Photo/Illutration Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki, left, and Yoshio Sato, president of Career Bank Co., sign a business cooperation agreement at the Hokkaido government’s office on Sept. 2. (Ryuzo Nakano)

SAPPORO--The Hokkaido government has signed what it says is Japan’s first public-private partnership to help struggling foreign technical trainees find new employment during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The government signed the cooperation agreement with staffing agency Career Bank Co. in Sapporo on Sept. 2 to support trainees and other non-Japanese who are unable to return to their homelands because of COVID-19 travel restrictions or political strife.

“The endeavor will not only offer assistance for (foreign) residents of Hokkaido but also spread our message among those outside Japan that Hokkaido is a safe place for workers,” Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki said at the signing ceremony.

Under the agreement, the Hokkaido Foreign Resident Support Center will work with Career Bank to secure jobs for technical interns and others.

The center accepts complaints from foreign residents who find it difficult to return home.

According to the Hokkaido government, about 13,400 foreign technical trainees were living in the northernmost prefecture in October 2019.

With the expiration of their visa periods nearing, the interns have voiced concerns about their future employment.

The Justice Ministry has granted special permission for foreign trainees who cannot return home to continue working with their current employers during the pandemic.

Hokkaido’s move will make it easier for them to change jobs if they want.