Can Job Training Trump a Degree?


HONG KONG — China and India, Asian giants with a staggering 2.5 billion people between them, have a big problem with their youth.

No matter how much they increase education funding or how quickly they build universities, there is no way there will be enough places for everyone. Even if there were, the reality is that not every young person has the academic background, motivation or desire to complete a four-year university education.

For Asian parents, a college diploma is the ultimate status symbol for their children. But, on the ground, there are simply not enough well-paid jobs to accommodate all these graduates — at least, not in their fields of study. So, after grueling entry exams and years of additional study, many young graduates can barely find enough work to pay their own rent.

Meanwhile, factories are left without skilled machinists, and hotels are desperate to hire bilingual professional chefs, bartenders and waiters fluent in the ways of international fine dining.

The Asian economic boom has created billions of new cars, laptops, cellphones and air conditioners that need upkeep and repair — and not enough technicians who know how to do that really well. (And never mind finding a good, last-minute plumber when your toilet explodes on a Sunday night anywhere in the world.)

Two International Herald Tribune reports on vocational education found similar themes in India and China: hundreds of millions of young people need job-friendly skills, and many companies are desperate to hire skilled workers. According to the Chinese Society of Vocational and Technical Education, more than 95 percent of vocational school graduates find work.

In one, Amy Yee reported from Ghaziabad, on the outskirts of Delhi, where she visited one of the many training centers run by Gras Academy. In India, private vocational schools are filling in the gaps left by formal education. And while some of their students are middle-school dropouts, others are college students who feel their universities are not giving them the hands-on work experience they need. Amy’s full article is here.

In another, Corinne Dillon reports from the BN Vocational School in Beijing, a nonprofit venture that trains the children of poor migrant workers who have moved away from the impoverished countryside in search of a better life. BN’s programs are tailored to regional needs – it produces carmakers in the industrial north and pastry chefs in sophisticated cities that are tourist draws. Corinne’s full article is here.

While a college education is good for some, is it right for everyone? Should developing nations pay more attention to hands-on training for less academically-inclined youth? Is it better to be a well-employed mechanic or chef, or a university graduate with a degree but no job?

From the Rendezvous Blog of the NY Times – link to article here –


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