Blue-collar jobs are vital, says council

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 February, 2013, 4:34am

The lack of students pursuing blue-collar jobs could be fatal to the city's long-term development, the head of the body charged with training such workers says.

Vocational Training Council chairman Clement Chen Cheng-jen said yesterday that even in a knowledge-based society, not everyone needed a degree.

And some blue-collar workers could even make more money than people working in offices, he said.

"When you talk about a knowledge-based economy, not every single one of us must have a university degree. We can have skilled work forces in various aspects," he told the media.

"The government is now relying on two legs, degrees and associate degrees, but vocational and professional training seems not to be the focus," he added, noting that there were concerns about labour shortages in welding, aviation engineering, maritime services and, more recently, information technology.

A VTC spokeswoman said later that the council's courses on maritime studies, for example, ran at 70 per cent of capacity while some courses had more applicants than vacancies.

She said the number of places available was subject to discussions with the industry and other factors, including resources and general policies.

Chen said the government's lack of action to change perceptions that only a university degree would lead to a successful career was "fatal" to the diversity of the economy.

"If you want to be a captain, you don't need to go to a university to do the course ... we also have plenty of facilities teaching welding," he said. "But we don't have people studying that."

The council was set up to offer vocational training and affordable courses to youngsters with the help of subsidies.

New executive director Carrie Yau Tsang Ka-lai, a former government official, said the council, which now has about 50 non-local students, planned to admit more of them.

Another target was to allow 90 per cent of its students to do internships before graduation.