Japanese firms mostly unaware of benefits of hiring from JET ranks: poll

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

Japanese companies are less aware than their foreign counterparts of the government-sponsored Japan Exchange and Teaching Program and are thus missing out on an opportunity to hire foreigners who have the skills they need, a recent survey by a major business lobby showed.

The Japan Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai), which conducted the survey released Friday, noted that domestic companies need to strategically hire former JET teachers and urged the government to create a mechanism to facilitate match-making opportunities for them.

The Keizai Doyukai survey, carried out between late November and December, said that only 18 percent of the 167 responding domestic companies knew about the JET program, and that only nine had hired former JET personnel.

By comparison, 83 percent of the 23 foreign companies and embassies who responded said they knew about the program and had employed past JETs.

The business lobby asked Japanese companies what skills they desired in foreign nationals. Their replies to the multiple choice question started with “communicative skill” at 79.7 percent, followed by “Japanese language ability” in second place at 79.1 percent, and “understanding of Japanese thoughts and behaviors” at 58.8 percent.

The survey also said that 33.9 percent of Japanese companies intend to employ more foreigners and another 12.1 percent will continue hiring them.

Keizai Doyukai said Japanese firms need to study strategic steps to hire and utilize personnel with JET experience in light of their need for foreigners who can communicate in Japanese.

“It can be said the JET Program, operated by the government budget, has produced a pool of foreign personnel with an understanding of Japan and Japanese language skill through everyday-life experience, which can easily match the requirements of those firms,” the business lobby said.

The JET Program has brought about 55,000 college graduates from 62 countries to Japan since 1987 for employment as assistant language teachers, sports education advisers and international relations coordinators to develop grass-roots exchanges. There were 4,372 JET participants as of last July 1. Americans accounted for half, at 2,359, followed by Canada with 484, the United Kingdom with 388 and Australia with 300.