Creating paid internships in Japan for students

“Japan is looking outward to meet this rising demand, thus offering fresh job and career opportunities to international graduates”

HR departments across corporate Japan are introducing unprecedented global outreach strategies into their short and long-term recruitment plans.

Where previously Japanese companies would limit their graduate schemes to domestic hires, they are now travelling to the UK, US, China, India and other countries with more frequency to hold on-campus information sessions or attend large-scale career fairs organised by Japanese recruitment agencies.

Japan Inc.’s globalisation imperative is a key driver of this push to diversify the workforce. Japanese firms are feeling the pressures of an ageing population and a shrinking labour pool. Combined with tougher competition in an already stagnant domestic market, a global transformation is no longer just about success; it has become a matter of survival.

To be sure, in recent years, Japanese companies have begun to deploy enterprise expansion models more aggressively. For example, there has been a record surge in outbound M&A deals among cash-rich Japanese firms.

Japan’s $191 Billion spending spree that topped Asia in 2018 is set to continue. Japanese companies, therefore, need a new breed of staff and executives to match the speed of change in their global corporate development strategies. In addition to the talent that can seamlessly work beyond borders, Japan is facing an acute shortage of IT professionals. Japan is looking outward to meet this rising demand, thus offering fresh job and career opportunities to international graduates.

How universities can take advantage of this trend

This is a golden opportunity for university careers and international development offices to forge links with Japanese companies to provide industrial placements and internships to students.

At the University of Oxford, we have developed a model of engagement that other universities can follow. I established a collaborative project with the Oxford Careers Service to target companies in Japan that are eager to attract global talent. The University already has a strong Summer Internship Programme where host companies/organisations can sign up each year to offer fully paid positions domestically and internationally to students for 4-12 weeks during the long vacation.

We created a Japanese language explanation of the programme and started reaching out to companies through personal connections and speculative emails to HR departments. We then work with interested companies to craft internship project descriptions and a pay package that is mutually beneficial. Knowledge of the Japanese language and business etiquette is vital in these initial negotiations.

In just one year we created over 30 all expenses covered internships in Tokyo across over 10 companies including major corporations, tech startups, global consulting firms and NGOs. The response from the students has been equally enthusiastic with the number of applications reaching the hundreds.

“In just one year we created over 30 all expenses covered internships in Tokyo across over 10 companies”

Media and HR services giant, Recruit Holdings Co. Ltd., joined our initiative in early 2018 and welcomed its first set of Oxford interns in the summer of the same year with great success.

“Our company is advancing a global and digital transformation. M&A activities are at the heart of our expansion and as a result, our overseas revenue increased by 46.1% in FY2017, which was only 3.6% in FY2011. Just as our business is rapidly becoming borderless we are scouring the globe for the best talent and future leaders,” said Shunsuke Nakamura, Section Chief of the Human Resources Strategy Department at Recruit Holdings.

“The Oxford internship program has enabled us to engage with both Japanese students overseas and international students on a deeper level. Not only do the students learn from their experience with us but we also gain a better understanding of how to recruit and integrate diverse talent into our workforce.”

Many of our partner companies doubled the number of internships they are offering for summer 2019. They are also eager to connect with other top international universities. Now is the time to leverage Japan Inc.’s burgeoning international recruitment drive to create life-changing experiences for students.

About the author: Warren A. Stanislaus is a PhD Candidate at the University of Oxford (Pembroke College) specialising in Japan. As a higher education consultant, he writes, speaks and leads projects on UK-Japan exchange and academia-industry partnerships.