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Vocational Training in China. The Potential for Growth

BritCham / CBBC
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With soaring competition for graduate jobs, many Chinese students are considering the undeveloped avenue of vocational education and training; a sector that offers much potential for development.

A record 6.6 million students are due to graduate from China’s Universities this summer, a figure that has increased six fold over the past decade. Higher education plays a crucial role in the country’s development, helping the country move from an export to consumer based system and drive innovation and technology. Despite the evolutionary speed of China’s economy, it has not been able to keep up with the growing demand for graduate-entry level jobs that satisfy the aspirations of China’s graduates. Finding an interesting and well-paid job upon graduation is becoming more and more difficult; with those who do not attend the most prestigious institutions often struggling to find work. The majority of students attend universities that are of a lower quality, and this had led to the emergence of what is know as the ‘ant-tribe’; graduates who are stuck with low-paid jobs and poor living conditions.

Many graduates attempt to overcome the difficulties they face by undertaking further study or undertaking internships, but a new trend in the work force could prove to be a more attractive alternative. Within China there is a real lack of people with practical, technical and vocational skills; those with numerical and literacy skills to fill middle- management positions. The demand for these skills is not being met. Despite the growth and investment in university education over the last decade, there hasn’t been the same expansion in vocational education and training. There are few institutions that specialize in this area, and employers are often reluctant to invest in this type of training for employees because of a high turn over in the workforce.

However, an increased interest in vocational education and training is slowly starting to emerge amongst China’s youth. Many are starting to see it as an investment to gain faster progression within a company, despite the possibility of starting in a lower position. Programmes offering dual systems of vocational training and practical experience are becoming more popular, especially in IT and engineering sectors and many companies are starting to look at vocational training to secure the staff they need. Foreign companies are also starting to notice the potential this sector offers. Last year, the German Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai teamed up with Chien Hsuing Vocational School in Taicang on the outskirts of Shanghai to develop a vocational course to support a number of companies in the region.

In the face of employment difficulties, vocational training is something that can work well for all parties. Companies are supplied with the staff they need, and employees gain valuable skills that make them desirable in the market. There is real potential for this market to grow and many overseas companies are bringing their expertise to meet the steadily growing demand.

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