April 1, 2023

Tokyo, Japan – When Leonid Riznyk arrived in Japan from war-torn Ukraine in April 2022, he knew that getting a job in Tokyo can be tough.

Riznyk, who fled the northeastern metropolis of Kharkiv along with his girlfriend within the early days of the Russian invasion, spoke no Japanese and had little sensible work expertise past a stint as a part-time 3D printing engineer.

“The job hunt was powerful,” Riznyk, 19, instructed Al Jazeera. “However there have been good individuals who helped me quite a bit, so even I [newly] graduated Ukrainian pupil, might discover a good place in an excellent firm.”

Eight months after touchdown in Japan as certainly one of about 2,000 Ukrainian “evacuees” granted short-term residency and work rights, Riznyk landed a job at Tokyo Techies, an IT consulting and software program improvement firm, as a front-end engineer.

Rizny’s break got here via the Japan-Ukraine Tech Bridge initiative, a scholarship program established to concurrently assist displaced Ukrainians discover work and deal with employee shortages in Japan’s tech sector, which is feeling the consequences of a quickly growing old Japanese inhabitants,

Launched by NGO Stand With Ukraine Japan, attire tech firm Virtusize, and funding agency Nextblue, the scholarship is awarded to asylum seekers to permit them to take part in Le Wagon Tokyo, the native chapter of an intensive coding boot camp based in France in 2013.

Three of the ten out there scholarships have already been awarded, certainly one of which went to Riznyk.

“I had some minor expertise in IT; simply fundamentals of front-end improvement,” he stated. “The boot camp helped me enhance my expertise and in addition construct a portfolio for myself and eventually open a gate to the world of the Japanese IT business.”

Leonid Riznyk obtained a job with a Japanese tech agency after finishing the Le Wagon Tokyo coding boot camp. [Courtesy of Leonid Riznyk]

Over the course of 10 weeks – consisting of 9 weeks of programming from 9am to 6pm and a “profession week” to assist streamline graduates’ entry into the office – boot camp individuals purchase the fundamental technical expertise to develop into internet builders and, doubtlessly, land a coveted job at a Japanese tech firm.

Sasha Kaverina, co-founder of Stand With Ukraine Japan and head of partnerships and progress at Le Wagon Tokyo, was in Japan when Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of her homeland on February 24, 2022.

Then in March, Kaverina, a long-term Tokyo resident, made the tough journey again house to persuade her mom and father to briefly relocate to the west of Ukraine from Kharkiv, a missile-battered metropolis close to the Russian border. After two stressed days touring on planes and buses, Kaverina met her dad and mom within the metropolis of Chernivtsi, the place she labored remotely for her firm in Japan whereas doing volunteer work and help runs throughout the Romanian border.

Upon returning to Tokyo a number of weeks later, Kaverina felt decided to do no matter she might to assist her folks.

“I began to consider how I might assist Ukrainians begin a brand new life from scratch in Japan,” Kaverina instructed Al Jazeera. “The reply got here fairly quick often because I am working at an establishment that offers folks the prospect to modify to a brand new profession.”

Kaverina floated the concept of ​​a scholarship for Ukrainian “evacuees” – the Japanese authorities has but to grant them formal “refugee” standing – to Nextblue, an early-stage enterprise capital agency, and Virtusize, a trend tech firm based in Sweden with headquarters To put in Tokyo.

Yuichi Kori, a basic accomplice at Tokyo-based Nextblue, felt “nice disappointment” on seeing information studies of the Russian invasion, he instructed Al Jazeera.

So when Kaverina introduced him with the concept of ​​the Ukraine-Japan scholarship, Kori determined to again it immediately, contacting the chief executives of companies in his funding portfolio, a few of whom have been eager to sponsor scholarships.

“Not solely does this assist Ukrainian refugees,” stated Kaverina, “however as soon as they graduate … it could possibly additionally assist deal with the scarcity of IT specialists in Japan.”

Sasha Kaverina
Sasha Kaverina helps displaced Ukrainians begin a brand new life from scratch in Japan [Courtesy of Sasha Kaverina]

Points round poor digital literacy have plagued Japan over the past decade. The nation’s inflexible, seniority-based wage system has been criticized for undermining the IT sector, with low pay blamed for failing to lure bold IT engineers and software program builders. In 2022, the jobs-to-applicants ratio for IT professionals will hit 10 to at least one, the biggest disparity of any business measured, in line with figures from staffing company Persol Profession.

The sector’s comparatively unattractive situations have prompted many younger programmers and builders to look overseas or to foreign-owned firms.

Andreas Ueno-Olausson, the CEO of Virtusize, stated his expertise of working with Ukrainian tech companions led him to see younger, technologically savvy Ukrainians struggling to search out work in Japan as “wasted expertise”.

“I’ve a dream that Japanese firms will rent Ukrainians coming to Japan and use this chance to get entry to arguably the world’s finest tech market, return on investment-wise,” Ueno-Olausson instructed Al Jazeera. “Put them into internships, put them into jobs in Japanese tech firms, and perhaps they are often ‘the bridge’.”

The significance of Japan-Ukraine Tech Bridge has been underscored by the excessive proportion of unemployed Ukrainian evacuees. Greater than 60 % of the two,000 or so Ukrainian evacuees in Japan have been unemployed on the finish of final yr, in line with a survey by the Nippon Basis. Practically 80 % of these with jobs have been solely working part-time, in line with the survey.

Yulia Naumenko, a 30-year-old evacuee from Ukraine’s jap metropolis of Sumy, is amongst these at the moment exploring the job market.

After witnessing a number of failed makes an attempt by authorities to evacuate civilians because the Russian military diminished Sumy to rubble, Naumenko and her mom have been supplied a lifeline by her brother, a software program engineer who has been dwelling in Tokyo for the previous 4 years. Following a roundabout journey out of Ukraine, the pair arrived in Tokyo in late March final yr.

Though Naumenko already had an curiosity in IT, she had misgivings when she heard in regards to the scholarship program in a bunch chat for Ukrainian asylum seekers. Not solely was she working late nights as a knowledge supervisor in Sumy seven time zones away, she was additionally juggling organizing her documentation for residency and taking care of her aged mom.

Kaverina, the co-founder of Stand With Ukraine Japan, satisfied Naumenko there was potential profession progress inside the IT sector and to use for the scholarship. Naumenko heeded the recommendation and graduated from the boot camp alongside Riznyk final yr.

“It’s arduous to discover a job proper now as a result of persons are not searching for junior engineers … and discovering a job in IT shouldn’t be a quick course of,” Naumenko instructed Al Jazeera, referring to the a number of interviews and sensible expertise assessments essential to land a task in internet improvement.

Julia Naumenko
Yulia Naumenko is searching for work in Japan’s talent-starved tech sector [Courtesy of Yulia Naumenko]

Nonetheless, Naumenko has an upcoming interview with an area tech firm and has a number of extra purposes pending a response.

“I am additionally busy volunteering with Stand With Ukraine Japan, and doing work for my buddies to ensure I do not neglect easy methods to do the programming,” she stated.

At Tokyo Techies, based by Vietnamese entrepreneur Duc Doba, Riznyk has discovered himself thriving in a “laid-back” setting that permits him to refine his expertise.

He plans to remain in Japan for at the least one other 5 years and hopes the native tech sector will notice the chance introduced by the inflow of Ukrainians.

“IT firms, if they will, ought to present internships for Ukrainian refugees who wish to be IT specialists,” Riznyk stated.

“Ultimately, it will likely be extra worthwhile for them, as a result of many of the refugees are younger, practically graduated college students, whose potential is not unlocked but. The youth who search a possibility to work in Japan, stay right here and pay taxes can be repaying all who helped them.

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