Across China: Industry upgrade ignites education boom in Pearl River Delta

Source: Xinhua| 2018-12-02 11:47:38|Editor: mym
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by Simon Eric Haywood, Huang Haoyuan and Ding Le

GUANGZHOU, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- Long before graduation, the sixth class of students at Dongguan Technician College in southern China's Guangdong Province have already been snapped up by employers.

Students at the college are jointly trained by Technische Universitat Dresden, one of the largest technical universities in Germany.

"Whatever German students learn, ours do too. Students will be assessed by the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry; the process no different than that in Germany," said Liu Haiguang, president of the college.

Tim Leitschuh, CEO of Bock Furniture Products, says he is eager to hire these high-potential students after they graduate.

Last year, 116 graduates from the college's Sino-German class were hired before graduation and are already on a basic monthly salary of 6,000 yuan (860 U.S. dollars).

This is a far cry from the effort students in vocational education in the past would have needed to exert in order to find a job. The main reason is the transformation and upgrade of industries such as electronics.

Dongguan shipped 356 million smartphones last year, one in every five worldwide, creating a great demand for highly skilled machine operators and programmers.

By 2025, the talent gap in fields such as robotics and new generation IT will be a whopping 14 million across China, according to a report released by the Chinese government.

By high-speed rail merely 40 minutes away, the neighboring city of Shenzhen is home to 11,200 registered state-level high-tech companies including Huawei and Tencent.

Those companies are eager to hire talented young staff. In order to match this growing demand, higher and vocational education in the Pearl River Delta has been developing rapidly.

Years ago, an internet company came up with more than a dozen intended projects during a brief meeting with Luo Zhiquan, president of the Shenzhen Research Institute of Big Data and vice president of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (Shenzhen).

"Unfortunately, my team couldn't take so many on; only a few projects could be selected. The Big Data Institute came into being two years ago because of this demand," he said.

Soon the university established several other institutions to facilitate development in various local industries such as robotics, intelligent manufacturing and finance.

"There are currently over 4,000 students, with a long-term goal of 11,000 across the region. We hope not only to promote the development of the Pearl River Delta region but of China and the world," Luo said.

The city plans to expand its number of higher education institutions to 20 and students to 250,000 by 2025.

Official data shows that Guangdong now has 151 colleges and universities, nearly 40 percent more than that of a decade ago. The number of graduates has also doubled.

Ye Yizhou, an associate research fellow at Sun Yat-sen University, believes that the Pearl River Delta, as China's most important manufacturing hub, is bearing the brunt of the country's heavy burden of economic transformation and upgrade.

"Many regions in China are now aware of the role of talent in developing the industry," Ye said, adding that with such high demand, it is no longer sustainable for the PRD to rely on external talent, and the region instead needs to focus on home-grown talent.

"The establishment of a large number of universities will enlarge the region's talent pool and encourage innovation, which in turn will directly serve the development of medium and high-end industry. This will work to enhance the region and eventually the whole country," he said.