Pooling Talent For BRI Cooperation

PRNewswire August 9, 2023

BEIJING, Aug. 9, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — A news report from China Report ASEAN:

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is encouraging more and more Chinese enterprises to go global and explore international business. The Luban Workshop vocational education program, sponsored by China, helps Chinese enterprises train talent in host countries and creates jobs and business opportunities for ASEAN, African, and European countries participating in BRI cooperation.

China has built over 20 Luban Workshops in 19 countries involved in the BRI since the first Luban Workshop opened in Thailand in 2016. Promoting deeper development of the BRI, these skill-training workshops help pool talent needed for Chinese enterprises operating in BRI countries, becoming a signature brand as Chinese vocational education goes global.

First Luban Workshop

The first Luban Workshop in the world opened in Thailand in March 2016. Integrating academic education and vocational training, it utilizes advanced teaching equipment and high-quality bilingual education resources in 15 teach-and-practice areas including an automated production line teaching area and a bio-robot learn-and-experience area, which gives students hands-on experience with different equipment and machines.

“The Luban Workshop has taught me both knowledge and operational skills,” said Nattawut, a young man from a central Thai province who studied mechatronics in the workshop. He described how students learn testing and debugging devices, solving practical problems, and commanding vocational skills.

“The lessons help students become familiar with Chinese technologies, products, and techniques,” said Mayuree Sriraboot, principal of the Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Technical College. She explained that the lessons target local enterprises’ demands for talent. Graduates of the Luban Workshop tend to be highly desirable because they receive comprehensive vocational education.

With good knowledge of the technologies and skills as well as abundant experience, Nattawu received offers from many companies. He ultimately chose a position as an assistant engineer at a Chinese company in Rayong, a province in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). “It is the future of Thailand’s economic development,” opined Nattawu.

Even after rising from humble student to engineer, Nattawu continued working hard and became a department manager of Dunan Metals (Thailand) Co., Ltd. in Rayong Industrial Park. His routine work includes instructing workers on the production line and inspecting quality. The air conditioner parts produced there are sold throughout Thailand and to other ASEAN countries.

Over the past seven years, the students from Thailand’s Luban Workshop have made remarkable achievements. They won the gold medal at the first Gem King Cup Vocational Education Competition, the first Railway Transportation System Invitational Competition championship, the gold award at the Automatic Production Line Competition, and the bronze award at the Automated Production Line Competition of the 11th ASEAN Skills Competition.

Since its establishment, the Luban Workshop in Thailand has trained 1,227 Thai professionals, of whom 301 have been sent to China for higher vocational education. The workshop is also open to teachers and students from vocational colleges in other ASEAN countries and has trained more than 12,000 through exchange and training activities.

“The Luban Workshop has not only improved vocational education in Thailand, but also enhanced ChinaThailand educational exchange and training, consolidating friendship between the two peoples,” said Thanu Vongjinda, Secretary-General of Thailand’s Office of the Vocational Education Commission (OVEC). He expressed hope that the Luban Workshop would develop even further, cultivate more technical talent, promote technological innovation and improvement, and contribute to the Thailand 4.0 development strategy.

Vocational Education

The first Luban Workshop in Indonesia was built in December 2017 as a cooperation project between Tianjin Dongli Vocational Education Center School and the Second Vocational Technical School in Ponorogo, East Java, Indonesia.

Kalis is an Indonesian student at the Luban Workshop studying using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to protect plants. “The drones are highly efficient,” he said. “In a few hours, one plant protection drone can do the crop-dusting work that would take a man two days.” Kalis is determined to study UAV technology and hopes more drones will be used in Indonesia’s agriculture.

In 2020, Kalis and his classmates at the Luban Workshop participated in a national vocational competition for students with their project featuring the technology of plant protection UAV. “We finally qualified for the national game with our innovative project thanks to the training at Luban Workshop,” said Parietti, a teacher at the school. “The courses empower and encourage the students to pursue their dreams.”

A large agricultural country, Indonesia has massive demand for agricultural technology talent. The Luban Workshop in Indonesia offers classes on technologies related to agricultural UAVs that help students learn to assemble, adjust, operate, and repair drones. In addition to classroom learning, students practice operating drones in the field while improving their skills through various competitions.

“Modern technology changes agricultural productivity completely,” said Lifa, a student at Luban Workshop. He has embraced the opportunity to learn modern technology and hopes the new technologies will help Indonesia achieve more efficient and intensive agricultural production.

Parietti noted that many Indonesian schools have started sending teachers to the Luban Workshop to study UAV technology in hopes of soon offering similar courses on their own campuses. “With support from Chinese schools and enterprises, drones will develop further in Indonesia while facilitating growth of various industries,” opined Parietti.

“The courses at Luban Workshop meet Indonesia’s demands for social and economic development,” said Alif, principal of the Second Vocational Technical School in Ponorogo. He noted that since the workshop opened, the volume of enrolled students at the school has increased to over 1,000, and the employment rate of graduates has been climbing too. After the 2019-2020 school year, 98 percent of graduates signed contracts with different companies. “We’re setting aside more space for Luban Workshop, and we anticipate more cooperation projects with Chinese vocational schools,” said Alif.

The innovative cooperation model of Luban Workshops offers a new approach for training skilled professionals in Indonesia. Indonesian Ambassador to China Djauhari Oratmangun agreed that the combination of vocational education and economic development is an important measure to promote Indonesia’s economic growth. He expressed optimism about even more innovative cooperation between the two countries in the future.

Pooling Talent

From Ayutthaya in Thailand to Ponorogo in Indonesia, Luban Workshops are built and operated in diverse forms and models. They have become the shining light of China’s BRI cooperative vocational education in ASEAN countries.

In recent years, China Education Association for International Exchange (CEAIE) has successively released five waves of China-ASEAN cooperation projects featuring vocational education, and many Luban Workshops in ASEAN countries including Thailand and Malaysia were included.

The concepts and standards of Chinese vocational education are evolving into a set of models from which ASEAN can learn to use vocational education to reduce poverty and mobilize talent.

Li Mingliang, a professor and researcher at the BRI Development Research Institute of Yili Normal University, wrote that cooperation models of Luban Workshops are becoming more diverse and include bilateral school cooperation, school-enterprise cooperation, governmental strategic cooperation, cooperation between schools and education authorities, and government-school-enterprise cooperation.

In November 2020, the Luban Workshop Construction Alliance was established. Under the unified management of the CEAIE, it is responsible for establishing construction standards, acquiring project approval, and performing quality supervision of Luban Workshops, providing professional support for project identification and the follow-up work. Its 72 member units include Chinese universities, scientific research institutions, social organizations, and enterprises.

Statistics from the Luban Workshop Research and Promotion Center show that by 2022, a total of 66 Chinese and foreign companies have cooperated with Luban Workshops on professional teaching, training, and school-enterprise collaborative development, cultivating many skilled workers to serve Chinese and foreign enterprises.

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