Jan 23, 2024
Generating Sustainable Impacts / Feature Story
Helping Young People Across Asia Achieve Their Full Potential
Panasonic’s founding philosophy—People Before Products
Panasonic’s founder Konosuke Matsushita famously said, “We develop people before products.” Inspired by his philosophy that it is talented human beings who create sustainable societies, Panasonic has been supporting and promoting the education of young people in Asia for 25 years.
In 1998, to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Panasonic’s founding, the company launched its Panasonic Scholarship Asia program, which aims to nurture young talent and help foster the next generation of leaders in Asia.
It is one of six global programs operated by Panasonic designed to combat poverty, protect the environment and provide educational support for young people.
The Panasonic Scholarship Asia program initially provided financial and networking support for students from across Asia undertaking science and engineering degrees in Japan. In 2014, support was broadened to cover those studying or embarking on apprenticeships in their home countries.
Panasonic Newsroom Global interviewed representatives and participants of the program in Thailand, Vietnam and in Japan to explore how it helps young people across Asia realize their full potential and make a positive contribution to their societies.
How the Panasonic Scholarship Asia program works
The program primarily provides financial support to students and apprentices in nine countries and regions: Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. As many students in these countries routinely work part-time to cover their course fees and living costs, this support allows participants to focus on their studies, particularly in the more challenging final years of their course.
The program also actively supports cross-country networking among alumni, helping them to fully leverage the opportunities the program provides as they build their careers. Furthermore, participants are now additionally offered the opportunity to learn about the business philosophy of the company’s founder.
“In addition to the kind of economic support provided by the program, a number of countries have been conducting their own business skills training and internships. However, since the beginning of FY2023, we have been offering a common ‘Philosophy Learning’ program where participants can learn about the philosophy of our founder, Konosuke Matsushita, and how to apply it in their working and personal lives,” says Aya Sawada from the Corporate Citizenship Department at Panasonic Operational Excellence Japan.
The Panasonic Scholarship Asia program adopts a long-term approach to developing human resources, encouraging personal growth and helping students achieve their individual goals. The aim is to have a positive influence not only on the students themselves but also on the local communities in which Panasonic companies are active.
Since its inauguration 25 years ago, the program has supported over 1,400 graduates. Many of them are now working as leaders in higher education, government agencies, engineering, consulting, and the IT sector in over 100 cities worldwide. Some of them have been employed by the Panasonic Group.
Here is a look in more detail at how the program is making a difference to young lives in two countries: Vietnam and Thailand.
Vietnam—complementing the country’s existing education system
Over the last 20 years, Panasonic Scholarship Asia has sponsored hundreds of students in Vietnam who were facing difficult circumstances. In 2023, a record number of 650 applications for the program were received from nearly 100 universities nationwide.
Nguyen Nhi Ha, General Manager, Human Resources at Panasonic Vietnam, explains the objectives of the country’s program. “We provide selected candidates with financial support and soft skills training. Our aim is to complement Vietnam’s existing education system, and we encourage those who benefit from the program to use what they learn to help the next generation of young people.”
Ha’s team also runs a course that helps students understand Panasonic’s philosophy and provides lessons on personal development handed down from the company’s founder.
Huu Thoai Ngo is a PhD student from Vietnam who is studying at universities in France and Belgium. He recounts how the Panasonic Scholarship Asia program helped give him the confidence and the support to undertake higher education.
“Being selected for the Panasonic program was a source of pride for me. As well as helping to cover my tuition fees, it infused me with positive energy and the motivation to overcome the challenges I was facing during that phase of my life.”
Panasonic founder Matsushita Konosuke once said, “A person who can create ideas worthy of note is a person who has learned much from others.” Ngo explains why this quote particularly resonates with him. “In my field of physics, it always reminds me that to uncover any new phenomena, a researcher must invest a considerable amount of time learning from and collaborating with colleagues.”
Thailand—focusing on students showing leadership potential
In Thailand, Panasonic Scholarship Asia receives applications from around 200 students each year. Ms. Em-orn Cholpilaiponk, HR General Manager at Panasonic Solutions in Thailand, outlines the company’s criteria for selecting the successful candidates.
“We focus our support on electrical, mechanical and computer engineering students who may be facing financial hardship,” she explains. “We look for personality traits that indicate the candidate has leadership potential and is willing to adapt and take on responsibility.”
The program provides up to three years of financial support to undergraduate students in years two to four. This includes assistance with language training and courses covering Panasonic’s Basic Business Philosophy. Students are also encouraged to participate in community support activities arranged by Panasonic. Some of them join Panasonic after graduation, although, Em-orn emphasizes, this is not a requirement of the program.
One Thai candidate who did elect to join Panasonic after completing his studies is Setthakit Tiothong, who now works as an Assistant Supervisor in the Engineering Department of Panasonic Motor Co., Ltd in Thailand.
“The program’s emphasis on mentorship and networking opportunities has played a crucial role in shaping my perspective on career paths,” he says. “It offered me really valuable insights and guidance.”
A key event that helped Setthakit decide to join the company was the guided tour of Panasonic Motor Co., Ltd. and Panasonic Ecology Systems Co., Ltd. in Thailand arranged as part of the program, hosted by seasoned engineers who shared insights into their manufacturing processes and operational intricacies with the program members.
“This encounter not only enriched my understanding of the industry but also ignited my appreciation for the craftsmanship and expertise involved in the manufacturing sector,” explains Setthakit.
And his favorite quote by the company’s founder?
“It’s 日に新た (hi ni arata), which means ‘to start each day anew.’ For me this implies starting each day with a fresh spirit and a commitment to continuous improvement. It’s a powerful reminder of the potential for self-renewal and improvement each day offers.”
Setthakit says this encourages individuals to let go of past setbacks, mistakes, or difficulties and to treat each new day as an opportunity for a fresh start. “This mindset is particularly valuable when you’re facing challenges; it promotes resilience, adaptability, and a proactive approach to life.”
Cross-border interaction and other future plans
Aya Sawada, from the company’s Corporate Citizenship Department outlines some of the company’s future plans for the Scholarship Asia program. In the future, Aya says, the company wants to provide opportunities for Scholarship Asia participants to experience the founder’s philosophy in real-life settings such as the Panasonic Museum in Osaka, and provide more opportunities for them to interact across borders.
The core objective of the program, she says, remains to help nurture the next generation of leaders in Asia and thereby contribute to the further development of Asian countries. “Therefore, rather than expanding its geographical coverage, we plan to boost our support in the nine countries and regions we are currently working with. In particular, we aim to provide more alumni networking support after graduation, and expand the Panasonic Scholarship network.”
Panasonic will continue to provide opportunities for young talented people in Asia and around the world to secure themselves a good education and make a difference in their communities!
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