"Craftsmanship" is becoming a prominent buzzword in China’s manufacturing sector as planners and entrepreneurs press for the development of high-technology industries.
Education authorities and vocational schools in Shanghai are now endeavoring to cultivate the next generation of creative craftspeople. One of their strategies is to help young designers, technicians and skilled tradespeople share their experience and knowledge with students.
At a recent conference organized by the Shanghai Public Utility School and attended by students from about 60 secondary-level vocational training institutions, vocational graduates shared their job achievements and offered their views on what it takes to become a modern craftsman.
Among the speakers was 23-year-old Shu Hui, a graduate from Shanghai City Science and Technology School and now one of the youngest lead technicians at an aerospace equipment factory affiliated with the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology.
“There is no shortcut in craftsmanship,” he says. “I work during the day and continue practicing at night. I spend much time and energy accumulating experience with practical operations and achieving successes.”
Born in Anhui Province, Shu came to Shanghai with his parents when he was about six years old. He studied at a special school for children of migrant workers. When the city later encouraged local public schools to admit children from migrant families, he entered a regular school here.
When Shu was about to graduate from middle school in 2010, his family faced a dilemma. If he wanted to go to college, he would have to return to his hometown and sit the national college entrance exams there. Of course, this would mean being away from his parents and missing the opportunity to study in Shanghai.
In the end, he found another option that allowed him to remain in Shanghai with his family: vocational education.
“I thought that it wouldn’t be bad to learn a skill, and maybe I could work in Shanghai after graduation,” he says.
Shu was interested in numerical controls and automobile repair, but eventually chose the former as it involved computers and was “more advanced.”
He was lucky. He fell in love with his major and showed his talent. Shu was selected to attend city- and national-level vocational competitions, and won first prizes in both. When he was poised to graduate in 2013, one of his teachers learned that an aerospace equipment factory was recruiting technicians and encouraged him to apply.
Shu got a job producing rocket valves, though the factory rarely hired vocational school graduates as for its technician staff.
Shu tells Shanghai Daily that he’s been trained to strive for perfection and forge ahead with determination. He voluntarily worked overtime to develop his professional skills.
His efforts paid off before long. Shu soon became a proficient machine operator and earned advanced vocational certificates. More importantly, he was also assigned to develop a valve for the Long March-6 carrier rocket.
“I felt excited, but soon calmed down to concentrate on my research,” he says. “I designed tools according to the characteristics of the product and tested machining parameters again and again to break through all the technical bottlenecks and improved the production pass rate from 60 percent to 100 percent.”
The Long March-6 rocket carried 20 satellites into space in 2015. Shu says he was working when the rocket was first launched but felt proud when watching TV news afterward.
The young man says he produced parts for other space missions, such as the recent Shenzhou-11 and Tiangong-8 missions.
“I feel the pressure of my job, as one micrometer can make a huge difference in spaceflight,” he says. “For me, to meticulously take every step to overcome various challenges is a basic requirement for a craftsman.”
Lao Xiaoyun, director of the vocational education division at the Shanghai Education Commission, said at the conference that in modern times, craftsmanship means boldly applying modern technology and innovation, just as Shu has done in his job.