Vocational education offers young Tibetans dreams, jobs

LHASA-Dawa Puncog dipped a poached shrimp into salad dressing, wrapped it with fried shredded potatoes, and shaped it into a ball.

He is one of 39 students majoring in cooking at Nagchu Vocational and Technical School in Nagchu, a city in the Tibet autonomous region, and golden shrimp balls are the dish he is best at cooking.

Since entering the school last year, the 18-year-old from Nagchu's Lhoma township has learned how to make different kinds of Chinese and Tibetan dishes.

"I plan to find a chef job after graduation and open a restaurant with three of my classmates," he said.

Through vocational training, many young Tibetan farmers and herders, who are no longer tied to the land thanks to modern farming equipment, have chosen to pursue their own interests and secure jobs with higher incomes.

Qime Lhamo, dean of the cooking department, said that in cooperation with a training institute in Lhasa it sends the students to the regional capital for two years of training.

The department was founded in 2015. Some of the first graduates now cook for railway companies or serve as instructors in other training centers.

Ding Tao, Party chief of the school, said more than 260 of its students have taken lessons at partner schools in the provinces of Guangdong and Sichuan.

"On the one hand, they and the local students can learn from each other; on the other hand, the young Tibetans can see a larger world in cities," Ding said. "The experience will be helpful for their growth."

Nagchu Vocational and Technical School now offers 11 majors, including husbandry, veterinary medicine, Tibetan medicine, logistics, nursing and cooking, to more than 4,000 students from across the city.

To help with their employment, the school cooperates with enterprises and provides them with free workspace. The enterprises, including a restaurant and a tailor's shop, offer part-time or full-time jobs for the school's students or graduates.

Changchub Wangdu, who owns the Tibetan cuisine restaurant, said his eatery hires five graduates from the school, including two being trained as chefs. The intern chefs are paid 4,500 yuan ($640) a month.

"For those who perform well, I will double their wages, hiring them as head cooks," he said.

The restaurant's head chef, who is from Lhasa, earns 12,000 yuan a month.

"The local graduates not only help lower my hiring costs but also are more willing to stay," Changchub Wangdu said.

Baima Tsogyel, a 17-year-old freshman majoring in nursing, has learned how to bandage wounds and give injections.

"I hope I can find a nursing job in a hospital in Nagchu," she said.

Over the past three years, more than 70 percent of the school's graduates have found jobs or entered higher institutions for further study, said He Weibo, the school's vice-president.

"Some of them have started their own businesses and secured more jobs for our graduates," He said.

Tibet has more than 10 public vocational institutions, with at least one in each prefectural-level area. Private schools and colleges are also mushrooming in the region to meet the rising demand for vocational training.

Dawa Cering, deputy head of the Tibet Autonomous Region Human Resources and Social Security Department, said the region has entered a new phase of high-quality development, with the rapid development of various industries.

"Many companies are short of skilled talent, and it is necessary to cultivate skilled personnel that meet the market demand," he said.