Vocational training workshops open around the world to prepare local people to work for Chinese companies

By Li Lei and Qi Xijia Source:Global Times Published: 2018/9/13 19:28:41

○ China is cooperating with local vocational schools to train workers

The skills students learn are in high demand by Chinese companies working on local projects

China is bringing local teachers from these schools to Tianjin for training

Three Pakistani teachers are having a technical discussion with a Chinese engineer in the middle of equipment installation on July 17 at the Pakistani Luban Workshop in Lahore, Pakistan's Punjab Province. Photo: Courtesy of Tianjin Modern Vocational Technology College

Chinese President Xi Jinping said on September 3 at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) that China will set up 10 Luban Workshops in Africa to offer vocational training for young Africans, the Xinhua News Agency reported. 

The workshops are named after China's great craftsman and inventor Luban who lived 2,500 years ago.  Tianjin's educational authority proposed the creation of the workshops, and they have been established in five countries along the route of Belt and Road initiative, including Thailand, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and the United Kingdom. The workshops aim to provide vocational training to local personnel so they can work at Chinese enterprises.

"The entire vocational education community in Tianjin is heartened, and we feel obliged to complete the project and make it successful," said Chu Jianwei, president of Tianjin Modern Vocational Technology College. Two months ago, China's fifth Luban Workshop was unveiled in Lahore in Pakistan's Punjab Province under the joint efforts of  the Tianjin Modern Vocational Technology College and the Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA) of eastern Punjab Province to support the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Tianjin, a coastal metropolis near Beijing, has a national vocational education reform and innovation demonstration zone. A half-hour drive away from downtown Tianjin, the Haihe Education Park is located in the city's Jinnan district with 10 secondary and senior secondary vocational colleges. With the reputation of being the "Confucius Institute" of China's vocational education, the five established Luban Workshops have their origins in these colleges.

New education model

EPIP, an acronym of Engineering Practice Innovation Project, is a new education model designed in 2010 for vocational education led by Professor Lü Jingquan, the deputy head of the Tianjin Municipal Education Commission. Under the guidance of the EPIP education model, bilingual teaching materials in Chinese and English were developed.

The Luban Workshop Construction Experience Museum, located in Tianjin Light Industry Vocational Technical College, exhibits these teaching materials, in which complicated theories and equations are illustrated by a cartoon panda and lively stories.

The Luban Workshops adopted these standards and training materials. The EPIP model has since gone global, with the establishment of the first Luban Workshop in Thailand by Tianjin Bohai Vocational College.

"India is in need of technical personnel. Equipment in India brought from China by Chinese companies needs large numbers of technical personnel for operation and maintenance after the installment," said Wang Juan, who is in charge of the establishment of the Indian Luban Workshop.


Help that's needed

Co-built by Tianjin Light Industry Vocational Technical College and Tianjin Vocational College of Mechanics and Electricity in the end of 2017, the Indian Luban Workshop has trained more than 200 Indian students and 100 workers from local universities and enterprises, according to Wang.

It teaches four subjects - manufacturing, photovoltaic power generation, mechanical design, and numerical control equipment - which are all in demand by local Chinese companies. "We received a warm welcome from the Chinese companies in India, saying that support from an educational institute is very helpful for them," Wang Juan told the Global Times.

Many of the countries where China has built a Luban Workshop face a teaching staff shortage that limits the development of local vocational education.

An anonymous teacher from an Indonesian vocational college told the Global Times that their country is in the urgent need of vocational teaching staff, and there is a talent shortage in Indonesia's vocational education because  more young teaching staff are being recruited to academic institutions of higher education.

The teacher was with a group of 21 teachers from 10 vocational colleges in East Java Province of Indonesia in China for a one-month teaching skill enhancement course at the Tianjin Dongli District Vocational Education Center School. That school established China's third Luban Workshop in Ponorogo, a city in East Java Province, four months ago.

Training local teachers is a critical link to forming a virtuous circle in local vocational education. In order to better integrate the EPIP education model with local education, every year teachers from other countries are sent to Tianjin for a one-to-two month theoretical and practical training session focusing on skills Chinese companies in those countries need. The Luban Workshops are developed in cooperation with local vocational schools and built on their campuses.

"They participated in equipment erection and commissioning during the construction of the Pakistani Luban Workshop after returning to Pakistan, and have been responsible for daily teaching and operation of the Luban Workshop," Zhang Ying, vice director of international exchange department of Tianjin Modern Vocational Technical College told the Global Times.

In Pakistan, an electric power supply shortage is a problem that limits the country's economic development and affects people's daily life. Over 70 percent of China's assistance to Pakistan is on electric power projects. The Pakistani Luban Workshop has signed contracts with eight enterprises from both Pakistan and China including Haier and Huaneng Group to establish an education alliance integrating production and education.

"The eight enterprises serve as practical training sites for the Pakistani Luban Workshop, and we, in return, help train local workers for them," said Chu Jianwei.

Four majors designed for the Pakistani Luban Workshop are all electric power related, such as mechatronics and electric automation.

International standards

A thousand kilometers away from Tianjin, a two-week seminar focusing on fostering infrastructure construction managers for the Belt and Road countries was held by the Shanghai Urban Construction Vocational College, local enterprises and education authorities from June to July. They dubbed the seminar the Luban School.

"China's construction and technical standards need to spread internationally as China's infrastructure construction companies spread around the world, and local construction practitioners need to know about China's techniques and standards," Chu Min, party secretary of the Shanghai Urban Construction Vocational College, told the Global Times.

"From last year, 47 officials and managers from local construction authorities and enterprises of South Asian countries participated in the seminar, and we received good feedback from them. They said that they have learned knowledge not only about new techniques, materials, crafts and project management skills, but know more profoundly about China's experience with such rapid development, and had deepened cultural exchanges," according to Chu Min.

Luban is an embodiment of the innovative and excellent craftsman spirit in China. A Luban lock, also known as a Burr puzzle, is a typical Chinese mortise and tenon structure which is widely used in traditional Chinese architecture and furniture.

Making a Luban lock is a part of the curriculum of the Luban School seminar. "Participants should make tenons on wood bars with a length of 8 centimeters and width of 1 centimeter with traditional tools such as plane and chisel, and assemble these wood bars like building blocks," said Wang Xiao, a teacher with the seminar.

"That amazed them a lot, and most trainees did it and asked teachers to help make their work perfect. This is the moment they are connected with Luban's spirit of pursuing perfection," said Wang.

Chu Min said that he expected that the seminar would spread internationally as a talent fostering base in higher education institutes and enterprises overseas. This will be helpful to Chinese companies' localization.

The Tianjin Municipal Education Commission is planning to build 10 Luban Workshops by 2020.

At the same time, the preparation work for two more Luban Workshops is in full swing. In the near future, a Luban Workshop will be erected in Cambodia, and Djibouti will be the first African country that has Luban Workshop, according to an official in Tianjin's education authority.



Newspaper headline: Spirit of Luban spreads

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