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Youth Support Center Multicultural Children and Youth Japanese Language School:Helping build futures for children with foreign background

This month's Close UP features the Tokyo Employment Service Center for Foreigners , a public employment agency aiming to help foreign residents to find jobs in Japan and to support local businesses looking for non-Japanese employees. Often referred to as "Hellowork for foreigners," the center is scheduled to move its office from Roppongi to its new location in Nishi-shinjuku this February. For this interview, we spoke with Tadashi Takeyama, the general manager of the center, and Kenji Yamakata, the employment supervisor.

Rie Pitchford Multicultural Coordinator

At a reception of the Tokyo Employment Service Center for Foreigners

Please tell us how the center was established.

A line of computers
for job information search

A. The Tokyo Employment Service Center for Foreigners was established in October 1993. Prior to that, during the bubble economy, a strong demand had risen among businesses for employing foreign workers due to a shortage of manpower. The government was also trying to bring more foreign specialists and technical experts to work in Japan. An increase in the number of foreign exchange students looking for post-school employment in Japan was also expected as a result of the Plan for 100,000 Exchange Students, which was announced by the then prime minister Nakasone and his cabinet in 1983. Facing such changing situations, however, the Hellowork offices were not prepared for assisting foreigners for their employment in Japan. It was also not clear for many employers how to search for such a foreign workforce. The center was then founded to promote the matching of needs between foreign job seekers and Japanese companies trying to employ them. The center is run by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and is an organization under the Shinagawa Public Employment Office (Hellowork Shinagawa).

Who is the main target of your service?

A. The center mainly serves foreign exchange students who wish to find an employment in Japan after the graduation. We also assist specialists and technical experts who are already working in Japan and want to change a job with "specialist/technical experts" types of visas, or to be more specific, "specialist in humanities/international services," "engineer," or "skilled labor" status of residence. Generally, we have slightly more exchange students coming to us than the specialists and technical experts. For foreigners who have no restriction to a job type in which they can be employed, including spouses of Japanese nationals, permanent residents, etc., the Shinjuku Foreigners' Employment Assistance and Guidance Center in Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku can help them. Exchange students who want to find a part-time job may also go to the Shinjuku center for consultation.

Is the number of Japanese companies employing foreign exchange students increasing?

A.The number is gradually increasing. In fact, about eighty percent of businesses employing foreign students do not differentiate between Japanese students and foreign students in their selection process of new employees. That is, they place a job announcement on the company website and accept applications from students regardless of whether they are Japanese or non-Japanese. On the other hand, information about job openings that we provide at the center is exclusively for foreign students. Many of such jobs involve positions that require communications with the students' home countries, such as sales sections of the company, trading businesses, and so on. They are specifically looking for someone who speaks required languages such as Chinese or Korean, and this opens up more potential for the students to get a job. Also, we consult companies who are trying to employ foreign students for the first time. They come to us because they don't know where to start searching for candidates.

A poster on the wall tells about office manners that new employees should know

We understand that the center provides an internship opportunity for exchange students.

A.Our internship programs for exchange students target college junior students and are held during the summer and spring breaks. Every year, we have about twenty participating companies in the spring program and forty in the summer program. For foreign students hoping to find a job in Japan, the internship program offers an important initial step towards understanding what the Japanese office environment is like before learning about each company. For companies which have no experience with foreign students but are still interested in hiring them, the program becomes a great opportunity to meet and directly communicate with them. Because foreign exchange students usually start a post-school job search later than Japanese students, we receive more inquires for the spring program than the summer program from the students who want to do the internship just before their senior year starts.

How do you collaborate with universities to bring applicants to the internship programs?

A. We send an e-mail magazine to about seven hundred universities and colleges throughout the nation to provide information about the internship programs and career fairs. In addition to the internship programs, the center also offers a job guidance fair for foreign exchange students, also targeting junior students, to help them understand an outline of recruiting process of new college graduates in Japan. The guidance fair is held once or twice monthly here at the center, but we also visit schools on request basis to give the guidance directly to their students. We have found that many student employment offices at universities and colleges have the same concern which is that exchange students don't come to the office to ask questions or seek help. Students who come to our seminars often say they have never visited the student employment office of their school. We always tell them that the school's student employment office is the first and closest place to go. The center can serve them as a better tool for their job search if they come to us after speaking with someone at the student employment office at the college.

What other services does the center offer to support exchange students to find employment?

At an employment discussion session

A.The center hosts an employment discussion session with current exchange students who have successfully found a job by inviting them as speakers to share their job search experiences with us and other students. It is a small group discussion with about ten participants and takes a free conversation style. We also offer a seminar to teach key manners that students should know when looking for an employment. The seminar is given by the Student Employment General Support Center located in the same Hellowork Shinagawa and targets both Japanese and foreign students. Our other seminars include an interview preparation seminar and a paperwork preparation seminar, both of which are open to foreign exchange students and job seekers.

How about the career fairs you offer where exchange students can meet representatives from companies for an interview?

A. We hold a series of career fairs in April, June, and October by targeting college senior students. The first one usually takes place in the last week of April. These three fairs are regularly scheduled every year, and each fair brings in about twenty to thirty businesses, mainly including mid to large-size companies. In addition to these large-scale fairs, we occasionally hold smaller job fairs if we find five or so companies who are interested in participating in the fair. We may also conduct the fair with just one or two companies if we find it appropriate.

At a career fair

How do you let students know about the career fairs and other events?

Flyers for upcoming discussion session and manner seminar

A.We send DMs to students who have registered at the center as a job seeker to distribute the information about the career fairs and the internship programs. Students may be registered at the center during their junior year although they won't be able to receive actual job opening information until their senior year. For registration at the center, each student needs to bring their alien registration card and student ID card to the center. You may not be registered at the center at this point but may still participate in the career fairs and the internships. We post event information on our website and also at the student employment offices of the universities and colleges. Make sure to check out your student office occasionally for the information.

Can you explain the differences in searching job information at the center and at other Hellowork offices?

A.While all of the Hellowork offices share the same data of current job openings, the Employment Service Center for Foreigners has a unique system that makes it much easier for foreign job seekers to reach job information for foreigners. For example, our computers allow a keyword search so that they can type in words that would help them find relevant job information they are looking for, such as “Japanese proficiency,” “Chinese,” “global human resource,” etc. To provide a quick reference, we also print out and file all job opening information from companies seeking or welcoming foreign workers. The biggest difference between us and other Hellowork offices is that foreigners can search through job information for foreigners much more efficiently here.

Keyword search is available
at the center’s computer

Files provide quick references in print
to job openings for foreigners

We understand that translators and visa advisors are also available at the center.

A. We have one Chinese translator and one English translator available mostly every day at the center. The exchange students rarely need the help of translators, so they are mainly for specialists and technical experts who are looking for other job opportunities in Japan. We have an immigration advisor to answer a number of questions we receive about visa status. No reservation is necessary to get help from the translator and the visa advisor, but it is recommended to call us before visiting the center because they are occasionally out of office.

Tell us about the moving of the center.

A.Our center will be moving from Roppongi to Nishi-shinjuku. While the Hellowork Shinagawa is moving to Shiba, our center and the Student Employment General Support Center are moving to a new location in Nishi-shinjuku. Shinjuku is one of the major terminal stations in Tokyo and offers easy access to and from Tama, where many universities have campuses, as well as outside Tokyo including Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa. We believe our new location is much more convenient.

[New address] Odakyu-Daiichi Seimei Building 21st Floor 2-7-1 Nishi-shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku 163-0721 Tokyo

Lastly, please give a message to foreigners who may benefit from visiting the center.

A. Many foreign exchange students are very serious about their schoolwork and tend to give priority to classes and events at school, placing their career search a little lower. When it comes to looking for a job, however, that may become a disadvantage. Talk to Japanese students and get information about what Japanese college students do to find a post-school job. For those who are hoping to change jobs in Japan, we would like to ask them to think twice before quitting their current job too hastily. Switching jobs from one to another may be common and rather easy in Europe and the United States, but it is not the case in Japan. Although our economy has been gradually recovering from Lehman's fall, the situation remains tough due to the financial crisis in Europe. Once you leave the company and don't find the next job, you will have to leave Japan, which may waste all of the efforts you have made to come to Japan. To avoid this, consider starting a job search while you remain at your current job position. Those who are currently employed but still want to find another employment opportunity may also be registered at our center as a job applicant.