Japan Country Director:
Strategic Personnel Department Co., LTD, Veriteworks Inc.
Background of Japan’s national qualification system
In Japan, it has long been considered common to work for the same company from graduation until retirement. However, nowadays as people’s values are diversifying, we are entering a new era in which more people want to realize their own way of working and lifestyle. Along with rapid changes in society, the demand for career services is increasing.
Given this background, the "100,000 Career Consultants Training Plan" aims to double the current number of career consultants (approximately 50,000) by the end of March 2025. In April 2016, a new national qualification for career counselors was created. Since the new system requires that career counselors renew their license every five years, improvement and standardization among qualified personnel is expected.
Improvement of work environment
Under the "Vocational Ability Development Promotion Law", the task of employers is to "secure opportunities for career consultation and other assistance as necessary" for their employees. Specifically, it will be required to make effective use of "a person with expert knowledge and skills related to career consultation" and "provide professional services for career consultation".
From the workers' perspective, it is expected that they will be provided with a work environment where they can easily consult with career consultants and counselors, and will be able to positively think about their own career. The employer's challenge is to reconcile the career plan required by the worker with their business plan, and then take measures to create a workable environment for the right persons in the right place. Given the rapidly declining birthrate and aging population in Japan, this policy seems to be a meaningful measure to sustain the labor force population.
Demand for Human Resources development and training poses a challenge
Many Japanese career consultants and counselors belong to public employment security offices, University employment support departments, and private employment support organizations. Many consultations are related to human resources matching. The percentage of companies involved in human resource development and training is about 20%. With 100,000 people planned, increasing demands for human resources development and career development will become a challenge.
At the APCDA Conference, Mr. Ryoji Tatsuno, President of the Japan Career Development Association, announced that the Japanese government has decided to implement a national level certification process for Career Development Advisors in order to assure quality and clarify this new and growing field. This is a dramatic and important move in Asia. Few other countries, including the US, have a national level certification requirement for career development advisors.
Currently, about 40,000 people hold certification from one of the 7 approved providers. For information about the variety of training programs in Japan, please click here to read a web article which was translated to English by Dr. Akira Otani. Notice that Career Counselor, Employment Counselor, and Career Development Advisor are names that are used interchangeably in Japan. For even more detail on these training programs, click here to see a list of the training providers and their requirements.
Of these certified career development advisors, 14,000 were trained by Nippon Manpower, the largest Japanese provider of this training. A group of conference attendees toured the Nippon Manpower facilities, hosted by manager Michi Mizuno. Nippon Manpower was founded in 1967 to provide training to business professionals, recruitment and outplacement services, and government policy implementation.
Ms Mizuno explained that, in the 1990's, unemployment in Japan began a steady rise, peaking in 2003, at over 5%. The Japanese society is aging. Many older workers have held a variety of occupations over their lifespans. Globalization has caused high labor costs in Japan to be questioned and large numbers of workers have been forced to shift from manufacturing to the service sector. These changes have caused growing awareness that workers need assistance clarifying their career opportunities and transitioning to new fields. Currently, 25% of the population is over 65, and the working-age population is declining, adding more stress to the labor market.
In 2000, Mr. Tatsuno initiated the Japan Career Development Association. JoAnn Harris Bowlsbey, then President of NCDA, was asked to help Nippon Manpower develop a Career Development Advisor curriculum. Career development advisors currently help young workers find a place in the labor market and senior workers look for meaning in retirement or second careers. They provide services related to coping strategies, motivation and satisfaction, work-life balance, and diversity. Career Development Advisor training takes place over a 3 to 4 month time period and requires 140 hours of coursework. An examination is required for certification. The certification must be renewed every five years and continuing education is required for recertification. While a small number of graduates work in schools (K-12), most work in outplacement, university career centers, public agencies, and human resource departments of private companies.
At the APCDA Conference, Dr. Agnes Watanabe urged that Japan review is reliance on Career Development Advisors, who may have no training in counseling. The dearth of counselor education programs preparing master's level career counselors allows the lines to become blurred between advising and counseling.
November 2013 Japan Country Report by Yoshiji Ishikawa
Labor Market Trends
Training for career counselors and advisors
There are private career development groups, such as Japan Career Development Association, that provide training programs for their members. At this time the Government has not initiated standard training programs for career counselors and advisors.
Career Counseling/Advising in Japan by Yoshiji Ishikawa
As a result of the pension eligibility age being raised, the government has mandated that every employee can work until age 65. This law ensures that many employees will work about 40 years for the same company because there is lifetime employment in Japan. Career counselors or advisors are needed support employees who want to build their career autonomously not dependent on the company.
Many employees who graduated from college or university are employed as the stem candidates in Japanese companies. They may have experienced some personal relocation and job rotation and could be promoted to manager and executive. They need to be supported at 20's or 30's or 40's to develop their career without depending on their employer.
In addition, there is the now the opportunity to retire around mid 50's. It is feared that the worker’s motivation will decline. It is difficult for people in their 50's to change their career to another company. The employees of this age are concerned about ways to prove they are still valuable to their employer. Career counselors are needed to assist these employees at this stage of their careers.
The rate of working women between 25 and 39 years old has decreased from 70% to 66% this year. This decline is a result of the population that is aging and the lack of government support of women in the workforce. The government is now considering measures to support working women by raising the wage compensation during childcare holidays, extending the childcare holiday period and increasing the percentage of female managers. There is a lack of support for men to participate in raising a family. Very few employers offer childcare leave for men. Hopefully this will change. Career counselors and advisors should support work-life balance for male clients, not just female clients.
As a result of the economic recovery trend, the employment rate of new graduates has improved. However, the non-employment rate after graduation still is 15.4%. Many students still think the jobs are with larger companies. As a result, employment with small and medium-sized enterprises is quite low. There is still lifetime employment in Japan and many companies hire new recruits after graduation immediately in April. If students are not employed after graduation, it is difficult for them to be hired as a regular employee.
Many students think “If joining a large company, the company will provide good benefits to me.” There is a need to educate the students so that they will embrace the need to change their awareness to pursuing their career for themselves. All universities have career education but there is a tendency to treat career education and vocational education as being the same. Therefore, career counselors and advisors need to show the students the distinction between career support and vocational support.
There are private career development groups that provide some training programs for their members. At this time the Government has not initiated standard training programs for career counselors.