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Japan firms raise pay, train IT workers amid global race to retain top talent

Engineers from India invited by Nissan Motor Co. train IT workers in Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture, on July 3, 2019. (Mainichi/Tsuyoshi Kosaka)

TOKYO -- Big manufacturing firms in Japan are making efforts to secure and develop human resources who have cutting-edge IT skills including those relating to artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT) amid the global race to retain top talent.

Japanese electronics giants NEC Corp. and Sony Corp. are offering increased salaries to new employees with excellent skills to compete against global IT companies such as U.S. tech giants Google and Apple in the intensifying race to attract and keep the best talent.

From this October, NEC will introduce a new system that places no limits on the income of top researchers. The system applies to human resources with high levels of expertise and skills in areas including AI, cyber security and biometric authentication. Around 20 researchers are expected to be eligible for the new system.

Entry level employees can also work under this system depending on the content of what they have been researching at university. The starting salary for new staff with doctoral degrees, which is said to be currently about 5 million yen per year, will increase by several tens of thousands of yen per month. Along with the removal of a cap on bonuses, a worker could even earn as much as 10 million yen in the first year after joining NEC.

Sony will also raise its salaries for new workers with high skills relating to AI and in other fields by as much as about 30%. Depending on their ability, Sony will offer a salary as high as about 7.3 million yen, when traditionally, people with a master's degree or university graduates were paid some 6 million yen and 5.6 million yen, respectively.

Major IT firm Fujitsu Ltd. is also planning to introduce a new system in which workers with high levels of professional expertise in areas including AI are paid around 30 to 40 million yen per year.

Such companies are scrambling to secure human resources amid increasingly intensifying competition with overseas IT firms including Google to retain global personnel by offering high salaries. NEC President Takashi Niino stated, "If we want to continue competing internationally, we need to change our human resources system to a global one. Our current recruiting method cannot stay the same."

Meanwhile, some Japanese companies are making efforts to train their own engineers. In 2017, auto giant Nissan Motor Co. established a software training center in Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, to cultivate specialists for the development of autonomous cars and teach them other necessary skills. Nissan plans to train 100 people a year, and increase the number of those who have studied at the facility to 500 by fiscal 2022.

In the same year, major air conditioning manufacturer Daikin Industries Ltd. established a program in which about 200 employees are given training by professors at Osaka University -- working together with the company in the AI field. The company "hopes to engage in both mid-career recruitment and (engineer) training," according to a Daikin spokesperson, and instruct 1,000 workers by the end of fiscal 2021.

Electronics manufacturer Kyocera Corp. has also established a new research institute in the Minato Mirai seaside area in Yokohama, south of Tokyo. The company aims to hire human resources who have IT skills within the Greater Tokyo Area.

NLI Research Institute researcher Keiichiro Makino commented, "For human resources with IT skills paid higher salaries to perform well, there needs to be a change in the deep-rooted mindset of lifetime employment and promotion based on the seniority system among Japanese companies. There also need to be skill improvements among those including existing human resources, and (companies) must review their training methods."

(Japanese original by Tsuyoshi Kosaka and Tatsuya Michinaga, Business News Department)

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