Manufacturing skills to the fore at the expo

Wu Huixin
China (Zhejiang) Vocational Education and Training Expo 2019 attracts many skilled technicians.
Wu Huixin

Skilled technicians to operate robots are in great demand in the digital economy in China, industry insiders said at the China (Zhejiang) Vocational Education and Training Expo 2019.

“The high-end device manufacturing industry lacks experienced technicians, including welders and bench workers,” said Ge Xiaoqing, a senior technician with Hangzhou-based Xizi United Holding Corp, at the annual human resources event recently held in Jianggan District.

“Xizi, one of China’s top 500 enterprises, cooperates with vocational schools to cultivate students, but we also train them in our workshops,” said Gu.

Ge is one of Zhejiang’s top 10 technicians by virtue of his welding techniques. He has worked in the manufacturing industry for more than 20 years. A vocational school student himself in the 1990s, Ge is now devoting his time to training at Xizi.

Manufacturing skills to the fore at the expo
Wu Huixin

A fondant flower made by Fang Mudan

Manufacturing skills to the fore at the expo
Wu Huixin

A vocation school student makes traditional flour figurine at the expo. 

“High-tech assembly lines and artificial intelligence have replaced workers. However, such equipment is still under our control. That’s why a proficient technician is more precious than a machine,” Ge told Shanghai Daily.

“Now, Xizi is producing parts for Airbus. Imported aeronautical materials are expensive, and a small error can result in hundreds of thousands in losses. A skilled technician can save the company a lot of money,” Ge explained.

Today, vocational schools work with enterprises, and some businesses are investing in vocational schools to build skill pools.

Xizi has established its own vocational school in Hangzhou, specializing in training welders, bench workers and assembly workers. “Qualified workers should master theoretical stuff and skills, and learn to think for themselves at the same time,” Ge added.

After three years in school and a one-year internship in the workshop, a student is certificated and licensed to work at Xizi.

In addition to exhibition, the expo also hosted a series of conferences to discuss the challenges of vocational education and training in a digital economy.

China is expected to face a shortage of 3 million skilled workers to operate robots and high-end numerical control machines by 2020. The shortfall will grow to 4.5 million by 2025.

Tsinghua and Fudan universities’ research on the labor market shows that China is gradually transforming from low-end manufacturing to production of high value-added products, which calls for more highly skilled workers.

Hangzhou spares no effort in training skilled technicians. In Jianggan District, for example, vocational schools and organizations hosted 26 training courses last year, and more than 1,500 people were certified.

Highly skilled workers are encouraged to set up their own workshops and recruit apprentices. There are now 14 such workshops listed as provincial level.

The expo was not limited to modern manufacturing. It also included catering and other service industries.

Students from Zhejiang Commercial Technician Institute displayed their culinary techniques. Fang Mudan and her classmates made fondant flowers on the site, attracting endless streams of visitors curious about the process.

The vivid flowers feature layers of petals and glittering texture. Usually, it takes about one hour to complete one sophisticated fondant flower, according to Fang.

“Making fondant flowers is one of our must-learn techniques,” Fang told Shanghai Daily. “I have been learning to cook for five years and will graduate this summer. Our school has cooperated with five-star hotels and helped me find a job.”

The school also showed off traditional flour figurines making and latte art.

Zhejiang government has worked to develop vocational training and education in recent years and now has 376 vocational schools and more than 2 million students, who will become the backbone of manufacturing and emerging service industries.

Manufacturing skills to the fore at the expo
Wu Huixin

Hangzhou vocational school students make a phoenix-shaped cake. 

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