The Yomiuri Shimbun Universities are stepping up their support for foreign students in finding jobs at Japanese companies by establishing career-oriented classes for credit and offering special courses to help them learn about job-hunting rules, which are peculiar to Japan.
By emphasizing job-hunting support, universities are apparently aiming to attract excellent foreign students as there is a growing concern that university management may come to a standstill in the nation, which is saddled with a low birthrate.
“Japanese companies prize students’ ability to communicate and a sense of responsibility more than their acquisition of qualifications or their academic specialty. So try to write about an episode that will strongly show that you have such capabilities,” said an instructor at a career-oriented course at Sophia University in Tokyo.
This course, held in January at the university, was tailored for foreign students to teach them how to fill out job applications. About 20 participants were seen meticulously taking notes, while looking at job applications actually filled out by senior foreign students who had gained informal offers of employment from Japanese companies.
A 25-year-old male student from China, now a freshman in a master’s course and hoping to find a job at a Japanese automaker, said: “With regard to job-hunting activities in Japan, there are a lot of things that are hard [for foreign students] to understand. So I’m grateful to this special in-house program. I want to learn various things, for instance, ways to respond when getting in contact with recruiting officials of companies.”
The number of foreign students studying at Sophia University has been increasing, with those hoping to find a job in Japan on the rise. However, a lot of those foreign students are also so busy with study and part-time jobs that they are unaware of the annual job-hunting schedule for college students in Japan or are unable to make enough preparations in time.
In light of this, in the 2018 academic year Sophia established a course oriented toward foreign students in their junior year, in which students consider job-hunting activities and pursuing a career in Japan. Students can also earn credit by taking this course.
In the same academic year, Otemon Gakuin University in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, replaced some of the mandatory subjects for foreign students, which lecture on Japanese culture and history, with courses providing basic knowledge of job-hunting activities in Japan. In the coming academic year, Otemon will also establish anew a course in which instructors, including Chinese lecturers who have experienced job hunting in Japan themselves, will conduct mock job interviews.
Gentaro Kakae at Otemon’s Center for International Studies, said emphatically, “For universities to secure foreign students, not only paying special attention to the ‘entrance’ to college — that is, the admission of students — but also improving support at the ‘exit’ from college — job-hunting support — would be a powerful tool.
“By amassing actual results in securing employment for graduating students, the number of superior foreign students will increase, which will help universities better cope with a decline in the number of college-age students in Japan, due to the declining birthrate.”
Kakae said the number of foreign students taking entrance examinations for this spring has almost quintupled from two years ago.
According to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, the number of those who will advance to college or university in the 2040 academic year is projected to total 506,000, down 20 percent from the 2017 academic year, due to the drop in the population of 18-year-olds. If the current admission quota for universities and colleges in Japan is kept in place, new admissions to universities and colleges would fall to 84 percent of capacity in the 2040 academic year.
Manabu Kubota, secretary general of the International Students Support Network — a general incorporated association — said: “If a university is unable to bring in excellent students from abroad too, due to the declining birthrate, it will no longer be able to maintain the quality required of it as an academic and research institution. It is necessary for those divisions in charge of entrance examinations and employment to closely cooperate and to present career opportunities to students upon graduation.”