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China strengthens vocational education to boost employment

10-05-2010 11:25 BJT Special Report:Happy National Day Holiday |

NANJING, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) - Three months after high school, 18-year-old Wang Mingyuan landed a part-time job in KTK Group, one of China's leading railway components manufacturers, in east China's Jiangsu Province.

Unlike other migrant workers, Wang also started a three-year vocational school education at the same time, thanks to the work-study program launched this year by the Jiangsu provincial government.

The program offers employment opportunities in high-technology and community-service fields to vocational school students. Currently, Wang works three days of each week in the company and spends another two days as a student, learning computer science and engineering.

"I felt very depressed about the future when I knew I failed the college entrance exam. But after attending the work-study program, I think if I work hard, I may fare as well as those with college educations," Wang said.

"Through the program, I could gain career-related, on-the-job work experience, which is valuable for my job hunting and career development," he continued.

For a long time, college has been seen as a necessary, even if not sufficient, ticket to the middle class by the Chinese people. However, the steadily increasing number of students attending Chinese colleges since the late 1990s caused a growing number of graduates to fail in finding a job.

In contrast, skilled workers are badly needed in China as skilled job vacancies hit 4 million across the country by the end of 2009.

"As the country's industrial restructuring accelerates, the demand for skilled workers will become increasingly buoyant," said Huo Jianguo, director of the Trade Research Institute affiliated with the Ministry of Commerce.

On the one hand, the employment market ran short of skilled workers. On the other hand, China's employment situation remained grave as millions of people were laid off, Huo said.

China's urban unemployment rate stood at 4.3 percent at the end of 2009, with 9.21 million people unemployed.

According to data from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, 24 million people, including 6.3 million new college graduates and 6 million high school graduates, would enter the job market this year, though only 12 million jobs were available.

"We do not need only bankers and economists, but also qualified plumbers and mechanics to help us unblock drains and fix cars," said Zhao Shuming, professor of human resource management at Nanjing University in Jiangsu.

Zhao pointed to the creation of such work-study programs as a good way to gear young workers up for future jobs while addressing the unemployment problem.

Wang's story was a showcase of how China is seeking to boost employment and strengthen the training of human resources to improve the quality of its work force.

To meet the demands of different groups in finding jobs and preparing them for different types of careers, the government has conducted various vocational training programs. By the end of 2009, for instance, there were over 6,000 technical schools and employment training centers and over 2,000 private vocational training institutions, according to data from the Information Office of the State Council, China's cabinet.

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