Vocational education brews up big dreams
Xing Junjie, a second-year student at Guangzhou Vocational School of Tourism and Business, earned a spot in this month’s national finals of a coffee-making competition by placing second in a southern region preliminary in Guangzhou last month.
The 16-year-old’s longer-term ambition is to run a coffee shop of his own, using the knowledge and skills he has gained at the school in coffee making, tea making, bartending, Western-style baking, fruit carving, and hotel service and management.
“The technique is important but I think it is more important to be able to manage a team and all matters in a coffee shop,” Xing said ahead of the national finals in Lincang, Yunnan province, from Dec 18-20.
The key national-level vocational school — which opened in 1981 to train workers for Guangzhou’s White Swan Hotel, the first five-star hotel on the Chinese mainland — has continually improved its teaching model in cooperation with the corporate sector to meet the demand for talent and facilitate employment, said Wang Yong, its Party secretary.
Graduates occupy 70 percent of positions at all levels at the White Swan Hotel and can also be found at other major hotels and travel agencies in Guangzhou, with some holding senior posts, Wang said.
Since 2013, an educational group that now has 189 members drawn from employers, business associations and academia has been designing the curriculum, running employer-designated classes and formulating standards, said Chen Yiping, a vice-principal of the school.
Apart from knowledge and skills, the school also emphasizes the cultivation of confidence among students and their parents about the students’ future careers.
At first, Chen said, many parents hold the deep-rooted traditional belief that only university education can lead to a bright future.
“We hold some parent-student events on campus and some parents are moved to tears when they see the work their children are able to accomplish,” she said.
Graduates earn an average of about 2,200 yuan ($320) a month in their first year at work, but that can rise to more than 2,500 yuan in sectors such as tea houses, e-commerce, and beauty and hair salons.
One hairstylist who graduated from the school in 2011 is earning 500,000 yuan a year.
The school, which has more than 4,500 students on campus, facilitates further education of its graduates in cooperation with domestic and foreign colleges.
For example, about 70 cooking graduates are now working in New Zealand after further study at schools in that country, including NorthTec.
The Guangzhou school has forged ties with 22 schools in 14 countries and regions for cooperation in teacher training, internships and employment, student certificate cross-recognition and curriculum design.
It recently signed an agreement with the tourism authorities and 12 tourism vocational schools in Portugal on building training facilities there for subjects such as tea making and cooking.
About half the school’s graduates choose to go on to further study, and it is planning to open an international college in Guangzhou in 2021 to make it easier for them to do so.
To enhance vocational education in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, the school has launched a tourism vocational education alliance with parties including the Institute for Tourism Studies of Macao and Zhongshan Polytechnic.
China is now stressing the importance of craftsmanship and vocational education amid an industrial upgrade.
“Tourism comprises a large share of the economy of an international metropolis like Guangzhou. We have a good reputation in course design and acceptance by employers,” said Wang Zhaohui, another vice-principal at the school.