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China and India Pave the Vocational Path


India and China’s vast numbers of young people trying to find jobs are in trouble, and their experience could be a harbinger of what’s in store for the States. Neither country has enough jobs to employ college graduates, and yet trade jobs abound. Vocational programs are now growing to meet the demands of employers hungry to hire skilled workers. Gras, one such program in India, has been particularly successful. The New York Times reports:

[India] faces the immense challenge of harnessing this generation as a productive work force, or else facing the combustible prospect of hundreds of millions of unemployed youth in the future. The Indian government estimates that 500 million young people must be trained by 2022 and has made skills training a major policy issue.

Since 2006, Gras has trained about 28,000 students in 10 Indian states. More than 60 percent take technical courses on computer networking, accounting, and computer and cellphone repair. Service industry training is popular for those who want work in shops, restaurants and hotels, as are courses for future plumbers, electricians and beauticians.

Some Indian students are enrolled in vocational programs and in college courses simultaneously—and paying for both. In China, students are conflicted by the societal pressure to attain the prestige of a degree—and the fact that more than 95 percent of vocational graduates find work. But the vocational education industry in both countries is growing. China has 500,000 schools; India, at 11,000, is catching up.

And though thousands of miles away, India and China’s youth unemployment problems echo America’s own. A bachelor’s degree still serves as a prerequisite for many jobs here, but it’s sometimes unclear what most students learn in four years of schooling. Across the country, employers complain that college grads are woefully unqualified for work. And with the revitalization of brown industry, young people are going to be looking for increased legitimate options to gain solid employment.

[Image of Indian schoolchildren in Agra courtesy Jorg Hackemann /]

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  • MarkE

    Something rings very true about this post. The Germans align graduate students in technical areas with potential jobs by having graduate theses funded by appropriate industries. The thesis topic is presumably negotiated to be interesting to both the student and the industry.
    This increases the chance of the graduate finding a job and my supply the industry with useful R&D.
    The US educational system seems to disdain the practical experience in favor of theoretical and detached learning. This seems like a waste for everyone but a few future professors.

  • Jim__L

    Employers in the US are not allowed to use skill testing in the hiring process, as it causes “disparate impact” against minorities. So, if you’re supposed to be an electrical tech, a hiring manager can’t ask you whether you can tell a resistor from a capacitor… but the hiring manager CAN require a college degree, on the theory that college kids have demonstrated they are “trainable”.

    Not just inefficiency, but ineffectiveness, is built into our system.

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