Japan Inc. feeling the squeeze to attract, nurture skilled IT workers

December 8, 20164:18 pm1356 views
Japan Inc. feeling the squeeze to attract, nurture skilled IT workers
More and more IT workers are needed by automakers and other manufacturers as they introduce networked internet connectivity to their products. | ISTOCK

Competition for talented information technology experts is intensifying in Japan’s job-hopping market amid advances in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Demand for competent IT workers is growing rapidly from non-IT companies in the face of an expanding need for adaptation to the so-called internet of things (IoT), or the networking of automobiles, home appliances and other physical objects, and artificial intelligence.

Automakers stand out in the market, and the new technologies not only promise drastic improvement in the efficiency of manufacturing operations but may also make self-driving technology fully practical.

“Automakers are betting their fate on the development of self-driving vehicles now that Google Inc. and other nonautomotive companies are entering the sector,” said Kaoru Fujii, chief editor of the Recnavi Next career-switch website.

IT engineers who used to work mainly for the creation and management of in-house computer systems at non-IT companies are seen offering extra value to final products.

While the overall ratio of job offers to midcareer job seekers in August was 1.79 — or 179 job offers for every 100 seekers — the ratio stood at 2.77 for systems engineers, including those involved in AI, and 4.82 for IoT and other internet professionals, according to Recruit Career Co., a Tokyo-based comprehensive employment information service provider.

IT engineers usually change jobs within the same sector, although demand for them is strong among automakers and other manufacturers. In the April to June period, 47 percent of job-switching IT engineers stayed in their current industries, while only 9.1 percent joined manufacturing companies, according to Recruit Career.

The trend is attributed to the IT industry’s pay structure, with high financial rewards for competent engineers. Manufacturers need to create “an environment for paying hefty salaries to talented (IT) workers,” Fujii said.

IT workers tend to remain in the same sector also because IT companies offer attractive working conditions such as comfortable in-house cafeterias.

Manufacturers are unable to attract competent IT engineers because they often farm out the whole process of developing programs to systems vendors, said an executive at an engineer dispatch company.

Japanese companies are trailing behind U.S. and German businesses in the international market for IT experts. While an increasing number of U.S. and German companies assign IT engineers to manage projects and help them become leaders, Japan Inc. lacks such a culture, experts say.

With competition to set international standards for self-driving vehicles expected to increase further for IoT equipment, industrial robots and other devices, many analysts forecast that Japan will face an uphill battle.

The country cannot afford to waste time establishing a corporate culture that attracts IT professionals to the manufacturing sector, they say.


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