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Vocational education is key to China’s employment and entrepreneurship and to speeding economic and social development, president Xi Jinping wrote in a letter last week to the World Vocational and Technical Education Development Conference.

The conference, the first of its kind, was held in the Chinese city of Tianjin, where manufacturing accounts for about half the regional economy.

On 1 May, China enacted a new law declaring vocational training to be equally important as general education and encouraging innovative approaches to technical training.

China’s technically skilled workforce is estimated to reach 30 million by 2025 as the country seeks self-sufficiency and global leadership in artificial intelligence, electric vehicles, new energy, robotics, and other fields, the state-controlled Global Times newspaper said.

“Vocational education is the most efficient and direct way of nurturing high-quality skilled talent and is conducive to improving the quality and configuration of production factors, contributing to a world economic recovery,” vice-premier Sun Chulan told the gathering.

China’s economy has seen a “drastic increase” in demand for technically skilled workers to an “unprecedented” level, especially in manufacturing, Wang Weiyuan, vice-president of the Tianjin Vocational College of Mechanics and Electricity (TVCME), told the GT.

“Chinese society is in urgent need of high-quality professional workers,” he said.

In some fields, graduates emerging from technical schools experience a 100-percent employment rate, according to the GT.

Many businesses have formed partnerships with schools to begin training in students’ junior years to prepare them with the skills they need to step into jobs with the companies, an initiative called “order-form teaching.”

Mercedes-Benz has such an agreement with TVCME, where 70 percent of its graduates are in order-form training as Mercedes workers upon graduation, the GT reported.

“We’re not talking about blue-collar workers…or migrant workers without any entry threshold,” Qi Yuming, deputy dean at the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Equipment at the Tianjin University of Technology and Education, said in a GT interview.

“To be qualified for new kinds of jobs, you need to be professionally trained, innovation-oriented, and hold a lot of certificates,” he noted.

China has 11,300 technical training institutions with more than 30 million students, Ministry of Education data shows, making it by far the world’s largest technical education system.

With the urban unemployment rate at a record 19 percent among people 24 years old and younger, the solution is to “scale up vocational training and draw more students in,” Cong Yi, economics professor at Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, said to the GT.

“We should not compromise our advantage in fierce global technology competition,” he said. 

TREND FORECAST: China and Germany, two of the world’s leading manufacturing economies, have embedded technical vocational training in high schools to ensure that graduates can step into well-paid jobs in high-demand fields.

Germany’s apprenticeship program has been touted worldwide as a model.

In the U.S., the education system is outdated and inefficient. Despite spending on average over $171,000 from Kindergarten to 12th grade to “educate” a student, what they learn and what they do after graduation totals a waste of time and money for the plantation workers of Slavelandia.

Indeed, for the “average” Americans today, after spending all that time in the classroom, their “professional” work room is driving an Amazon truck, a cashier at Dollar General, stocking shelves at Home Depot…  sweeping floors, making beds, serving food, warehouse chores, Uber driver etc.   

And training students to learn true vocational skills rather than a state mandated one-size fits all model, would not only increase their employment opportunities, it would raise the entire level of the country to become more self-sufficient while raising the economic bar of the nation.

Also, teaching a student hand and mind skills to fit who they are and what they would like to do would help reduce the dropout rate among students who have no interest in “book learning” or going to college.

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