Anhui, China – Agriculture jobs have been declining for years in China due to increases in agricultural productivity. At the same time, the dynamic urban economy has generated great demands for labor. In the inland Anhui Province, almost half of the rural labor force has moved to cities and non-farm sector. However, because of a lack of technical and soft skills, migrant workers usually fill the most menial and lowest-paying jobs in urban labor markets.
Skills training brings better employment opportunities
Zhang Jian left his rural village ten years ago to become an electrician in a power company. He is currently attending an electrical engineering program. “The good thing about on-the-job training is that I can put what I’ve learned into practice right away, and it helps improve my daily work,” he said.
Zhang’s training is part of the “Rural Migrants Skills Development and Employment Project” supported by the World Bank. The project, implemented in three provinces of Anhui, Ningxia and Shandong, is focused on furthering vocational training to help rural migrants find better jobs, increase incomes and improve working conditions.
A year before Zhang, Pan Guoqing attended a benchwork program. After graduation he returned to the factory he had worked for. With improved skills, he soon got a promotion and a pay raise.
Skills development is the key to climbing the career ladder, from low-skilled job to high-skilled job, he said. One particularly important feature of the program for Pan is the ability to keep in touch with mentors – making lifelong learning a reality.
“Whenever I encounter problems in my work, I call them and consult with them – this is of great help to me,” he said.
Employers are equally pleased with the training opportunities available.
Anhui Xingrui Gear Transmission Company has been working with Liu’an Vocational and Technical School to provide on-the-job training for their employees. “This is a win-win for both workers and enterprises,” said Wei Wei, a Human Resources Manager with the Anhui Xingrui Gear Transmission Company. “The company benefits from the improved quality of their work.” Wei’s company has been collaborating with the Liu’an Vocational and Technical School.
Vocational Education Opens the Door to Entrepreneurship
Bao Jun is from a farmer’s family in Dangtu County of Anhui Province. He first entered the Wuhu Mechanical and Engineering School and then the Ma’anshan Vocational and Technical School to study mechanical and electric engineering. After graduation, he worked in the auto detailing sector. Now he is running his own auto detail shop.
“What I learned at school can be applied in my business. When I started in the sector, I only earned about 2,500 - 3,000 yuan (about $400 - 480) a month. Now I am running my own business. My auto detailing shop is growing 10 to 20 percent a year, and our annual revenue is about 1.5 million yuan (about $24,200).”
Bao Jun has kept in touch with his school. Recently, with help from his former teachers, he met with some students in school and talked about his business. Now five students are working as interns in his auto detail shop. ”After their internship, if they are like the sector, they are welcome to stay and work for us,” he said.
Bao Jun is very ambitious about his future. “My dream is to develop my brand into one of the well-known national brands,” he said.
Zhu Zhixu is also one of the entrepreneurs who started their own businesses after attending training. The 48-year-old Zhu is the owner of an excavation company. In 2012, he attended a training program on excavator operation run by the Taihu County Vocational and Technical School.
“Through lectures and simulator training, I learned how to operate and maintain an excavator.
After training, I became bolder, more confident, and registered an excavation company,” said Zhu.
Soon Zhu leased and acquired a dozen excavators to provide services to construction projects in and around Taihu County. “My business has thrived in recent years, and our annual revenue has been more than 1 million yuan since 2013,” said Zhu. He has not only earned more money but also provided jobs for more than 20 people.