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Japanese companies expanding internship programs

Rule change gives students more chances to learn about prospective employers

College students participate in a joint briefing of planned internship programs organized by corporations in Tokyo on Nov. 3.

TOKYO -- Internships are becoming a major recruiting tool for companies and college students in Japan, providing both a chance to get to know each other before the country's official recruiting season begins. 

Many companies used to host internships in August during the summer holiday, but are now shifting to fall and winter. Behind the move is the unique recruiting system for Japanese college students. 

Companies and job-seeking students typically follow the guideline set by the Japan Business Federation, or Keidanren, the country's biggest business lobby. For example, Keidanren member companies, mostly large corporations, cannot hold explanatory sessions for job seekers before the official recruiting season. For third-year students, who will graduate in spring 2018, the season is scheduled to start in March 2017. Job interviews cannot be held before June 2017. 

The time frame of recruiting activities set in the guideline changes from time to time. For those who graduated in spring 2016, job interviews were allowed from August 2015.

Because of the change, current third-year students have less time to prepare for interviews after making initial contact with companies. Seeking to increase communication with prospective job seekers before the official recruiting season, an increasing number of companies plans to hold internship programs in December this year through February next year. Doing so can help facilitate better matches for companies and students.  

Strutting their stuff

Supermarket chain Ito-Yokado, for example, plans to hold its first winter internship in January. Participants will draw up strategies for product development and store operations. 

Most people think of jobs in the retail industry as being domestically focused, but a representative from the company's hiring department said there are opportunities to be involved in deals with foreign entities. Ito-Yokado's aim is to attract prospects who are looking for a job with an international outlook, such as a trading house.

Fuji Xerox, meanwhile, is running an internship program for about 30 students for a total of five days in December through January. Sessions will focus on the latest technologies, such as artificial intelligence and the internet of things. At the company's research and development center located in Kanagawa Prefecture, just southwest of Tokyo, students will work with researchers on system development using AI technologies.

Although Fuji Xerox is an established office equipment manufacturer, the company is keen to develop new services based on the internet of things. It hopes to share with participants a glimpse of its future strategy, according to the hiring and training unit at the company. 

Education service provider Benesse will host internships in December in which students can learn about areas such as education app development, business management strategies and marketing. Participants will be entitled to priority entry for another round of internships scheduled for February and March. 

According to Disco, a hiring and consulting agency, 43% of Japanese companies plan to provide internships in December through February, up 11 percentage points from the previous year. These companies do not directly link internships with hiring, but they are showing greater enthusiasm to promote their strengths to prospective employees. 

Students are also showing interest in the new internships. A survey recently conducted by Mynavi, a job information provider, showed that 93.6% of third-year students would like to join internship programs this autumn or later. This represents an increase from a year earlier.

"I want to know what the company is really like, for example, learn how much overtime they require," one respondent said. Students often find it difficult to ask this type of question at explanatory sessions, but are getting the opportunity to do so with these programs. 


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