Ma Hongda was not enrolled at a university, but has become a world champion through the path of vocational education.
Ma studies at Zhejiang Construction Technician College. He won a championship in the plastering and partition system category of the WorldSkills competitions in 2022.
Students like Ma in China’s vocational schools are grabbing more and more media headlines, as their skills have been increasingly valued by the job market.
As China enters a new stage of development, industrial upgrading and economic restructuring are constantly accelerating. The demand for technically skilled workers in various industries is becoming increasingly urgent.
Lei Yibo is studying big data at Beijing Polytechnic, a top-notch vocational education school.
He has another identity-a military student.
“When I first attended computer skill courses in high school, I became very interested in computer science. Plus, I possess a strong drive to join the army, so it was my first choice to become a student trained by both the army and a vocational school,” Lei said.
“Both of my goals are combined here. I can study technical skills from vocational teachers and can also learn organization and leadership from drillmasters.”
Lei Yibo is studying in the classroom. (Photo provided to People's Daily)
“I hope I will get admitted to military school in the future, so I can be an officer and stay in the army for years,” Lei said.
According to China’s Ministry of Education, China has established the world's largest vocational education system, with a total of over 11,200 vocational schools and over 29.15 million enrolled students. Over 1,300 majors cover almost all the fields of the national economy.
The career path to the military for students like Lei has become much smoother due to vocational education.
Years ago, China’s job market valued a university diploma much more than a vocational school certificate.
However, as more and more fields are absorbing various vocational workers in China, a fairer environment has been created to expand vocational students' opportunities.
Shang Chenglei studies in the postal program at Beijing Polytechnic. The program has an agreement with China Post. Shang can study basic financial knowledge and skills in the first two years of college, and in her third year, she can receive practical training under the post office’s supervision.
This learning model is called dingdanban, which is unique to vocational education, and conducted in collaboration between schools and enterprises. It pursues the integration of industry and education with a greater emphasis on learning in actual labor skills. The school embeds specialized courses for a certain enterprise and collaborates with employers to train workers.
Under the guidance of a dingdanban teacher (left), Shang Chenglei (right) is learning how to organize a financial salon activity in the practicing course. (Photo provided to People's Daily)
As a junior, Shang has given up the opportunity for undergraduate studies, and made a proactive choice to directly engage in postal work.
“It’s a job I love,” Shang said.
Vocational education is an important way to promote employment, but it is by no means just about employment.
Vocational colleges not only focus on skills, but also are committed to enhancing the comprehensive strength of young students.
Yang Linling majors in environmental engineering technology. After collecting samples from a river, Yang can evaluate the pollution situation with professional instruments and devise solutions. During her college years, Yang has also participated in numerous innovation competitions and won eight innovation awards.
Yang Linling is preparing for a water treatment competition in the laboratory. (Photo provided to People's Daily)
“Our teacher inspired us to see if we could optimize the process of sewage treatment and reduce the cost of sewage treatment by setting up a new program,” Linling recalls.
In addition to innovation ability, social skills are also developed. As a junior student in the aviation maintenance department, Zhang Boyu actively participates in various social service projects. His accumulated volunteer service has amounted to 1,605 hours.
For example, he and his classmates used clean energy to improve the power generation conversion rate, and used drones to draw panoramic road maps.
Zhang Boyu is helping a villager sell goods through live streaming. (Photo provided to People's Daily)
“Social practice work can enhance people’s comprehensive abilities, especially the ability to express themselves clearly and to maintain excellent work performance,” said Zhang.
“There are differences in each person's own interests and development. For students with weaker theoretical performance and with stronger hands-on abilities, vocational education may be a better choice” said Yang.
【人民日报】China Up Close | Vocational education booming with highly skilled students