Education key to industrial upgrade
Updated: 2015-06-26 06:40
By Chen Yingqun(China Daily Europe)
German vocational training system adopted to produce more engineers, technicians
Importing advanced technologies from overseas does not guarantee China's manufacturing industries will be able to upgrade if the country fails to cultivate enough qualified technicians or engineers, an expert says.
Li Yang, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, has had a role in formulating the Made in China 2025 policy, which calls for the country to be able to call what it produces Created in China rather than Made in China and to adopt intelligent manufacturing.
Li says that while China has imported the most advanced technology, it is difficult for it to improve the quality of goods, mainly because the skills of those who use such technology to make products are not up to scratch, and in many cases processing, management and the business culture are mediocre at best.
"Workers are the weakest link of China's industries," he says.
"They do not get enough vocational training opportunities or much social recognition. They are the key issue for industrial transformation."
The city of Jieyang, Guangdong province, well-known in China for producing industry hardware, has clearly seen that. The city plans China's first undergraduate-level university of applied science and technology, which will adopt Germany's dual-system education and aims to cultivate engineers and technicians. It will also offer vocational training programs to workers in companies.
More than 400 companies were represented at a conference on collaboration between German and Chinese small and medium-sized enterprises that was held in Jieyang in June. Attending the conference were representatives of a total of 122 companies from Germany, Spain and Austria, and they brought 105 items of advanced technology to display.
The university will be in Sino-German Metal Eco City, a program of industrial transformation supported by Jieyang and German companies and governments. It covers about 25 square kilometers, with a total investment of more than 150 billion yuan ($24.2 billion; 21.6 billion euros).
Jiang Zengbin, general manager of Sino-German Dual System Education Investment, who is in charge of planning the university, says he has talked to many German companies over the past two years. Many executives have told him that when considering whether to invest or set up factories in China, one big reservation relates to being able to attract skilled workers, he says.
The city is trying to move up the industrial value chain by working mainly with German companies. City officials became aware of Germany's dual-system vocational education about two years ago and have devoted a lot of time and effort to learn more about it, he says.
"Germany is a world leader in vocational education," Jiang says. "Given that Jieyang is going to be working closely with German companies, we are adopting its education system and resources to ensure there are enough qualified technicians and workers as the region grows."
All companies setting up operations in Sino-German Metal Eco City will be asked to provide opportunities for students for practical training, he says.
"We're going to be more connected with companies in the future and want them to be a training base for our students."
Dual-system education is widely given credit for the success of Germany's intelligent manufacturing and strong economy. It combines apprenticeships in a company and education at a vocational school in one course.
"Vocational education plays a very important role in manufacturing development," says Walter Czarnetzki, vice-president for research and transfer of the Hochschule Esslingen University of Applied Sciences in Stuttgart, where the headquarters of Mercedes-Benz are located.
"In the Stuttgart area there was no such vocational education university before we arrived on the scene. If an applied science university had not been set up, the industry we have would not have materialized."
Jiang says that since April 2013, he and other officials have been to Germany nine times as they seek to learn more about the country's vocational education system. The university will be co-founded by Guangdong University of Technology, Jieyang Metal Companies Association, SGDS Edu Investment and Hochschule Esslingen University of Applied Sciences.
The aim is to enroll between 200 and 300 students this year who will study machine manufacturing, and to gradually increase the numbers, with 15,000 students eventually attending the university.
Lecturers from both the Guangdong and Esslingen universities will work in the new institution, which will recruit new teachers according to German university standards. The plan is for there to be more than 1,000 teachers. There will also be many exchange opportunities for students to study in Germany.
In Germany and many other countries, attending universities of applied science and technology is regarded as a respectable career choice, but in China, enrolling in such institutions is often regarded as a sign of failure, because those who go to them are usually forced to do so by dint of poor academic results in high school.
"In China it's going to take a long time to change people's conceptions about vocational education," Jiang says.
However, because graduates will be awarded certificates from both Chinese and German universities, and the dual-system teaching is new and advanced, he is confident it will be able to attract top students.
The university also plans to educate heads of Chinese companies about Germany's economy, business systems, manufacturing culture and other aspects of the country, and then get them to visit the country to scout out opportunities for business collaboration.
In March, more than 150 business people in Guangzhou were offered the opportunity to receive such training.
(China Daily European Weekly 06/26/2015 page16)