A validation team from WorldSkills International, a global organization that promotes vocational training, recently visited Shanghai to view the city's efforts in vocational education and training.
Its itinerary included stops at the Le Cordon Bleu Shanghai Culinary Arts Academy, which opened in 2015 as a joint venture between the Shanghai Business and Tourism School and the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute of France. The visit also took in the training center of the Shentong Metro Group, where workers learn skills in the mass transit system.
Both sites have won accolades for their vocational training programs.
The city is embarked on a campaign to help train people for the needs of the job market through vocational education programs that teach skills like auto repair, website design, mechatronics and floristry.
It aims to help migrant laborers and other low-skill residents who find themselves stuck on the bottom rungs of the job market ladder.
“We have laborers who have difficulties finding jobs, and at the same time, we have companies complaining they can't recruit the skills they need,” said Gu Weidong, chief of the Department of Vocational Capacity Building at the Shanghai Human Resources and Social Security Bureau. “It reflects a mismatch in our job market and skill structure that we need to address.”
In the olden days, vocational training meant apprenticeships, where experienced hands taught a younger generation the skills of their trades. More formal vocational education was introduced in China in 1934, requiring all work sites with 50 employees or more to provide classes and on-the-job training.
Starting in the 1980s, technical training schools broadened their scope, adding literacy and other curricula to their programs.
At the end of 2015, Shanghai had 89 secondary vocational schools with 130,000 students, and 52 colleges providing higher vocational education for about 142,000 students. The system was underpinned by 95 training centers and hundreds of related facilities.
Fast industrial and economic development has left a gap between what vocational education provides and what employers are looking for in recruitment. That has led the city to reorient vocational training and invite employers to play a larger role in its configuration.
Since 2007, nine vocational education groups have been formed around specific skillsets, ranging from nursing and transportation to logistics. Vocational education teachers are now required to visit workplaces to see the latest trends first-hand.
Shanghai has initiated a pilot project allowing some vocational students to acquire academic degrees alongside their vocational qualifications. Students once consigned to what was considered a lower tier of education are now able to pursue undergraduate and even graduate diplomas.