Youth urged to bring talents to the countryside

2024-06-08 11:11:58China Daily Editor : Mo Honge ECNS App Download

Young Chinese people have shown an increasing willingness to learn skills that will help the country vitalize its rural economy — particularly through e-commerce. 

"I wish to sell sweet apples from my hometown, Yunnan province, to more people in China and around the world through e-commerce. I believe e-commerce can help improve the socioeconomic development situation in my hometown," said 21-year-old Suo Chengyu, an e-commerce major who won a gold medal at a State-level skills competition in May.

Raised in Zhaotong, Yunnan, Suo is in her third year at Yunnan Technician College in Kunming, capital of the province.

"Many times, I've seen villagers who were worried about the sales of their produce, which were of very good quality," she said. "The rural areas need more e-commerce talent with skills in market planning, data analysis and advertisement."

Suo said she wants to contribute to the development of e-commerce in rural areas and become a teacher after graduation.

"I want to encourage or inspire more youths, especially those from rural areas, to use their strengths or skills to revive their villages," she said.

Showcasing skills

Suo was among the young skilled talent who participated in the nation's second State-level skills competition for rural vitalization in Guiyang, Guizhou province, from May 8 to May 10.

The competition included 11 events focused on useful and technical skills for rural vitalization work, including e-commerce and farm machinery maintenance. Each event had separate competitions for students and professionals.

The competition was organized by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, and the Guizhou provincial government.

Over 700 competitors from across the nation joined the competition. The average age of the participants was 25.6 years old, with 517 below age 30. The youngest competitor was only 16 years old. 

Industry insiders and experts said that the competition was a good way not only for participants to hone their skills, but also to dispel the negative perception of skilled workers, who are traditionally seen as undereducated with a low social status.

They hope such competitions will motivate more skilled talent to contribute to rural vitalization.

Wang Xiaojun, an official from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, said that the competition gives workers a way to showcase their skills to the public, promoting the spirit of working models and craftsmanship.

"More young people and laborers in rural areas will be inspired, which will benefit the nation's rural vitalization work," she said.

Labor shortage

Figures from the human resources ministry show that China currently has over 200 million skilled workers, 60 million of whom are highly skilled. However, the nation is still grappling with a shortage of such laborers, especially in rural areas, due to the group's lower salaries and social status.

Zhang Lifang, director of the China (Guangzhou) Research Center of WorldSkills Competition, said that people skilled in smart farming, the processing and sales of produce, farm machinery maintenance and rural area management are urgently needed to drive rural vitalization. Such workers will boost the development and application of high technology, including big data, artificial intelligence and blockchain technology, in the agriculture industry.

"For example, sowing and harvesting were once laborious tasks, but now they are mechanized. So talent who are skilled in electrical engineering and vehicle or farm machinery operations and maintenance are needed. Also, skilled workers in education and healthcare are important in the vitalization of rural areas because of people's growing demand for better lives," she said.

The nation has taken active measures to produce more skilled workers and encourage them to realize their ambitions in rural areas, which are seen as places with prospects and great potential that have yet to be untapped.

In 2021, the State Council, China's Cabinet, released a guideline requiring governments at all levels to develop more talent that will help boost the nation's rural vitalization efforts. The guideline has set a target of creating a high-quality talent pool focused on rural development by 2025.

The guideline stressed the importance of vocational skills education and encouraged vocational schools to cultivate technical or skilled talent urgently needed for rural development. It also urged demobilized military workers, people who have been laid off, migrant workers, farmers and women living in the countryside to apply to vocational schools to learn skills.

In addition, the nation has set up a national skills competition system in recent years, emulating the standards of the WorldSkills Competition, which is essentially the Olympics for skilled workers around the globe. Students and skilled workers can showcase their talent at different skills competitions under the national system, potentially earning good social reputations and better pay if they perform well, the human resources ministry said.

Hoping to inspire

Cai Yan, who won a gold medal in the baby nursing event at the Guizhou skills competition for professionals, said she was initially questioned by many new parents, as no one believed an unmarried young woman without a child could qualify for the job.

"I've gained practical experience by looking after my relatives' children and watching and learning from older workers," said the 27-year-old, who is now a teacher at Chongqing Three Gorges Medical College. She hopes that families with babies, especially new parents from rural areas, can learn some baby-nursing methods and ideas from the competition.

Cai's student, Xiang Lirong, won gold in the baby nursing event in the students competition. Xiang said that she wants to return to her hometown — Fengdu county in Chongqing — after graduation to inspire mothers there to learn baby nursing skills and start their own careers in the sector.

Meanwhile, 30-year-old Ye Yannyu from Shanghai said that she wants to introduce China's long-standing tea culture to the world and help more tea growers in rural areas and companies sell their products. Ye earned a bronze medal in the tea art event in the professional competition.

Zhang Rui, deputy head of the WorldSkills Competition China (Tianjin) Research Center, said that the nation has made great efforts to develop skilled workers in recent years and has encouraged them to contribute to rural vitalization work.

"The medal winners of skills competitions are representatives of their industries who can guide more young people to serve as skilled workers and develop themselves into skills masters," said Zhang, who holds a bullish view of skilled workers' development in rural areas.

"In addition to the shortfall of technical workers with smart and mechanized agriculture skills, inadequate public services and an aging problem in rural areas also require skilled workers for elderly care and baby nursing," she said.

Experts have called for more effective supporting policies, higher social recognition and systematic career promotions for skilled students and workers to boost their morale.

Zhang Lifang, director of the China (Guangzhou) Research Center of WorldSkills Competition, said that the nation can promote the inspirational stories of outstanding skilled laborers and the prospects of their professions to help change negative public perceptions of such work.

"The government can create more preferential policies on employment, entrepreneurship, housing and education to support skilled talent, and also guide companies to set up more reasonable and scientific payment and promotion systems based on their workers' performances," she added.

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