The young generation in Japan prefers to live a stable life and has no desire to start a business, or so it’s been said. This is corroborated by a recent survey carried out by major recruiting firm Hays on 1,000 Japanese people aged between 18 and 30. The survey found that 58% of respondents had no interest in starting their own business, the highest among the 13 countries surveyed. In addition, this year’s White Paper on Small and Medium-sized Businesses pointed out that the number of Japanese who are willing to start a business has declined to about 840,000, down by half from 1997. The government paper warns that this phenomenon “cannot be overlooked” and that “urgent measures are needed.” Hence, according to Nikkei (10/13), METI has requested a 500 million-yen budget for FY2015 for improving Japan’s entrepreneurship education. Although the government’s measures were mainly focused on universities and graduate schools in the past, more efforts will be poured into grades 1 through 12, according to Nikkei.
The good news is that some venture companies in Japan are beginning to provide unique programs in entrepreneurship for junior high and high school students. Nikkei wrote that Life is Tech!, a Tokyo-based company dedicated to providing IT education to teenagers, recently launched a new entrepreneurship program for junior and high school students in cooperation with KCJ Group, the operator of KidZania in Tokyo. According to Nikkei, about 20 students gathered on October 5 in the corporate headquarters of major cutlery company Kai Corporation, where they were tasked with developing proposals for unique, new products. Under the program, students will receive advice from company employees about their proposals, and over the course of three months they will create prototypes using 3D printers and promotional videos, eventually presenting their proposals to the Kai Corporation management. Outstanding proposals will be commercialized. Life is Tech! CEO Yusuke Mizuno stresses: “It is important to actually commercialize their proposals.”
Mytoy is a Gifu-based company that has a unique entrepreneurship educational program for children from primary to high school age. As the employees of a “mock joint-stock company,” students will conduct market research, collect funds, and collaborate with local companies to commercialize their ideas. According to Nikkei, the company has already offered the program to about 400 schools in Tokyo. The president of Mytoy says: “Some students were inspired and began to think about new career options through our program.” Nikkei also wrote about companies that are beginning to provide educational programs to reach out to “future customers.” CyberAgent Crowd Funding has launched a joint crowdfunding project with Shinagawa Joshi Gakuin, a girls’ high school in Tokyo, while Tohmatsu Venture Support began a program in which entrepreneurs will visit schools to teach students about starting a business.
The paper wrote, however, that there is still a lack of sufficient knowledge about entrepreneurship education in Japan, quoting Venture Enterprise Center Director Ryuji Ichikawa as saying: “We still don’t have enough teachers and only a portion of schools offer entrepreneurship education. We need to spread this nationwide.” Perhaps there is still a long way to go for entrepreneurship education to really take root in Japan’s education system, but the momentum seems to be building. Nikkei wrote that entrepreneurship education will be a new business opportunity for venture companies in the future.