Microsoft Japan is committed to empowering Japanese nonprofit organisations through Information Technology (IT) skills and training, and one of the ongoing initiatives that has taken off successfully in the country is the Wakamono UP programme (Secretariat: NPO Sodateage Net).

As part of the programme, Microsoft collaborates closely with a number of nonprofit partners in Japan, with the aim to improve the skills of NPO staff (such as through Train the Trainer sessions) in order to provide technology and training to help young people realise their full potential. In the past two years, around 7,000 Japanese youth have benefitted from the Wakamono UP programme.

“The Wakamono UP programme, led by Microsoft in partnership with non-profit organisations in Japan, such as Sodateage Net, plays an integral role in helping underserved young people gain social independence. This is achieved through combining nonprofit expertise in providing counselling and career support and IT skills training,” said Michiko Miyamoto, Professor at the Open University of Japan and a Wakamono UP Advisory Board member. “We have seen very positive results to date, with the young adults who participate in the programme recording a 10 to 20 percent higher employability rate compared to those who do not join the programme .”

One such person who has benefitted immensely from the Wakamono UP programme is 27-year-old Akira Onoyama, a high school graduate in Tokyo who joined the Kawaguchi Youth Support programme facilitated by the nonprofit organisation Sodateage Net.

Mr Onoyama experienced academic difficulties in a college environment and was unable to secure proper employment after leaving school. Since signing up for the Kawaguchi Youth Support programme in early 2010, he equipped himself with basic computer skills and was accredited as a Microsoft® Office specialist in Excel® and Access®. 

These new-found skills not only helped Mr Onoyama gain self-confidence, but also landed him an internship with Microsoft Japan, where he spent a month with the Microsoft Office Pre-Installed PC (PIPC) division. His work ethic, strong customer service approach and empathy toward his colleagues were duly recognised, and Mr Onoyama was later offered a position with IT Agent (ITA), one of Microsoft’s PIPC partners in Japan. Akira is currently successfully enhancing his career at yet another Microsoft partner, IMF. 

Mr Onoyama said, “The Wakamono UP programme helped me discover my purpose in life and forge new friendships. If it had not been for the programme, I would not have been able to meet the friends I now have, or have the chance to join the internship programme at Microsoft Japan, which led to my current role. My personal experiences would not have been possible without the right community support – I believe it is important that we continue reaching out to and supporting each other.”

“We at Microsoft Japan are firm believers in the importance of closing the opportunity divide, and we fully support the internship programmes for disadvantaged young people. Having spent a significant amount of time with Akira, we saw great improvements over the course of his internship, especially in terms of his social and communication skills. It is important for Microsoft to provide its full support for such initiatives,” said Jun Munakata, Executive Officer and General Manager, Consumer & Partner Group, Microsoft Office Pre-installed PC Division.