Before Xu Qijin started maintaining power lines in Suzhou, Anhui province, his time after nightfall was mostly spent in darkness. "Life was hard then. Even the kerosene lamp was a luxury and could usually only be used when doing homework," he said.
On a visit to downtown Suzhou, the member of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference made a decision to do work that could help people get power for lighting.
"When I saw a bulb, I thought how good it would be if I could do homework under the light from it," said Xu, 55, from the Suzhou branch of the State Grid.
When he graduated from high school at age 19, he discovered that a local power station was recruiting and he didn't hesitate to apply.
The work was not easy. "We had to spend half of the working day walking in mountainous areas or through farmland to check the grid. The rest of the time, we had to work on steel frames up to 70 meters high, rooting out grid malfunctions," Xu said.
Sometimes, he and his colleagues had to work more than 100 kilometers away from home. Instead of commuting every day, he stayed in the area for up to a week, sharing a bed with more than two of his colleagues.
"The frames got so hot during the summer they could burn your skin if you didn't wear gloves. In winter, they were so cold that it was sometimes difficult to remove your bare hands," said Xu, who was also a delegate to the 19th Communist Party of China National Congress, held in October.
Xu didn't expect to stay in the post for 36 years. "It was only the year before last that I didn't have to climb the frames any more. My apprentices stopped me from doing that considering my age," he said.
"I thought about changing to another job, but when I look at these grids I feel so proud of my job."
This time, he only had one proposal to be handed to the CPPCC National Committee about giving more preferential policies to the development of skilled workers in the country.
"The central authorities plan to develop artificial intelligence. AI development cannot be achieved without the support of a team of qualified skilled workers," he said.
Xu said he began working on the proposal last month. After work, he talked with workers from other companies to find out their opinions. He also spent his weekends researching the topic.
Xu said he now spends most of his time training apprentices, hoping to contribute to the building of a team of skilled workers for the country.