Vocational Education in Japan

Junior colleges
Junior colleges (短期大学 tanki daigaku) -- mainly private institutions -- are a legacy of the occupation period; many had been prewar institutions upgraded to college status at that time. More than two thirds of the students in junior colleges are women as many attend them as a form of preparation for a short-term career before marriage. Students who complete the course of study at a junior college are awarded an associate degree or a diploma. Though the enrollment number of women going to junior colleges is decreasing as more desire to gain access to more professional careers and have been choosing to attend universities in greater numbers. Junior colleges provide many women with vocational credentials to help them navigate through Japan's job market. These colleges frequently emphasize home economics, nursing, teaching, liberal arts, humanities, and social sciences in their curricula. Many polytechnic junior colleges have a small campus with several hundred students. These institutions train people who are studying to become mid-level technicians in civil, mechanical, electrical, and systems engineering sectors. Graduates of polytechnic colleges have a very high rate of employment, as Japan's dominant high technology sector offers a high demand for skilled technical workers.

Special training schools and community colleges
Special training schools and community colleges (senmon gakkō (専門学校) in Japanese) offer advanced courses for vocational careers that require upper-secondary school completion. These schools offer training in specific skills such as the culinary arts, computer science, engineering, social welfare, early childhood education, business administration, hygiene, foreign languages, therapy, dietetics and medicine. These institutions enroll a large number of men. Some students attend these schools in addition to attending a university to enhance their educational background and broaden their employment opportunities while others go to qualify for technical licenses or professional certifications. The prestige of special training schools is lower than that of universities, but graduates, particularly in technical areas, are readily absorbed by the job market.

Colleges of technology
Colleges of technology (高等専門学校 kosen) in Japan are trade and technical schools offering apprenticeships, associate degrees, licenses, certificates, diplomas for skilled trades and technical careers. Colleges of technology also offer certifications for workers in support roles in professions such as engineering, accountancy, business administration, nursing, medicine, architecture, and law. The five-year programs are offered within a number of fields such as broadcasting, business administration, computer science, arboriculture, medical care, web design, graphic design, industrial design, robotics, biotechnology, environmental technology and engineering. For the industrial trades, students can also take courses in subjects such as applied chemistry, industrial chemistry, public works, merchant marine shipping, drafting, CNC machinery operation and tool programming, construction management, landscape horticulture, early childhood education, livestock management, land surveying, city planning, interior design, and food inspection. Other trade specialties offered by colleges of technology include wastewater treatment operating, plastering, drywalling, home inspection, landscape and park maintenance, power engineering, power plant operation, power line and security systems installation and servicing, culinary arts, appliance and HVAC servicing, heat and frost insulation, pipeline maintenance, pipe-laying, ironworking, gasfitting, elevator systems installation and servicing, electronics and electronic equipment servicing, steamfitting, steel fabrication, plumbing, electrical works, masonry, roofing, warehousing, carpentry, machine operation, welding, marine shipping maintenance and servicing, aviation maintenance and servicing, auto servicing and vehicle servicing, and power equipment servicing.

As the Japanese economy began to experience major growth in the 1950s, major Japanese corporations lobbied the national government to place a stronger emphasis on vocational education to fill in the skills gap. Private colleges of technology were established in 1961 in response to Japan's growing need for vocational education as well as changing industry needs across the Japanese economy, especially the automotive industry. There, high school age students acquire trade and technical skills through work-based learning, apprenticeships, and work placement programs. While university is by far the most prestigious form of education in Japan, many Japanese students choose to attend colleges of technology as an alternative route. These schools allow them to gain job skills without the intense pressure of the university admissions process. Many students attend specifically to get professional certifications and then proceed to enter the workforce afterwards. However, its also common for university graduates to attend colleges of technology if their efforts to secure a job with a university degree comes to no avail.

70 trade and technical schools have been operating since the early 1960s. A small percentage of college technology graduates transfer to universities as third-year students, and some universities such as the University of Tokyo and the Tokyo Institute of Technology, earmarked entrance places for transfer students of colleges of technology in the 1980s. Students are eligible to enter colleges of technology halfway through their senior secondary years. College of technology programs usually last for 5 years. This system of institutions were founded in 1961 and they have enjoyed increased popularity as an alternative route besides the traditional path of going to university. Graduates of technical schools have successful in navigating Japan's high-tech labor market as they been swamped with job offers despite Japan's sluggish economy during the 1990s. Graduates of trade and technical schools are awarded associate degrees or diplomas, which are respected by employers but are below bachelor's degrees in terms of prestige. Many graduates of colleges of technology starting out move from company to company to gain experience and to move up. After spending years gaining experience and honing their skills, some go on to become managers where they are able to supervise entire projects as well as younger apprentices. Nevertheless, technical graduates usually find employment immediately upon graduation. Technical education in the skilled trades continues to be a solid option for students who enjoy working with their hands and have no plans of attending university.

One of the leading trade schools in Japan is Nihon Kogakuin College, which is part of the Katayanagi Institute group. The school has offered industrial education for skilled trades and technical careers since its establishment in 1947. The school today proactively accepts foreign students due to the country's labor shortage of skilled technicians in Japan's information technology industry. With about 10,000 graduates a year, Kosen colleges have not produced nearly enough graduates to meet the demands of Japanese industry as major corporations would give preference in job offers to foreign-trained students, who are perceived as more competent in the workplace than graduates of Japan's four-year universities.

In west Japan area the leading vocational college is Kobe Institute of Computing. KIC was found by Mr Tomio Fukuoka in 1958 with a small Electronic school in the city of Kobe, Hyogo prefecture, Japan which was called ''Kobe Denshi'' which received the reorganization "Institute of Advanced Vocational Education" from the Japanese Ministry of Education in 1988 for it's vital contribution to Japanese computing society. KIC is the first IT College in Asia. Now KIC is one of the major institutes for professional, vocational, practical oriented education in ICT and other Digital related industries in Japan with 17,700 alumni.

A 2004 white paper from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology indicated that the colleges of technology are leaders in the use of apprenticeships and internships, with more than 90% of institutions offering this opportunity compared to 46% of universities and 24% of junior colleges. As of 2008, 23.1% of high school graduates study at colleges of technology with 99.6% being employed after graduation.