Japan to set new guidelines for accrediting vocational schools

Japan’s Immigration Services Agency plans to revise its guidelines to improve job opportunities for foreign vocational school graduates, putting them on an equal footing with university degree holders. This move aligns with the government’s goal to increase the domestic employment rate of foreign graduates to 60 percent by 2033.

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Japan’s Immigration Services Agency is set to expand job opportunities for foreign vocational school graduates as part of the country’s aim to secure highly skilled specialists.

According to the agency’s updated guidelines, graduates from education ministry-accredited institutions will receive equal employment opportunities to university degree holders. The objective of this new plan is to encourage proficient foreign students to build their careers in Japan.

Background
Whether from universities or vocational schools, foreign graduates typically apply for a visa under the “engineer, specialist in humanities or international services” category. The suitability for this visa largely depends on the alignment between their study major and career goal.

Previously, university graduates were assessed with “flexible judgment” based on their broad range of knowledge. In contrast, vocational school graduates, who undergo training in skills directly relevant to specific jobs and practical aspects of working in Japan, were subjected to stricter relevancy requirements between their studies and future job prospects.

Response
The new guidelines, scheduled for revision by year-end, aim to level the playing field by applying the same flexible judgment to vocational school graduates as to university graduates. This timing allows foreign students graduating next spring to plan their career trajectories accordingly.

Additionally, Japan’s education ministry is actively working on establishing a system to accredit vocational schools that offer high-quality education, with certification expected by the end of September.

Numbers
According to the Japan Student Services Organization, approximately 32,000 foreign students, accounting for nearly half of all foreign students in Japan, graduated from vocational schools in fiscal year 2021. However, around 10 percent of these graduates either returned home or relocated post-graduation.

In an effort to make Japan a more appealing long-term destination for foreign students, the Council for the Creation of Future Education, led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, has proposed enhancing their living conditions. The council aims to raise the domestic employment rate of foreign graduates from about 48 percent in 2018 to 60 percent by 2033.

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