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Japanese Teenagers to Learn Battery Production for Electric Vehicles

Updated: Jan 5

Japan initiates a nationwide effort to combat labor shortages in the electric vehicle industry by training teenagers to manufacture batteries.

EV batteries
Credits: Reuters and AP

In a bid to address labor shortages in the automotive sector, Japanese teenagers will receive training in battery production for electric vehicles, starting this year. The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, along with trade groups like the Battery Association for Supply Chain, which includes prominent companies such as Toyota Motor, Panasonic Energy, and their battery joint venture, Prime Planet Energy & Solutions, unveiled a plan to train 30,000 battery-related workers by 2030. This initiative aims to supplement the existing workforce of around 10,000 employees.

To kick-start the program, an experimental class on battery technology will commence in December at Osaka Prefecture University College of Technology, a vocational school known as a kosen. Kosen schools provide intensive training over five years, molding teenagers into skilled professionals. Additionally, similar courses will be introduced in kosens, high schools, and universities across Japan next year.

Masaru Miki, the chief human resources officer at Panasonic Energy, revealed that the company has already hired 50 students from kosens and high schools this year, but emphasized the need for "many more" skilled workers. Panasonic Energy aims to employ 5,000 individuals worldwide by 2026, with approximately 3,000 positions in North America, where they serve as a major battery supplier for Tesla.

According to Mitsutaka Fujita, a researcher at Tokyo-based Techno Systems Research, there is a global shortage of competent battery engineers. He stressed the importance of training engineers and designers in this field, as the shortage is pervasive worldwide.

The Japanese courses will provide students with access to battery-making equipment provided by the government's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. They will also have the opportunity to take virtual tours of electric vehicle battery plants, gaining insights into the role of this technology in achieving carbon neutrality. Retired staff from battery companies will serve as instructors for the program.

This development coincides with major automakers' plans to ramp up battery production capacity. General Motors intends to construct four lithium-ion battery plants by 2025, while Ford Motor, supported by $9.2 billion in U.S. government loans, aims to establish three new battery plants. Toyota, on the other hand, plans to commence battery production in North Carolina by 2025.

Panasonic Energy's Miki acknowledged the challenges in finding skilled workers for battery production, emphasizing the unique nature of this manufacturing process, which requires expertise in chemistry, mass production techniques, and mechanical design. Specifically, Panasonic has faced difficulties in securing a qualified workforce for its battery plant in Reno, Nevada, operated in collaboration with Tesla. To address this issue, the company has been engaging in discussions with various community colleges in the United States to assist in training workers for their upcoming factories, including one in De Soto, Kansas.

Miki proposed the concept of a dedicated "Panasonic class" to facilitate in-depth training and meet the growing demand for skilled battery production workers.

  • Japanese teenagers will receive battery production training to address labor shortages in the electric vehicle industry.

  • A plan to train 30,000 battery-related workers by 2030 has been unveiled.

  • The program begins with an experimental class in battery technology at Osaka Prefecture University College of Technology.

  • Similar courses will be introduced in schools across Japan next year.

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