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May 17, 2012

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Home » Metro » Education

Held in low esteem, skilled workers needed

AS a graduate of Tongji University's School of Automotive Studies, Fu Tao felt embarrassed to work in an auto workshop in his deep-blue work uniform, while many other university graduates were working in the research labs or marketing and sales department in clean, high-end suits.

Fu worried that he might be a joke among his classmates and family members. But soon he found the work to be very interesting and he could learn a lot from the first-hand experience - quite helpful for long-term development.

Shanghai faces a great shortage of skilled labor, despite university students' complaints that it's increasingly difficult to find jobs. Highly skilled workers account for only 25 percent of the city's labor force, which is still far from developed countries and areas, according to the Shanghai Human Resources and Social Security Bureau.

More than 80 percent of companies need more technicians, especially high-level ones, according to recent survey by the Labor Daily.

Some companies complained it's more difficult to find an electric welder than a postgraduate due to Shanghai's unbalanced talent structure.

The great demand and short supply has resulted in strong salaries for high-end blue-collar workers. Some earn more than the white-collar group.

Despite the salaries, university graduates are reluctant to take blue-collar jobs.

"I felt very depressed when I was designated to work on the assembly line after I graduated in 2008," Fu said.

As a big fan of vehicles, he stayed despite his unhappiness with the posts and he soon found great pleasure and rewards in the workshop.

"I'm very proud to manufacture cars with my own hands," he said.

He is now a team leader in the workshop and his salary has surged from 4,000 yuan (US$632) a month to 10,000 yuan.

But many university students are not so flexible. They'd rather stay at home if they cannot get work in a top-500 company or large state-owned enterprise, according to the labor authorities.

People under 35 comprise 30 percent of the city's unemployed population, the largest among all age groups. Rising numbers of highly educated young people report being unemployed.

Shanghai aims to increase the proportion of highly skilled workers to 30 percent by 2015. To fulfill the target, the city has loosened the residency permit for non-local highly skilled workers to attract them to work in the city.

But some experts said a higher priority for the government should be to change the social prejudice against skilled laborers. Jin Jianhua, a political adviser, said the government must improve the social status of the blue-collar worker.

His voice was echoed by some universities. Tongji invited Fu and another blue-collar alumnus to join successful entrepreneurs and billionaires to deliver a speech to students yesterday, when the university celebrated its 105th anniversary, an invitation that surprised many people.

"Universities have the responsibility to guide the social opinion and change the situation," according to Jiang Hongbo, a university official in charge of student work.


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