Tokyo (SCCIJ) – The Swiss Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan (SCCIJ) has started its scholarship fund cooperation with the Swiss-Japan Chamber of Commerce (SJCC) in Zurich. A letter of agreement was already signed in June. As the first step, the SCCIJ became a sponsor of the Scholarship Fund by contributing CHF 10,000. In exchange, the SCCIJ is featured in all fund documentation and material as a prominent sponsor and partner. From now on, the SCCIJ can introduce promising candidates identified by the Fund to its members as a new service. Both chambers will collect some experience with the necessary information exchange. The cooperation may be enhanced further in the near future by institutionalizing the links with the Fund.
Big benefits for SCCIJ membership
The SCCIJ Executive Committee had good reasons for this new initiative which was approved by the General Assembly of the chamber in February. “First, the scholarship program may provide Swiss companies in Japan and the SCCIJ board with future young leaders of high quality”, Mr. Markus Gfeller, SCCIJ Vice-President for Kanto, explained one motivation. Currently 30 to 40 residents of Switzerland under the age of 30 apply for the one-year scholarship which consists of a half-year Japanese language course and another half-year internship in a company in Japan.
Then the new Chairman of the Fund, Mr. Martin Stricker, former SCCIJ President and now based in Switzerland, chooses four to six most potential recipients of a scholarship by personally meeting promising applicants and thoroughly checking their motivation, background and Japanese proficiency. Some of the successful scholarship recipients are then presented to the sponsors of the Scholarship Fund for selection. “One company alone is often not in a position to identify and develop future talent for their Japanese business”, Stricker said. The Fund in cooperation with the chambers can take on this role because it supports the whole Swiss business community and takes a long-term perspective.
Secondly, the SCCIJ can improve its member services by participating in the Scholarship Fund. “We get a lot of inquiries from universities and young Swiss who are looking for support in finding internships and financing stays in Japan”, Mr. Gfeller said. Now the SCCIJ could help these people directly instead of only referring to the existence of the scholarship program. “Infrastructure and selection process do not have to be invented from scratch and we can benefit from the know-how of the fund”, Gfeller emphasized. According to Chairman Stricker, companies are increasingly using the program to directly identify promising candidates for their businesses either in Japan or in Switzerland. SIKA for example has been a sponsor of the fund since 2013 and has one to two high potential candidates identified per year and placed in six-month internships in their Japanese subsidiary.
There is a third reason for the SCCIJ to support the Fund and get involved in its activities: The number of globally oriented Japanese companies with a simultaneous interest in Switzerland is growing quickly. Under Chairman Stricker, the Fund is putting a bigger emphasis on such Japanese companies. In the latest development, the Japanese specialist GC Dental became a sponsor. “The Scholarship Fund is the perfect instrument for these companies to get access to Swiss residents who want to work in Japan and learn Japanese”, Stricker said.
By operating also in this way, the Fund is able to counter the increasing difficulty to secure “general” sponsorship money. The cooperation between SJCC and the SCCIJ would also create synergies because of a partly overlapping membership of the two chambers. “It makes perfect sense that the chambers work together here”, Stricker told the SCCIJ. Considering the excellent ties between both chambers on a business and personal level, as well as the many synergies, it should not come as a surprise if both chambers decide to increase cooperation even further in the near future.
About the Scholarship Fund
The SJCC Scholarship Fund was established in 1988 and in its over 25 years of existence has enabled more than 220 recipients to spend a year in Japan dedicated to Japanese language training and acquiring first hand professional experience in a Japanese business environment through an internship. The fund which is structured as a non-profit organization, has granted over CHF 2.8 million in scholarships. Its officers do not receive any financial compensation. The Funds are audited annually by Deloitte in Zurich. As of December 31, 2014 the fund had assets of CHF 113,749. In recent years, total expenditure has been approx. CHF 30,000 – 40,000 per year.
The fund has an excellent reputation thanks to the dedicated work of Paul Dudler over the last 15 years as its Chairman. Prior to that he was the CEO of Novartis Japan. Some of the notable former scholarship recipients of the fund are Marco Ammann, General Manager, Atlas Copco KK (formerly Managing Director of Hilti Japan); Mike Zingg, Head Finance Pharmaceutical Operations Japan, Novartis Pharma KK; Alex Renggli, Head of Financial Affairs at Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland; Fabien Clerc, Director Japan, Switzerland Tourism and a member of the SCCIJ Executive Committee.
This article was originally published by SCCIJ here.