An interview of ENN with Keiji Hara
An interview with our President/COO, Keiji Hara, was published in the October 10 issue of ENN (Engineering Network / Heavy Chemical Industry Communications). The article is reprinted and translated below with the permission of ENN.
An interview with Keiji Hara, Engineer Network, Inc. President/COO
Dispatching Filipino Engineers for vitalization of Japanese industry.
Hiring of young Japanese engineers has become difficult; Focusing to Filipino engineers.
Engineering Network, Inc. (ENI) has been dispatching plant engineers for many years. Recently, however, it has become difficult to recruit young Japanese plant engineers, partly due to changes in the industrial structure and a declining population. This is the reason why focusing on dispatching Filipino plant engineers. Many Filipino engineers possess three key criteria; they are young, plant-oriented, and English-speaking.
Mr. Keiji Hara, President of ENI, talked to us about the future of dispatching plant engineers.
You have been dispatching engineers to the plant industry, we have heard that there have been a lot of changes recently.
From five to six years ago, it has become difficult to dispatch Japanese engineers in their 30s and 40s. There are many senior Japanese engineers who are still working actively, but the number of engineers in their 30s and 40s, the relatively younger generation, is decreasing, and it has become difficult to secure human resources. Therefore, we have recently been focusing on dispatching Filipino engineers.
Focusing on Filipino engineers as an alternative to young Japanese engineers
Please tell us why you are focusing on dispatching Filipino engineers.
The main reason is that it is relatively easy to hire engineers in the Philippines who are in their 30s or 40s, they can speak English, and have a lot of knowledge about plant technology.
Also, as an engineer myself, I have a lot of experience in overseas projects and have worked with many Filipino engineers. I have the impression that Filipinos are very patient and keep their promises. And of course, they speak good English!
In addition, many companies in the plant engineering industry in Japan have design bases in the Philippines, so Japanese customers are also familiar with the country.
With this background, we are currently focusing on dispatching Filipino engineers.
Are there any difficulties in the system for Filipino engineers to work in Japan?
We used to be able to hire directly, but in 2017, the Philippine government mandated that we hire through a local agent in the Philippines, depending on the size of the company. In line with this system, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), a government agency in the Philippines, began issuing Overseas Employment Certificates (OEC). Even without an OEC, engineers can leave the country, but once they return, they cannot leave again.
Before this system was established, we used to hire Filipino engineers directly, but we can no longer do so. With this system, I feel that staffing agencies have become reluctant to dispatch Filipinos because of the time-consuming procedures involved.
Therefore, we have partnered with a local agent to handle the entire process, including the issuance of the OEC by POEA. This way, we can recruit Filipino engineers for our clients in an easier way.
Is dispatching of Filipino engineers the core of your business?
We dispatch engineers both from Japan and the Philippines, but it is difficult to recruit young Japanese engineers and secure human resources. For this reason, most of our dispatched Japanese engineers are seniors over 60 years old, and some of them are 73 years old with well-established careers.
On the other hand, in the Philippines, we can hire young engineers. If our customer requires a young engineer who is fluent in English, we can dispatch Filipino engineers.
How about the cost of Filipino engineers?
They are at the same level as Japanese, in some cases, even higher than Japanese.
A long time ago, Filipino engineers had a strong image of being "cheap," and we need to dispel that image.
We introduce engineers who are skilled, are of the younger generation, and are stable for the next 5 to 10 years.
Since we are introducing engineers who have lot of potential, we are asking for compensation that includes expectations.
What kind of knowledge and abilities do the dispatched engineers have?
Since we are an engineer dispatch company specializing in plants, we conduct thorough interviews to ensure that we can dispatch personnel covering all the lineup that major engineering companies are looking for, including piping, mechanical, electrical/instrumentation, project, QC/QA, and on-site SV.
Interviews are conducted on a one-on-one basis, and we take the time to screen them. Since we are currently dealing with Corona situation, we are handling this online. We listen to what the engineers want, tell them the conditions under, and when they can come to Japan.
Currently, due to the strict travel restrictions under the Corona situation, the normal procedure of recruitment does not work as planned. We are currently hiring mainly Filipino engineers living in Japan. One of the ways we do this is by introducing a referral system where ENI employees introduce us to engineers. We can find a lot of human resources domestically.
I heard that job hopping is popular in the Philippines in general.
I think it is difficult to expect the same kind of loyalty to an organization as the Japanese, but if you provide proper education and care, the people will respond to it. More and more companies are providing proper education, so I feel that job-hopping is decreasing these days.
Some of the Filipino engineers who are coming to Japan for the first time may feel uneasy about life in Japan.
She explains in detail what it will be like to work and live in Japan. Her support is very important, and we have gained the trust of our customers.
In fact, there are many details involved in living in Japan, from administrative procedures to opening a bank account. Our staff is always ready to support in these matters.
Filipino engineers will be dispatched to domestic projects in the future
What kind of companies are employing Filipino engineers?
A foreign-affiliated manufacturer with 200 to 300 employees is using our service, and they do not oppose accepting foreigners, moreover, they are proactively using our service.
How is status of working with the Japanese companies?
We have no problem working with Japanese engineering companies, but working with domestic plants is quite difficult.
This is about crisis management issue, when the factory is in a dangerous situation and there is an instruction "danger" or "run away," not being able to understand the language will delay the response and avoid the dangerous situation. For this reason, one of the requirements to enter the factory is that you must be Japanese.
At our company, we teach the Japanese phrases and expressions necessary for working at a Japanese company, and Filipino engineers are enthusiastically working to learn them. Even so, the reality is that the level of safety standards of Japanese manufacturers is so high that it is difficult for them to be accepted.
I think there are ways to announce an emergency other than words, and if we can train and educate people on what to do in case of danger, I don't see any problem.
You are right.
There are about 9.4 million Filipinos working in the world.
Since many the Filipinos work abroad, they have the ability to adapt to many different countries.
Up until now, we have mainly dispatched Filipino engineers to work on overseas projects for engineering companies, but from now on, we would like to dispatch engineers to domestic projects as well.
Thank you very much.
* The information posted here is as of the date of the announcement. Please note that the information may differ from the latest information.