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China to bolster vocational education, expand enrollment

Zhang Yue
Updated: Apr 30,2019 10:15 PM

China will use 100 billion yuan from the balance of the Unemployment Insurance Fund for vocational upskilling to enhance the Chinese workforce.

The decision was made at the State Council’s executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on April 30.

An implementation plan for expanding vocational college enrollment by one million this year was also adopted at the meeting to cultivate talent of various professional skills in order to boost employment.

The Chinese government puts great emphasis on vocational skills training. President Xi Jinping underlined on several occasions the need for high-quality vocational training to boost professional upskilling and enhance the ability of rural migrant workers and other types of workers in need of reemployment to find jobs. Premier Li Keqiang stressed the importance of targeted vocational skills training and saw that concrete goals and actions were laid out in this year’s Government Work Report.

It was pointed out during the meeting that the employment-first policy is a key part of China’s macroeconomic policy framework as indicated by the Central Economic Work Conference and the Government Work Report. Keeping employment fairly sufficient is crucial for steady economic performance this year. Stable employment is a first-order priority. In this connection, large-scale vocational skills training, including the expansion of vocational college enrollment, is a key measure to keep employment stable and ease the structural mismatch on the job market. The measure also underpins industrial upgrading and high-quality development.

Specific steps were adopted at the meeting for vocational upskilling as required by this year’s Government Work Report. Large-scale vocational skills training will be carried out, including over 15 million training opportunities this year and over 50 million within three years. The training will mainly target skilled workers, and accommodate the needs of key groups of people for employment and those having difficulty in landing jobs. The government will support companies, especially micro and small firms, in carrying out vocational training, and help struggling companies with employee reskilling to switch jobs. Training of safety skills for workers in high-danger industries will be intensified.

A special account worth 100 billion yuan earmarked from the balance of the Unemployment Insurance Fund will be set up to finance all activities in vocational upskilling. The account will be put under rigorous supervision, and use of the money will be made public. Any fraudulent training programs will be seriously punished.

Local governments will be supported to adjust their vocational training subsidy policies. All eligible workers are entitled to the training and subsidies.

The reform to transform government functions will be deepened. 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. Efforts will also be made to enhance quality control of training.

“The 100-billion fund and 1-million enrollment expansion plan are key measures to ensure stable employment and sustain high-quality growth,” Premier Li said. “Enrolling more students in vocational colleges is part of our overall educational reform. Educational departments must provide policy support to make vocational schooling more flexible. Currently we face employment pressure in terms of both high demand for jobs and structural mismatches on the job market. In particular, skilled workers are still woefully lacking. To promote high-quality development, we must first improve the educational level of our workers and instill a sense of professionalism and workmanship.”

A plan for expanding the vocational college enrollment by one million this year, as set out in the Government Work Report, was adopted at the meeting. Under this plan, the increased enrollment will tilt in favor of quality vocational colleges, high-demand disciplines and poverty-stricken areas. Vocational schools in eastern coast provinces are called upon to admit more students from the central and western regions. Separate enrollment plans will be made for demobilized military personnel, rural migrant workers and modern professional farmers. The percentage requirement of secondary vocational school graduates admitted by vocational colleges will be revoked. The enrollment scale for education from secondary vocational schools to vocational colleges in such fields as pre-school education, nursing, domestic services, aged care and modern service industries will be increased.

Another round of vocational college applications will be organized ahead of the National College Entrance Examination this year, targeting high school and secondary vocational school graduates, veterans, laid-off workers, rural migrant workers and modern professional farmers. An additional round of applications will be run this October for military personnel who become demobilized this year. All eligible secondary vocational school students who have already graduated will be allowed to sign up for vocational college education.

Vocational colleges are allowed to organize independent exams for the enrollment increase. These exams can take place either before or after the National College Entrance Examination as appropriate. 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.

“Persistent efforts are needed to implement all vocational training policies. We are pursuing, for the first time, vocational training and vocational college enrollment expansion in parallel, hence pilot programs must be carried out speedily,” Premier Li said. “The government must encourage companies to pay more attention to employee training and collaborate with vocational colleges in such training. This is of great significance for our future development.”

The meeting urged implementation of the Action Plan on National Vocational Education Reform. Flexible periods of schooling and diversified teaching models will be adopted, and the quality of teaching will be held to high standards. Work to align academic diplomas and vocational certificates will be intensified, and efforts will be made to see that vocational college graduates enjoy the same treatment as university graduates in seeking urban residency, employment and promotion, to set the stage for more young people with well-trained skills to realize their full potential.

“Recent workplace safety accidents all involve violations in safe operation procedures. This reflects that there is still much to be desired in the professional competence of their employees,” Premier Li said. “High-caliber workers are the backbone for achieving high quality development.”