Gifu NPO gives internship programs to university students

Kyodo

G-net, a Gifu-based nonprofit organization, has recently been drawing the spotlight for its long-standing internship program that allows university students to get work experience at local small and medium-size companies that in a few cases has led to full-time employment.

The organization, founded in 2001, matches students and the local companies, which treat the interns as new regular employees and allow them to take on assignments and even set sales goals.

Aya Takayama, 21, a Nagoya City University student, became interested in the internship program “to get real-life experience before I start job hunting.”

Through G-net, Takayama participated in a six-month program at Ikeyama Medical Japan Co., the nation’s largest manufacturer of artificial breasts, located in Nagoya. The company was interested in accepting interns, as they “wanted ideas from university students for the company’s project to develop skilled engineers.”

Through her work, Takayama came to feel that the engineers were too focused on developing the technologies to make the breasts, and came up with the idea of sending out emails to the engineers that introduced the voices of the patients who had had mastectomies and were potential users of the products.

Her idea led the firm to start routinely sending the engineers feedback from the patients, including a woman who said, “I wish there were artificial breasts allowing me to exercise more intensely” and another woman who said, “I get depressed looking at the scars after having my breasts removed.”

Takayama said that the employees, assigned as trainers in the internship program, encouraged her to think on her own as she worked on her assignments. Thanks to the internship, which provided her with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, Takayama, who is currently job hunting, says that she is looking at companies regardless of their size.

According to G-net member Satoko Kobori, 32, internships with small local-level enterprises are rather unusual, and the number of firms and students interested in the program has rapidly increased. G-net has already introduced about 1,000 college students to 75 local companies.

Among them, there were six cases where the internship led to full-time employment after graduation.

In some cases, companies are more interested in recruitment rather than developing the skills of the interns, Kobori said, adding that G-net carefully tries to find the best match by listening to the needs of the companies and the students.