Crayfish college students snapped up by employers

Wan Qianqian
China's first graduates specializing in crayfish have all found well-paid jobs with monthly salaries of as much as 10,000 yuan (US$1,500).
Wan Qianqian

China’s first graduates specializing in crayfish have all found well-paid jobs with monthly salaries of as much as 10,000 yuan (US$1,500), more than double the 4,624 yuan average monthly income of 2018 graduates, according to the Beijing Youth Daily.

These 35 graduates from the Crayfish Vocational College, affiliated with Jianghan Art Vocational College, Qianjiang City in central China’s Hubei Province, took two-year courses in crayfish which covered every step of the crayfish industry from the muddy pond to the restaurant table, including husbandry, marketing, and nutrition.

Such is the demand for the students that even those still in training have been “booked” by employers. Given the astonishing success so far, the “crayfish school” plans to increase the number of students to 200 this year, a big leap from the 86 who enrolled in the first course two years ago.

Although crayfish are in restaurants all year round, the best time to get a plate of the tasty crustaceans is from June to September when they are at their fattest and most plentiful. The demand for crayfish professionals reflects the demand for the crayfish themselves, now one of the most popular summertime indulgences for China’ growing army of foodies.

What’s more, the emergence of the new specialization shows the success of a current trend in educational reform. A government report this year set out the need for modern vocational education plotting a course to new majors and new curricula to meet the changing needs of the job market.

Practical focus

Back in 2017 when the school was established, the idea was met with doubts and even derision from the public, some of whom worried about the future of the students.

Unlike traditional tertiary education, vocational training is market-oriented with a strong focus on practical skills. For a long time, views on vocational education have been divided.

“There is no essential difference between vocational education and other educational models. What really matters is whether the model fits students’ needs,” said Ma Shengli, whose child went to a vocational school after failing to get into a Beijing high school, the Beijing News reported.

A survey conducted on one of the newspaper’s WeChat accounts showed that some parents were worried about the quality of education, and of students, in vocational schools.

It was thought the faculty and equipment may be of a lower standard than in academic schools, and students who go to these schools are generally thought of as being unable to pass the senior high school or college entrance examinations.

But a healthy society and economy requires professionals with a wide range of skills, all of whom deserve respect. As the government improves vocational education and expands higher vocational enrollment to 1 million, a shift in public opinion is bound to follow.

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