Our impact, their voices

Powering more advanced apprenticeship systems in China

With rapid changes in the labour market and the challenge of COVID-19, the ILO and China are working together to implement quality apprenticeships.

Feature | China | 03 June 2021
BEIJING, China (ILO News) – Miaomiao Yao runs the apprenticeship training program for a large manufacturer of automotive and agricultural machinery based in Rizhao, China’s Shandong Province. But with the intense pace of production leaving little time for training, Ms Yao faces a problem.

“Due to the high-intensity of our work, it has been difficult to manage the time given to apprenticeships in each unit. As a result, our training programmes were underperforming,” she said.

With some 10,000 employees, Shandong Wuzheng Group has a long tradition of training apprentices. However the demands on its workforce, fast changes in the labour market and the impacts of COVID-19 have taken a toll on the Wuzheng apprenticeship programme.

With help from the ILO, Ms Yao has been able to tap into global experiences of implementing quality apprenticeship schemes, against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Miaomiao Yao at an ILO's capacity building workshop on Quality Apprenticeship
Since 2018, China has implemented a national enterprise-based apprenticeship programme, in which apprentices are instructed jointly by company trainers and teachers from local Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions.

Challenges remain, however, particularly in persuading enterprises to invest in apprenticeships while maintaining high levels of production throughout the year. For training providers, it is also difficult to establish a professional faculty team with sufficient teaching resources.

"The shortage of teachers for apprenticeship training is always an issue”, said Qiangzhi Ruan, the principal of Huzhou Changxing Technician College. “At the same time, the local TVET institution teachers' expertise cannot meet the needs of all businesses, resulting in poor training outcomes and low company participation."

To power a more advanced apprenticeship system in China, the ILO’s Quality Apprenticeship and Lifelong Learning in China project, funded by J.P. Morgan Chase has introduced new expertise and tools to China. The project aims to reduce job-skill mismatches, promote the sustainable development of enterprises and enhance youth employability.

“In the long run, in order to build a responsive and sustainable apprenticeship system in China, learning from global best practice is necessary,” said Xian Guan, National Project Coordinator, ILO.

The project aims to help enterprises, TVET institutions and policy makers gain a comprehensive understanding of how to implement quality apprenticeships.

Apprenticeship training, Changxing Technician College
Shandong Wuzheng Group is one of the project’s pilot enterprises with managers and trainers piloting the ILO E-course 'Tools for Quality Apprenticeship in Enterprises' to enrich Wuzheng apprenticeship training. Ms Yao attended two capacity-building workshops, held in Chongqing in March and April 2021.

“I realized that by integrating the training and supervision process via online learning platforms and mobile training logs, we could adjust the training programme to fit our company’s production situation,” Ms Yao said. “This is an excellent way to solve the conflict between production and training during busy times," she added.

Zhouwei Cui, a Wuzheng trainer, was impressed by the E-course giving ‘Practical Tips for Coaching’. “The course illustrates how to guide apprentices to absorb what they are taught, ranging from clear communication to step-by-step demonstrations. We didn’t recognize this component as a key role before. The ILO E-course directs us how to carry out apprenticeship training in the future, and these trained apprentices can grow to become the backbone of Wuzheng," he said.

Lingxiao Kong, a senior lecturer of Changxing Technician College, also took part in the workshops and highlighted how they had helped shape the future direction of the institute. "In some countries, TVET instructors play a more important role in society than as merely teachers in schools. This has given us new ideas on how to build a solid team of professional teaching staff. We seek outstanding trainers from companies. After completing training of trainers for apprenticeship in the college, they will be offered the qualification of an apprenticeship trainer. This will help expand our faculty, and meet the demands of enterprises for skilled trainers,” he added.

Lingxiao Kong delivered apprenticeship training at Changxing Technician College
The Quality Apprenticeship and Lifelong Learning in China project has now been introduced in two municipalities, two cities and one large sector in China. A total of 270 participants, from 39 enterprises, 32 training providers and five local management departments, have directly benefited from the programme and are now putting what they learned into practice, which is benefiting a wider range of apprentices.

Ms Yao was also inspired to integrate core skill curricula, such as social and emotional, cognitive, digital and green skills, into apprenticeship training to make it easier for employees to transfer to different jobs when necessary.

“By combining technical skill training with core skill training, we hope to gradually improve the capacity of apprentices to manage their emotions and think strategically," said Ms Yao.

"For apprentices, equipped with core skills and technical skills, they can brighten their own career prospects in the ever-changing world of work," she added.

For more information, please contact

Xian Guan
National Project Coordinator, Quality Apprenticeship and Lifelong Learning in China
ILO Country Office for China and Mongolia