The nation’s universities and companies have taken a cue from the West and are increasing their participation in internship programs, which are being praised for not only motivating future workers but also for giving them a leg up in real-world job skills.

Academic institutions are looking for ways in which students can test their qualifications and get more work experience before going out to get jobs.

To this end, some universities are tying up with companies to offer accredited internships.

The internships take place mainly during university summer recess.

“I would like to recommend to my juniors at college that they participate in an internship program,” said Emi Koiso, who did two internships three years ago before taking a job at BASF Japan Ltd., a Japanese subsidiary of the German chemical manufacturer.

Koiso did one of her internships at a Japanese company for two weeks, but said she did not learn much from the experience. But she said her internship at BASF in Germany was excellent.

The two-month work program, sponsored entirely by the German company, also paid off as she received a job offer from BASF Japan even before she began interning.

“I was treated as a chemist and had an opportunity to talk with a famous (Japanese) professor who, coincidently, was visiting BASF at the time,” Koiso said.

She also met many other students from around the world.

“I made some research achievements and experienced international exchanges, and grew confident in being a researcher,” she said.

Internship programs are very popular in Western countries, where companies shoulder program costs and support students by offering job training and opportunities to do work toward graduate degrees.

It was only in the mid-1990s that Japanese academia and business began to place an emphasis on internships.

A recent government survey shows that universities with accredited internship programs accounted for 60 percent of the total internship programs in Japan in fiscal 2004, up from less than 20 percent in fiscal 1996.

There are 1,153 organizations that will provide internships this summer, according to the internship promotion center at the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren).

Among the companies is educational firm Benesse Corp. The firm’s approximately two-month program has interns working out new business plans that are then presented to directors.

Electronics manufacturer Fujitsu Ltd. helps students make preparations using the Internet before undergoing business training.

Companies are often criticized for using internship programs to get an edge on their rivals to find the best graduates to hire.

Fujitsu’s recruitment chief, Kizo Tagomori, countered by saying, “It is important for our company to expand internship programs to get students interested in our field, regardless of whether they will join our company.”

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