China has quadrupled the number of community college and university graduates in the last decade, but many are unemployed or underemployed because they refuse to take low-status factory jobs, reports the New York Times. In the U.S., employment rises with education. In Chinese cities, young college graduates are four times as likely to be unemployed as those with an elementary education, according to a survey by a Chinese university.
In Guangzhou, “factories make everything from T-shirts and shoes to auto parts, tablet computers and solar panels,” reports the Times. Wages, benefits and living conditions have improved dramatically, but many factories are “desperate for workers.”
Wang Zengsong is desperate for a steady job. He has been unemployed for most of the three years since he graduated from a community college here after growing up on a rice farm. Mr. Wang, 25, has worked only several months at a time in low-paying jobs, once as a shopping mall guard, another time as a restaurant waiter and most recently as an office building security guard.
But he will not consider applying for a full-time factory job because Mr. Wang, as a college graduate, thinks that is beneath him. Instead, he searches every day for an office job, which would initially pay as little as a third of factory wages.
The one-child policy means many young graduates can count on the support of their two parents and four grandparents.
As in the U.S., factories in China are having trouble finding workers who can operate and maintain complex equipment. Yet vocational students are outnumberedctwo to one by students in academic classes.
China is spending $250 billion a year to send tens of millions of young people to community colleges and universities, reports the New York Times. China has quadrupled the output of two- and four-year college graduates in the last decade.
The aim is to change the current system, in which a tiny, highly educated elite oversees vast armies of semi-trained factory workers and rural laborers. China wants to move up the development curve by fostering a much more broadly educated public, one that more closely resembles the multifaceted labor forces of the United States and Europe.
Li Shufu, the chairman of the automaker Geely, has opened a university that stresses engineering and science, particularly auto engineering, endowed a liberal arts university and “opened a 5,000-student vocational community college in his hometown, Taizhou, to train skilled blue-collar workers.”
As recently as 1996, only one in six Chinese 17-year-olds graduated from high school. That was the same proportion as in the United States in 1919. Now, three in five young Chinese graduate from high school, matching the United States in the mid-1950s.
China’s community colleges and universities produce eight million graduates a year, compared to three million a year in the U.S., which has about one-fourth the number of people.
Some question the quality of China’s higher education system, notes the Times. Experts say “the growth of classroom slots in higher education has outstripped the supply of qualified professors and instructors.”
Worldwide, demand for high-skilled labor is growing faster than supply in advanced economies, concludes a report by the McKinsey Global Institute. Demand for low-skill labor remains weak. Lower-skill workers —including 75 million young people — are struggling with unemployment, underemployment and stagnating wages.
The global labor force will approach 3.5 billion in 2030, the report predicts. By 2020, the global economy will face skills shortages:
– 38 million to 40 million fewer workers with tertiary education (college or postgraduate degrees) than employers will need, or 13 percent of the demand for such workers
– 45 million too few workers with secondary education in developing economies, or 15 percent of the demand for such workers
– 90 million to 95 million more low-skill workers (those without college training in advanced economies or without even secondary education in developing economies) than employers will need, or 11 percent oversupply of such workers
The population in China, as well as in many advanced economies, is aging. Most new workers will live in India and the “young” developing economies of Africa and South Asia.
Globalization has come to Peoria, the quintessential small town. Caterpillar is sending Illinois Central College business students to study for a semester in China, writes Richard Longworth, author of Caught in the Middle: America’s Heartland in the Age of Globalism, in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
It’s early morning, and a vanload of students from Peoria, Ill., is on the expressway, en route to a Caterpillar factory. This is not surprising, considering that Caterpillar is headquartered in Peoria. Except that this Cat factory is in Tianjin, a Chinese city near Beijing, and these are community-college students, most of whom have seldom been out of Illinois, let alone the United States.
Peoria hopes to succeed by focusing on high-level manufacturing, exporting and logistics, Longworth writes. Illinois Central College is helping make that happen.
Caterpillar contracted with the community college to set up training courses for dealers and distributors, first in the United States and then overseas. Two Chinese colleges, in Shenzhen and Xiamen, use the ICC course to train Chinese distributors.
Shenzhen Polytechnic, a large three-year school inear Hong Kong, now hosts a three-month program for interational business students. About five to 10 ICC students are chosen competitively for the program.
Students spent a fast week traveling to cities like Beijing, Tianjin, and Fuzhou. Some of this, including a visit to the Great Wall, was tourism. But most was business-related.
We visited the Caterpillar Electric Power Division plant in the free-trade zone at Tianjin and spent another day in the textile center of Changle at Fujian Jinjiang Technology Company, a highly automated mill spinning polymer pellets into different grades of nylon thread, mostly for sportswear. The company calls itself “young but full of ambition”—a good description of post-Mao China itself.
After their travels, students return to Shenzhen for three months of study and interning. Some will work in a local office of Bosch, a German conglomerate that now owns a sprinkler company in Peoria.
Teaching for six months at Northeastern University in Shenyang, China was an incredible learning opportunity, writes Debbie Foster, a speech communication professor at Central Arizona College, in Community College Times.
Foster taught graduate classes in intercultural communication and sophomore classes in oral English/extensive reading. She also lectured on public speaking, coached students for English-speaking contests and judged local and national English-speaking competitions.
Back in Arizona, she remembers the panic of her first morning in China, wondering how to survive without being able to speak or read the language.
How many students feel equally overwhelmed and panicked as they enter the college classroom for the first time? Yes, they can speak the language and read the materials, but for some, the classroom is just as foreign as China was to me.
. . . I will be more attuned to individual students who need extra help in this area, never forgetting that first morning of panic. I have been changed.
In China, she experienced being a minority, a member of the “out-group.”
It is one thing to teach about individualistic cultures and collective culture, but another thing entirely to actually live in the unfamiliar collective culture. It is one thing to teach about high context and low context language use, but quite the challenge to communicate (in English) where language is used mainly to promote social harmony, not the conveying of ideas and thoughts. Nonverbal and “between the lines” communication left me puzzled and perplexed much of the time.
Because of the collective culture, Chinese students excel in group work and group problem-solving, Foster writes. Seeing “real groups” in action, she “will more diligently pursue group work, group skills and group problem-solving in all my classes.”