By Oscar Johnson
That more firms in Japan are looking to mid-career hires is hardly surprising to those in the IT and ICT industry where there's also a burgeoning demand for foreign specialist engineers. Globally, the market as a whole (products, telecommunications, software and digital content) grew 6.3 percent in 2006 and is expected to reach $4.6 trillion in 2007. Japan remains No. 2 behind the U.S. in IT products and services, which rose year-on-year in 2006 by 6 percent to $214.4 billion (25.5 trillion yen) and 4.7 percent to $127.4 billion (15.1 trillion yen) respectively, according to CCID Consulting.
Combined, Japan's information and communication industry grew at an average annual rate of 5.5 percent between 1995 and 2004 to a 115 trillion yen - the nation's largest industry in terms of market scale, Gartner Research reported in January. How much does this industry need qualified candidates? Consider this: last year Gartner predicted that at a compound annual rate of 8.1 percent, Japan's IT outsourcing revenue alone will have risen from 3.3 trillion yen in 2004 to $4.9 trillion yen by 2009. "Japanese companies are placing a strong emphasis on promoting IT outsourcing," Gartner notes.
Nothing illustrates Japan's growing IT market more than Hokkaido's famed "Sapporo Valley." A take on California's Silicon Valley, it was dubbed so for its large concentration of IT businesses (and a more recent push into the biotech industry) under the collaborative efforts of the private sector, higher education and local government. While the dot-com bubble of the 1990s burst, the IT industry in Hokkaido exploded on to the scene in the 1980s and has grown in terms of revenue and jobs steadily since the late 1990s.
In fiscal 2004, Hokkaido's IT sector saw a sales increase for the fourth straight year to 317.2 billion yen and the number of those employed in IT rose to 17,346. That makes it the sixth largest industry after steel in terms of revenue and the prefecture's No. 2 employer after foodstuffs, according to a November report by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO).
"Continued growth and development will depend, however, on the industry securing highly capable human resources," the report says. To that end, several companies, upon eyeing Japan's shrinking workforce, are focusing more and more on foreign engineers.
Most notably, companies such as Papyrus Co. Ltd. have a high demand for bilingual control software engineers with specialization in C programming, and related hardware and operating systems. They are looking both abroad and in Tokyo, JETRO reports. Where Japan's IT sector once turned to foreign engineers as a cost-saving measure, today it's their technical expertise that makes them a hot commodity.
A good place to start looking at the demand for other specializations in this sector is the demand for its products. Japan's market for engineering software products such as CAD/CAM, PDM, EAI, and B2B collaboration tools has a history of being strong. License sales for enterprise products in this market for 2002, for example, hit 83.5 billion yen, a 65.3 percent year-on-year increase, according to a 2004 JETRO market trend report. It also estimated an annual average growth of 17.1 percent would value it at 134 billion yen by 2005.
In addition to application integration products, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software, which ties together supply chain elements from development and design to accounting, and procurement, are also in demand as more manufacturers position themselves to adapt quickly to shifts in local and global markets.
Some of the market leaders worth keeping and eye out for include IBM Japan, UGS PLM Solutions, PTC Japan, UGS PLM Solutions, MatrixOne, webMethods, Vitria Technology, Agile Software K.K. and Peregrine Systems. And one of the best places for finding career opportunities in IT and communications is at: http://www.careercross.com/en/022300_careercross.html