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Education project starts
( 2003-12-23 09:30) (China Daily by Fu Jing)

Trade union and government officials yesterday jointly launched a national campaign to arm workers with knowledge and to create educational opportunities in the workplace.

Organizers said the campaign is part of the country's human resources development strategy, and is vital for upgrading China's competitiveness and national strength.

The ministries in charge of education, labour, science and technology, and enterprises joined forces with the All-China Federation of Trade Unions in the national campaign.

The Ministry of Education will launch a programme to train at least 300,000 skilled workers for the manufacturing sector in the next five years.

The effort, to be mainly focused on numerical-control technology and automobile repair, will be included in a national action plan for education rejuvenation in the next five years, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

"Compared with our goals, the overall education level of China's workers is unsatisfactory," said Sun Baoshu, vice-chairman of All-China Federation of Trade Unions.

Sun said China is facing an acute lack of experienced skilled workers, which threatens to slow down development in both public and private sectors.

The federation statistics indicated that experienced workers only make up 3.5 per cent of the national total, lagging far behind the average level of 30 to 40 per cent in developed nations.

A federation official said the average Chinese workers' education duration is about eight to 12 years, largely lower than that of 14 years of education in developed countries.

Because of a lack of welders, a natural gas project - part of the West-to-East gas pipeline - nearly ground to a halt in Hefei, provincial capital of Anhui.

Experienced skilled workers, who have mastered special skills to tackle knotty technological problems, edge into the top 10 most required professionals with monthly salaries exceeding 5,000 yuan (US$605) in Beijing.

Some enterprises in Shanghai have invited Japanese skilled workers annual salaries of up to 700,000 yuan (US$84,650).

Sun Baoshu said the shortage of such skills can lower quality and competitiveness in an enterprise, and even affect the growth of an entire industry or the national economy.

The call to arm workers with knowledge was echoed yesterday by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council, China's watchdog over state-owned assets.

Its Deputy Director Wang Ruixiang said his administration will encourage State-owned enterprises (SOEs) under its supervision to initiate various training programs for staff beginning from 2004, so as to improve the workers' educational level substantially and cultivate a group of skilled workers.

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