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China's vocational training system is starting to crumble

Authorities scramble to promote skilled trades as workforce shrinks

Reshaping public perception that learning a skilled trade is not a dead-end street for the young will require more effort on the part of the government, Chinese education experts say.

China will soon need millions of the kinds of skilled workers who keep an economy functioning, such as auto mechanics, heating and air conditioner repair people, electricians, plumbers and computer technicians.

Yet the vocational education system has fallen into shambles, leaving the world's second-largest economy ill-equipped to replace millions of the highly skilled who are retiring as the population ages and the workforce shrinks. In 2021, 57.8% of Chinese between 18 and 22 years old were enrolled in higher education, according to the Ministry of Education. Meanwhile, the proportion enrolled in vocational high schools dropped to 35% in 2020 from 60% in 1998.

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