In Japan, 3,218 private vocational schools offer professional education in individual areas of industry. Currently, 23.1% of high school graduates study at vocational schools and 99.6% of them find employment after graduation.
One of the leading vocational schools in Japan is Nihon Kogakuin College, which is part of the Katayanagi Institute group. The school has offered industrial education since its establishment in 1947. Today, the school proactively accepts foreign students due to the labor shortage in IT and technology industry.
Leading the international affairs department for affiliated schools and the university is Kazuhiro Ohshima. Born in Tokyo, he studied computer technology at Nihon Kogakuin in the 1960s. Just after his graduation, he worked for the Osaka Expo in 1970 where he witnessed new technologies which are used in our lives today.
Prior to his career in Nihon Kogakuin, he promoted computers in Japan for about 20 years as an employee of a public foundation after the Osaka Expo while giving lectures on computers at Nihon Kogakuin on a part-time basis. In 1988, he joined the school as a full-time lecturer and has been in his current position since 2004.
Japan Today reporter Taro Fujimoto catches up with Ohshima to hear more about the school and foreign students at its Kamata campus in Tokyo.
What kind of education does Nihon Kogakuin College offer?
The Katayanagi Institute group runs three vocational schools (Nihon Kogakuin College) in Tokyo and Hokkaido and Tokyo University of Technology. About 20,000 students are currently enrolled at these affiliated educational institutions.
Nihon Kogakuin College offers creators, music, IT, technology, health care and sports courses. Each course is 2 to 4 years, depending on the area of study. The vocational school is the main area of our business. The main purpose of the school is help students get jobs after graduation.
What about Tokyo University of Technology?
Tokyo University of Technology has a joint lab for corporations and the government where the government conducts research on biotechnology and the environment and companies develop both commercial and industrial technologies. Students also work for the lab as interns, assisting research and creating illustration samples and templates for commercial computer software.
Students who graduate from Nihon Kogakuin College can transfer to Tokyo University of Technology if they wish to continue their higher education.
What's your role at the school?
Since 2004, I have been in charge of international business such as recruiting foreign students. We have offices in South Korea and Taiwan to introduce our schools.
Why did you decide to study at Nihon Kogakuin after high school?
Since it was the time of the student movement in the 1960s, I didn’t want to be an ordinary salaryman. Although I had a choice to go on to a university affiliated with my high school, I decided to study computers at Nihon Kogakuin because I thought computer technology would be important at that time.
Why are foreign students important?
Since young Japanese students are not interested in engineering and technology, the industry suffers from a labor shortage in IT and technology. Companies are also interested in foreign professionals in these areas.
What are your foreign students' nationalities?
We currently have 300 to 400 foreign students. 80% of them are from South Korea and Taiwan. Other students are from 20 countries all over the world.
Nihon Kogakuin College launched a Japanese language school last year
In April, 2007, we opened a Japanese language school for foreigners, which is affiliated with Tokyo University of Technology. We thought that with our own language school, it would be easier to attract foreign students. Graduates of the school can go on to Nihon Kogakuin College. During their study at the language school, students can take as many open day programs as they wish, so they can choose what to study after the language school.
The school offers animation and Japanese language summer course for foreigners
Yes. Summer courses are open-day events for foreigners to make them familiar with our schools. Open day is conducted throughout the year and similar events are held for Japanese too.
At the summer course, foreigners can learn basic Japanese language and experience animation and graphic courses at Nihon Kogakuin College for two weeks. Although participants have to buy flight tickets themselves, the tuition fee covers transportation, accommodation and food. Because all the classes offered are basic level, beginners are all welcome.
Who are the participants in the summer course?
We organize summer courses for both Asians and English-speaking people respectively. Participants in the course taught in English are almost all Americans. Some are high school students and some are working people in their 20s.
Currently, the maximum number of participants is 20, and lectures are given to two groups of 10, so we can give them careful instruction.
How is the situation for employment of foreign graduates?
Recently, many companies have been recruiting foreign graduates, especially in IT and technology areas due to a labor shortage. Nationality is not a problem. The school also gives advice on visa issues to companies who recruit foreigners for the first time.
Some 60% of foreign students wish to work in Japan after graduation, and all of them have got jobs in the past four years. Many foreign students wish to return to their countries after experience working in Japan for several years.
Students from Thailand, for example, will be well paid when they go back to their country after graduation. This is because they can speak Japanese and there are lots of Japanese companies in Thailand. Rather than English, Japanese language is more helpful to get well-paid jobs.
How do you advertise the school?
We put advertisements in free magazines in Japan and abroad. Our online website is one of the most effective advertising tools.
Do you want to teach again?
I'm enjoying my current job as director of CIE. I'd like to experience many different things in different fields.
What’s your managing style?
I always try to talk to students and have meetings with Japanese language schools to understand them. Being in the office doesn’t make anything happen.
What's a typical day for you?
I come to the office at 9 a.m. and leave around 10 p.m. I often attend events for recruiting foreigners nationwide and worldwide on Saturday and Sunday.
How do you like to relax?
I try to relax as much as I can. Although I would like to play golf which I like, I don’t have time because I’ve been busy these days.
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