The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

The ACCJ Education Task Force, created recently by ACCJ President Christopher J. LaFleur and led by Oak Lawn Marketing President and CEO Harry Hill and William Swinton, director of international business studies at Temple University’s Japan campus, announced on June 17 the ACCJ Internship Pilot Program in collaboration with the Embassy of the United States in Tokyo. I am also a member of the Task Force and a member of the Board in my role as vice president of the Kansai chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ).

This is a perfect example of how the ACCJ can help not just our members, but the larger community of Japanese businesses and universities. Through this program, we can share best practices and provide guidance regarding professional internships.

In Japan, internships—as we conceive them—for the most part do not exist. The word internship is used to mean basically a visit by students to a company office for as a little as one day. At the most, these visits span only a few days. In contrast, internships in the United States are the path for 50% of all new hires involving college graduates. These internships generally last one or two months.

The ACCJ program is designed to help expand internships with our member companies here in Japan. In total we have 11 companies committed to participating in the pilot program.

Of particular interest to us is assisting Japanese students who are returning from abroad as they seek internships at our member companies and other firms in Japan. The standard hiring practice in Japan, call shukatsu, puts Japanese students who study abroad in their junior year at a disadvantage. United States Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy recently promoted our new program at a meeting of the US–Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange (CULCON). She mentioned this facet of our program in particular.

“The ACCJ’s internship program will reward students who studied in the United States with professional development opportunities in Japan,” Kennedy said. “And the companies will benefit from Japanese students who have the language and cultural skills needed for today’s global economy. It’s a win-win for both the students and the companies.”

My university, Kansai Gaidai in Osaka, has been running a Western-style internship program for our Japanese and non-Japanese students for the past two years. Non-Japanese students have been placed in firms such as Daikin, Hankyu-Hanshin, Komatsu, Panasonic, and Sumitomo Bank. At Temple University in Tokyo, William Swinton has had a program in place for over five years. Internships can be successfully run in Japan, but to make their success a broader phenomenon the ACCJ Education Task Force has taken this first step. We have much work to do, but the ACCJ, Japanese businesses, local universities, and students from here in Japan and abroad have much to gain if we are successful. This pilot program will lead the way.

Pilot Program Participating Companies

Carter JMRN
The Coca-Cola Japan Company, Limited
OLM / Shop Japan

Dr. Stephen A. Zurcher is vice president of the ACCJ Kansai chapter
Of particular interest to us is assisting Japanese students who are returning from abroad as they seek internships at our member companies and other firms in Japan.