28th in a series of occasional articles about venture businesses

Staff writer

With businesspeople and government officials incapable of creating jobs amid the country’s soaring jobless rate, exposing young people to venture businesses and nonprofit organizations may be the career answer, according to Haruo Miyagi of Entrepreneurial Training for Innovative Communities.

ETIC, a Tokyo-based NGO, aims to give college students who are interested in starting their own businesses an opportunity to learn management skills and gain work experience at venture businesses.

For that purpose, ETIC has been organizing entrepreneur seminars and acting as an intermediary between venture businesses and college students to secure internships.

Last summer, ETIC also started introducing students to farmers and agricultural corporations now that more and more young people are interested in pursuing such a field.

“Through internships, some may find themselves ready to start their own businesses, while others may find the opposite. But it is impossible to make a decision without any experience. At a big firm, you can’t even get near management,” Miyagi said.

Introducing college students to venture business through internships is rare, though human resource companies may encourage a similar practice for big firms seeking to hire students after such a stint, Miyagi said.

Since 1994, about 30 people who attended ETIC’s seminars have launched their own businesses. Last year through the group, about 300 students worked as interns at venture businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Entrepreneurs, for their part, want to tap students’ knowledge in fields such as computers and environment studies as a way to access timely information without bearing heavy financial outlays, Miyagi said.

The system also helps to create a new type of exchange between venture businesses and academics via interns who have close ties with scholars and schools. This exchange contrasts with the existing relationship between academia and the private sector, in which companies subsidize researchers’ studies, Miyagi said.

ETIC is currently working to form intern programs with Chuo University and Waseda University to reflect the growing interests colleges have in such programs.

Miyagi founded the predecessor of ETIC in 1993 as a Waseda University student and organized successful entrepreneurs to lecture at club gatherings. In 1994 he expanded the activities, reorganizing the group into ETIC by networking with students at other universities.

Miyagi said he was motivated by the regret he felt for other students who blindly believed getting jobs at big companies is the only way to succeed, while ignoring alternate career-building avenues.

“When students become seniors, they are suddenly eager to enter big, popular companies that are difficult to access. They cannot think about career-building on a wider scope and are wasting (their talents),” Miyagi said.

“I want students, who have the ability to become entrepreneurs, to realize that there is a career path other than being tied to big companies and complaining about their bosses,” Miyagi said.

Alternative employment is now catching on in Japan. Some people work for NPOs, while others are opting for the so-called SOHO (small office home office) jobs that are home-based, or remote offices linked with their companies through computer networks.

“I don’t think that the number of students starting their own business will explode in the future. A majority of students still hope to enter big firms,” Miyagi said. “But after working for such firms for five years and gaining experience, they will start their own businesses. The potential for venture businesses is growing.”

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