkills Competition together with production sites.
Message of encouragement from the then-Representative Executive Officer, President and Chief Executive Officer Etsuhiko Shoyama
Gold medal won at the international competition in 2022
When Tetsuya Takayanagi from Hitachi Works won a gold medal, all of the Hitachi supporters stood up and cheered with joy at the award venue in Cleveland, Ohio in the US.
"Honestly, I felt reassured when I received the gold medal, rather than feeling happy, because the people around me had great expectations. I actually felt confident when finishing the task on the first day, which was the most difficult among four tasks," said Takayanagi, reflecting on the competition.
Miura, who is senior to Takayanagi, never imagined that Takayanagi would get the gold medal, although he thought that he was skillful enough to receive a medal.
Participating in the WorldSkills Competition is really tough. For example, in the welding competition in the latest four-day competition, the first two days of competition were six-hour days, and the competitions on the second two days were four-hour competitions. It is important for participants to stay concentrated and use their nights efficiently.
They will face even more difficulties, such as machines and tools that are different from the Japanese ones they are used to, and environments that are different from their everyday training.
Takayanagi did not mind these disadvantages at all. "I enjoyed doing the tasks and I was not nervous," said Takayanagi.
Following the four-day competition, the results were announced. After the bronze medalist was announced, the silver medalist was not announced. What a surprise! Takayanagi won the gold medal with a score that was equal to the participant from South Korea.
Takayanagi smiled broadly, holding his gold medal at the award ceremony. He must have been extremely pleased, thinking back on the long time spent training together with his trainer and other memories.
We expect him to continue to develop his skills at work sites and be a talented person who can lead others.