Japanese building firm plans for future

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Small Japanese building firm draws up blueprint for future




Carpentry is by no means a magnet for new graduates on the job front in Japan. because of the low ages, and like any other industry in Japan it is beset by the impact of a greying population.

But Heisei. Corp., a small construction company in Shizuoka Prefecture, is doing its part to turn things around, with a pool of 220 carpenters comprising many who finished graduate programs at the country’s top schools.

“The construction industry is experiencing an acute ageing (of workers),” Hisao Akimoto, who heads Heisei, said.

“I wanted to lay down arrangement sand build a company to prevent such professionals from becoming extinct from this world,” said the 68-year-old president of the Numazu-based company with a turnover of around ¥1.5 billion in fiscal 2015.

The number of carpenters in Japan dropped to 400,000 in 2010. This is from roughly 1 million in the 1980s.

They are projected to shrink further to 210,000 in 2020, when Japan hosts the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Many are believed to be in their 50s.

Akimoto was a salesman with a home building firm before setting up Heisei in 1989. He was aiming to turn it into a business with a team of building professionals. Including a traditional master carpenter to undertake whole projects from design to execution.


“Carpenters used to enjoy a solid reputation,” said Akimoto. His father was a master overseeing around 30 carpenters at his shop, which eventually went bankrupt.

“As a master carpenter, he was engaged in designing, building, management and training of apprentices.”

But the profession has lost its appeal, he said, because construction work has becoming increasingly compartmentalised, and carpenters are merely assigned to assemble parts.

Heisei covers work from wooden houses to 10-story reinforced concrete buildings for apartments in the greater Tokyo area. and has 575 people in its payroll, including the 220 carpenters.

“I took the trouble of going to numerous job offer meetings by business in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya just to speak about what makes carpentry fascinating,” Akimoto said.

In addition to such a job promotion efforts, he also decided to offer salaries to new recruits matching those of major general contractors and pay semiannual bonuses.

“Then students themselves started coming to Heisei Corp.,” he said.

One of those postgraduate carpenters is Taiyo Byakuno, 28, who joined in April 2014 after finishing a postgraduate program in architecture at Waseda University.

“I took up carpentry because I wanted to build stylish homes,” he said at a Heisei construction site in Mishima, Shizuoka Prefecture, in December last year.

Byakuno said he does not have the experience of working with nails or chisels and learned how to use them in a training  program on a building site.

“I recently passed an exam for first-class architect,” he said, referring to the premier certification by the Japan Federation of Architects and Building Engineers Associations.

“In the future, I want to engage in comprehensive home building, covering design to site work.”

Meanwhile, Akimoto, Heisei’s president, is a believer in general education.

“It’s necessary to have a cultured mind to come up with quality buildings that incorporate customer’s needs,” he said.


Final note

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The aim of the articles is to be short enough to easily digest, whilst still providing some important new words. Furthermore, we deliberately choose topics that you’ve probably heard in the news already. This makes them relatable and easier to understand. Could you tell your teacher about this news story, in English? Try to practice recounting the story, or even rewriting it in your own words. Afterwards, you can show it to your teacher for correction. Additionally, you could also try a translation of the article. This is an intellectually stimulating exercise which is both fun and great practice for understanding the different ways of thinking between English and Japanese. Finally, please remember to have fun learning English! The most rewarding thing for us at Michael’s English School is seeing your results. See you next time!

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