The State Council’s decision to upgrade workforce skills and expand enrollment for vocational colleges has been lauded by experts as a move that will beef up employment and speed up economic transformation.
The cabinet decided at an executive meeting on April 30 that the country will use 100 billion yuan ($14.8 billion) from the balance of the Unemployment Insurance Fund to launch a campaign to improve the skills of workers, according to a statement released after the meeting.
The measures, coupled with a plan to expand vocational college enrollment by 1 million this year, are part of the central government’s efforts to implement the employment-first policy and underpin industrial upgrading and high-quality development, the statement said.
Chen Yu, director of the China Institute for Occupation Research at Peking University, said the measure unveiled by the State Council is aimed primarily to solve the problem of structural mismatch in the job market.
“With many people struggling to find jobs, many employers are faced with difficulties in recruiting the right person,” he said.
The growth of new business types and industries has given rise to new positions, and a sizable amount of the workforce are struggling to adapt to the new demands in the job market, he noted.
“The only solution to the problem is to offer more training to the workers to enable them to better adapt to the new technologies and new positions,” he said.
The State Council meeting rolled out specific training for skilled workers to accommodate the needs of key groups of people for employment and those having difficulty in landing jobs. A total of 15 million training sessions will be conducted this year, with over 50 million such sessions set to be offered in the next three years.
The government will support companies, especially micro and small enterprises, in carrying out vocational training, and help struggling companies through employee upgrading to switch jobs, the statement said.
The government will encourage vocational schools to expand enrollment, and support companies and private actors in providing vocational training. In government procurement of services, private institutions will enjoy the same treatment as their publicly run counterparts, the statement added.
According to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, China added 3.24 million new jobs in urban areas in the first quarter, and the registered urban unemployment rate was kept at 3.67 percent, below the official target of 4.5 percent for this year.
Meanwhile, the meeting on April 30 also came up with concrete measures to boost enrollment of vocational colleges, set out in the Government Work Report delivered by Premier Li Keqiang in March.
The premier said in the report that stepping up the development of modern vocational education is a strategic move that will not only ease current employment pressure, but also help to address the shortage of highly-skilled personnel.
According to the statement, the increased enrollment will tilt in favor of quality vocational colleges, high-demand disciplines and poverty-stricken areas.
The expanded enrollment will primarily cover professions including preschool education, nursing, domestic services, aged care and modern service industries.
The country is set to organize another round of vocational college applications this year targeting high school and secondary vocational school graduates, veterans, laid-off workers, rural migrant workers and modern professional farmers. Veterans, laid-off workers, rural migrant workers and modern professional farmers are not required to sit exams for academic subjects but for professional adaptability or skills organized by vocational schools, according to the statement.
The meeting also called for intensified work to align academic diplomas and vocational certificates as well as efforts to see that vocational college graduates enjoy the same treatment as university graduates in seeking urban residency, employment and promotion.
Chen Yunchao, vice-president of Chongqing Technology and Business University, said the expanded enrollment of vocational colleges breaks old conventions in that it included groups such as veterans, migrant workers and modern professional farmers as enrollment targets.
“However, it will also bring about challenges to the higher education system, especially in finding the right students,” he said. “For the colleges, it is important to offer them effective and targeted training programs tailored to their social and life experiences.”