Turning point for laborUpdated: 2013-07-22 08:19
"In Germany, technicians follow a culture of constant learning, so they readily return to education to update themselves on the latest skills, or acquire new knowledge when they change jobs or positions," Gao says.
Gao says another advantage of Germany's vocational education system is its responsiveness to market needs.
For example, on average about 30 professions cease to exist every year because the specific skills concerned are no longer needed in the job market. But at the same time new occupations are created, so vocational education is essential to train staff, Gao says.
There are several important lessons for China to learn, Gao says, as the nation is in the process of upgrading its industries. Efficient vocational education will help boost productivity.
"China has an abundance of labor. Even the number of new generation migrants (born after 1980) amount to more than 100 million. They provide big opportunities to propel the economy and, as such improving their skills levels is important," Gao says.
China German Education Group currently focuses on supporting and advising the Chinese government and vocational education colleges. At the same time it also provides vocational training courses for companies, Gao says.
Good quality vocational training courses can even be a route for academic graduates to fit into China's increasingly challenging labor market, says Britta Buschfeld, head of recruitment, training and vocational training services for the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce (AHK) in China.
She says that China needs to work on improving the image of vocational education, so that parents and students will not stick to only academic careers.
To help vocational education organizations and companies implement good programs in China, AHK provides quality assurance and certification services, as well as matchmaking and consultation services.
Meanwhile, training is also taking place at many service companies, including the hospitality sector and senior care, because China's urbanization process has created increasing demand for these industries.
One example is Shanghai Kaijian Huazhan Senior Care Service Co, a senior care home that provides training classes for its nurses. "We think training for nurses is extremely important to provide high quality care," says executive director Michael Li.
He says training encompasses many techniques, including how to get to know patients' habits, family backgrounds and personalities, as well as how to persuade patients to take medicine, to maintain a good lifestyle or take a shower.
"Such small tasks require tremendous skills and technical knowledge, as well as a positive attitude and teamwork spirit, which is why training is important," Li says.
To bring best international practices to Shanghai Kaijiang Huazhan, Li's team visits Western countries such as the US to learn from their nurses at senior homes. He then brings this knowledge back to its nurses in China. "We hope to bring Western experiences to China, but we also want to learn lessons from the mistakes Western countries have made so we can avoid them," Li says.
Looking into the future, Zhan says China urgently needs to improve the skills of migrant workers so that they can better integrate with city life. "China's new generation migrants will form the basis of our urban industry workforce. And education and training will play a key role in matching their skills levels with what is required in China's urban centers", Zhan says.