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Tokyo startup matches non-college grads, including ‘delinquent youths,’ with jobs

Kyodo

A Tokyo startup is generating a buzz with a new job internship program that connects people who didn’t graduate from college with companies hit by the deepening labor shortage.

Hassyadai Inc. said the project is aimed at helping people outside Tokyo who never went farther than high school or junior high, including some who are considered “delinquent youth.”

It is designed to gain them more access to employment information and job choices, allowing them an opportunity to hold their own against college graduates.

Client companies have given the program high approval. Since starting the project in fall 2016, Hassyadai has trained about 100 young job seekers.

Dubbed the “Yankee Internship,” the program, whose participants range in age from 16 to 22, is unique in that it encompasses the category of Yankee — Japanese slang for delinquent youth.

Such juveniles are popular as potential workers among companies in need of staff because, although they “are wayward, they have guts,” according to Hassyadai.

“Many of them are actually quite earnest,” said Shigeto Hashimoto, 26, a director of the company.

In late September, Hassyadai held the internship program for about 30 trainees at its office in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo.

“You shouldn’t be satisfied just by taking part in the program,” Hirofumi Ueda, 33, an adviser to Hassyadai, told them. “You need to imagine how you wish to grow.”

Hassyadai provides trainees with accommodations in Tokyo, as well as lessons in English conversation, computer usage and business etiquette. On weekdays, the trainees sell internet connections door to door.

During one of the training sessions, the participants were asked to speak out about what they believed to be the significance of the program while also answering questions put to them by the other people in the group.

They received feedback such as, “Your story was based on experience and easy to understand but wasn’t quite logical” or “You spent a lot of time talking but didn’t answer my questions at all.”

Ueda said the key is getting trainees to open up.

“We aim to have trainees frankly express their opinions to help them realize what they understand and the issues they need to work on,” Ueda said.

“Our biggest goal is to narrow the information gap” between these youths and university graduates from the metropolitan area, Hashimoto said.

Masahiro Takeda, 20, has been in the program since July. He graduated from a technical high school in Toyama two years ago and started working at a factory run by a major company.

But the young man decided to quit as he found the seniority system and monotonous work there unrewarding. He joined Hassyadai’s program to seek out a better opportunity.

“I hope to work with ambitious peers and start my own business in the future,” he said.

Hassyadai said it has received many inquiries from businesses about the program, which has gained a following among client companies mainly through word of mouth.

An official at a staffing agency that hired a Hassyadai trainee as a full-time employee in October said: “They are hungrier than college graduates who take choosing companies for granted. What’s great about them is that they are young and energetic.”

Only about 400,000 new college graduates are employed each year, although the population of those in their 20s is more than 1 million per academic year — meaning more than half of youths are noncollege graduates, including those from junior college and vocational schools.

Yukie Hori, a chief researcher at the Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training, said demand for high school graduates is likely to grow.

“An increasing number of companies are interested in hiring high school graduates since they can proactively train them early on to fit their business,” she said.