Friday, June 15, 2007

Death of the Pink Rabbit

UPDATE June 17th: check out Trans-Pacific Radio's BizCast (listen, don't just read), and a recent article about NOVA.

"Breaking" news, as my internet access has been sketchy as of late - I apologize for the late of updates; I do have quite a few stories in the works, just not the means to properly research and post them.

NOVA, widely accepted as the worst of the Big Four (AEON, ECC, NOVA, GEOS) in the English teaching community, may be seeing the beginning of the end. This week the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry ordered NOVA to suspend part of its business for six months. This was intentionally left vague, but it will have a great effect on the eikaiwa's ability to sign long-term contracts.

How did this happen? The main reason - NOVA's policy on refunds for customers who wanted to cancel their contracts early (mainly due to inflexibility in the class schedule, but I really thought NOVA was good about that). When students wanted to cancel, the company "adjusted" the value of the classes they had already taken. The result? Less money for the customers, more money for the company. Essentially NOVA could change the price of classes already taken at their own discretion.

If we push this to the extreme, here's a good example (this did NOT happen): a student pays 50,000 yen for 5 classes. That's 10,000 yen a class. She takes two classes, then decides she hates NOVA and wants to leave. NOVA decides that the two classes she took were in fact worth 20,000, not 10,000 yen. She gets a 10,000 refund, and is sent on her way, left to ponder what happened to her other 20,000 yen.

Ken Worsley of Trans-Pacific Radio devotes most of his coverage on the NOVA story as a warning to current employees: get out. Get out now. He may be bordering on the extreme, but he's probably not far off; there will be a huge influx of teachers in the event the company can no longer employ them, and it would be best to start settling on other jobs. REMEMBER - YOUR VISA DOES NOT TIE YOU TO NOVA. YOU CAN WORK ANYWHERE YOUR STATUS ALLOWS.

Unfortunately for those of your in the eikaiwa world, NOVA will most likely hold the contract to your place of residence, so you'll have to find a cheap gaijin house or hostel in the interim. More on this later - I'm currently editing my entries about working in a Japanese eikaiwa.

Japan Probe story
NOVA stock


Garrett said...

Just to calrify a few points, most full-time Nova instructors hold "Specialist in Humanities/ International Services" visas for a period of one or three years. This type of visa does not tie the instructor to Nova and Nova is required to issue a letter of release (which says nothing about one's reason for leaving or what the company thought of him) upon request (provided, of course, that the employee has left the company, is not living in a residence provided by the company, and is not receiving pay from the company.) However, one cannot work anywhere on such a visa. One can teach at any English school, can work for certain dispatch companies, etc., and, now that the rules have been revised, can work directly for a school or school board in a part-time position without even having to get "Permission to Engage in Activity Other than That Specified by the Current Status of Residence," which was required until last year.

While holders of such visas may be able to find work as, say, bartenders, burger-flippers, or even proofreaders, this is, in most cases, technically illegal. Such jobs generally cannot sponsor such an employee for a residence extension.

As for the restrictions placed on Nova, they're pretty clear now. Nova can't solicit, accept, or finalize any contract with a duration of over one year or that includes over 70 classroom hours. This does not affect current contracts.

There were reports from some Nova instructors today that they were not paid on time (9:00 a.m. on the 15th.)

Any Nova instructor not putting his utmost into finding a new job right now is making a big mistake.

For info on Nova's financials, click on my name and look at the comments on the "METI. . ." article or BizCast Japan #4.

ターナー said...

Thanks for the comment Garrett - I didn't know you checked my blog.

Yes, you're absolutely right about the employment situation - I didn't mean to say a former NOVA employee could work anywhere; of course there are restrictions based upon the type of visa (fortunately, I didn't have to go change my status for my new job - do you know what the process is like?)

"Any Nova instructor not putting his utmost into finding a new job right now is making a big mistake."

Agreed. NOVA employees, check my job search websites on the right - Gaijinpot is probably best, but Tempstaff and jobsinjapan are pretty useful too. Daijob offers mostly IT and high-level Japanese language jobs: full-time, real jobs.

I've been keeping up with TPR as best I can, but I won't have steady internet access for another few weeks.