For the first time in three years, parents were able to join students at the Toyota Technical Skills Academy graduation ceremony, filled with smiles bright as the sunshine outside.
On the chilly, crisp morning of February 15, Toyota’s in-house training facility, the Toyota Technical Skills Academy, was among the first schools to hold its graduation ceremony for the year.
With thorough COVID-19 safety precautions in place, parents were invited to the event for the first time in three years. They witnessed 126 students from the high school course and 120 from the professional course (a one-year specialist training program for high school graduates) take their first steps in becoming Toyota people.
Three years of following father’s footsteps
Speaking at the ceremony on behalf of the graduating class was Yuta Okada. His father is also an Academy alum, and now works in painting at Toyota Motor Kyushu in Fukuoka.
Having traveled from Fukuoka for the ceremony, the father watched as his son stood before Mitsuru Kawai (known as Oyaji or father figure) and delivered his words with conviction.
In the winter of my junior-high second year, I read Oyaji Kawai’s book and longed to one day wear the white cap.
I was determined to surpass my father, which has spurred me on these past three years.
Having overcome many challenges since coming to the Academy, I stand here today as a different person.
Father, am I any closer to standing in your shoes?
I’m going to keep working harder to ensure that, one day, I too can wear the white cap like you.
Admiring the way his father acted for the benefit of others, Okada decided to follow in his footsteps by joining the Academy. Before leaving home, he apparently spoke of wanting to give a speech at the graduation ceremony.
Okada capped off that speech with the words “I leave here smiling—thank you for the past three years,” sharing the winning smile inherited from his father.
In the video, Okada also reflects on school life during the pandemic, expresses gratitude for his classmates, and speaks about his commitment to working at Toyota. Watch to see Okada’s impressive confidence, and a father’s thoughts on seeing his son graduate.
Donning workwear to learn about carmaking
Anna Kida, who graduated from the specialized course, says she was inspired to work at Toyota after then-CHRO Masanori Kuwata visited the Futaba Future School in Fukushima Prefecture to hold a dialogue with her and other students.
Toyota Times was also there to report on the visit. This time, ahead of the graduation ceremony, Yuta Tomikawa asked Kida about life at the Toyota Technical Skills Academy and why she decided to join the company.
Kida traded her uniform for workwear to learn about carmaking from scratch. Despite the hardships, her passion for manufacturing shines through: “It’s a lot of fun.”
A few days after the ceremony, the graduates delivered their handmade gift to President Akio Toyoda, who was unable to attend.
Don't miss their vibrant faces, and how they have grown through their training.
The cherished “white cap”
In the studio, Tomikawa is joined by Oyaji Kawai, who spoke at the ceremony in Akio’s place. What exactly is the “Oyaji” role? And what about Okada’s cherished white cap? One of the Academy’s star alumni explains what it all means.
Scenes from the graduation ceremony
A selection of images that didn’t make it into the video.