The ECNU-S&P Research Center has been commissioned with a new research project. In cooperation with the Journal of East China Normal University (Educational Sciences), our study on the expectations of Western companies regarding the professional qualifications of Chinese school and university graduates and their degree of fulfillment will be supplemented by the perspective of the graduates and their experiences as young professionals in Western companies.
From 2014 to 2017, the ECNU-S&P Research Center analyzed the professional qualifications of Chinese high school and college graduates in various studies as part of the Smart Education China initiative. Central to the research was the question of the extent to which Chinese school and university graduates meet the expectations of Western companies, as strong dissatisfaction was observed in this context. To this end, around 300 Western companies operating in the Chinese labor market, among others, were asked what expectations they had of Chinese graduates in various disciplines and to what extent these expectations were met. You can download the final report of the research series here.
One of the key findings of the study was that the reason for Western companies’ dissatisfaction with Chinese young professionals is not primarily a lack of professional skills. Rather, it is the lack of methodological and social skills, or the fact that they are only slightly developed, that makes it difficult for young professionals to apply their theoretical knowledge in practice in a targeted manner.
As part of the new research contract initiated, the ECNU-S&P Research Center was commissioned to supplement the results of the first research series, in which primarily managers and employees from the human resources departments of Western companies were interviewed, with the perspective of Chinese young professionals. In interviews, the young employees are asked about the extent to which they can effectively apply their theoretical school and university education in their professional lives.
The main respondents are young professionals who work for Western companies in China. In addition, young Chinese employees who work for international corporations in Germany or Europe will be surveyed. A control group of young Chinese employees who work for internationally active Chinese companies within China will also be surveyed.
Recruiting technically qualified young people is a major challenge for companies. Companies often have to cut back on preferred qualifications. In particular, recruiting suitable young people in technical fields and in research and development is proving difficult. The main reasons cited are insufficient methodological and technical knowledge on the part of applicants and a lack of practical experience.
The high level of fluctuation currently present on China’s labor market makes personnel development more difficult. “Job hopping” has become a new “popular sport” in China. Competition for the scarce talent is driving up salaries and making it difficult for companies to recruit and retain employees. Employees are aware of the scarcity of qualified junior staff and are taking advantage of this for career opportunities and salary jumps by changing employers.
The demands of the companies on the level of competency training differ with regard to different functions, positions and into different organizational areas. A total of 37 competencies from the following four clusters were included in the analysis:
Professional and methodological competencies
Experience and additional qualifications
With regard to the competencies for which the difference between the importance or expected degree of competency training and its fulfillment is greatest, it is noticeable that technical competencies as well as experiences and additional qualifications are missed less than social and personal competencies. It is also apparent that the companies surveyed have higher requirements for the trained competencies of graduates, the higher the level of educational attainment.
The results of the present study show that an evolution toward holistic quality education must take place. Diverse, changing market requirements demand competencies that enable flexible and lifelong learning for the entire company as well as for each individual young or seasoned employee. In addition, the availability of information is constantly increasing. At the same time, the half-life of knowledge is decreasing. Chinese companies and their employees are required to constantly update what they have learned and to further develop their skills. Simply imparting knowledge and testing it in examinations does not contribute to the sustainable development of the desired knowledge economy. Skills for acquiring and evaluating knowledge must be promoted. Exam education hinders China’s path to a knowledge economy by robbing students of all creativity and initiative through constant memorization. Graduates lack key social, personal and methodological skills to constantly adapt themselves to a changing world.
The educational initiative Smart Education China is the second project of the ECNU-S&P Research Center. The ECNU-S&P Research Center for ICT-Enabled Systemic Changes and Innovations was founded in 2013 in a cooperation between ECNU and S&P Consulting. The project aims to improve the Chinese education system in the long term by enabling teachers to act as coaches and thus enable students to develop their practical skills.
In the future, schools in China shall be based on a system that considers equality, quality, and innovation to the same extent.
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