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Wed, 22 Nov 2023 Feature Article

Luban Workshop: Charting a New Path to Global Capacity-building

Luban Workshop: Charting a New Path to Global Capacity-building
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IPRC Musanze, one of the eight colleges of Rwanda Polytechnic is the latest educational institution to welcome the Luban workshop, a Chinese vocational training program set-up to deepen cooperation between China and other countries to support global development. The newly inaugurated Rwanda Luban workshop which includes a modern laboratory equipped with robots and other new technologies will support the country’s efforts dedicated to enhancing capacity-building in various sectors as it pursues development goals. By contributing to develop and strengthen vocational skills and provide other core skills the Rwandan youth need to adapt and thrive in a fast-changing world, China, through the Luban workshop, a partnership between Rwanda Polytechnic and Jinhua Polytechnic is supporting the African country to address un-and under employment, foster productivity, drive inclusive growth and improve standards of living.

In an interview with Xinhua News Agency, Sylvie Mucyo, the vice-chancellor of Rwanda Polytechnic said, ‘‘The Luban Workshop is established with cutting-edge technologies that today's world needs. It is a tremendous achievement as it will help Rwandan students to get the best education, the best training in a conducive environment," She added that the Luban Workshop will enhance exchange of expertise – enable students and staff including researchers from Rwanda to collaborate with their Chinese counterparts on projects that will ultimately unlock new opportunities and provide lasting solutions to pressing socio-economic challenges. Sylvie Mucyo said "It will support students to be creative and innovative to work on solutions that the community and industry need,"

Since the first Luban workshop outside China was setup in Thailand on March 8, 2016, by the Tianjin Bohai Vocational Technical College, sponsored by Tianjin Bohai Chemical Industry (Group) Company Limited, China, through the project continues to share its vocational technology and culture with the world – deepening cooperation between Chinese educational institutions, government agencies and enterprises with their foreign counterparts. Named after Lu Ban, a Chinese craftsman of the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), who became famous for inventing tools, the Luban workshop, which follows this spirit of craftsmanship has over the past seven years been at the forefront of innovating vocational education worldwide – supporting countries to cultivate highly-skilled talents.

So far, a total of 27 Luban workshops have been established in 25 countries including Britain, Cambodia, Portugal, Pakistan, Indonesia and India. For participating countries, especially those located in resource-poor regions, the Luban workshop is increasingly indispensable to national efforts dedicated to eliminating barriers to human capital development, industrialization and agriculture modernization – contributing to enhancing local capacity-development in various industries. In Thailand, where the first Luban workshop outside China was set-up, the project located at Ayutthaya Technical College, has over the past seven years provided vocational training to 13,000 students. Students at the workshop receive hands-on training in modern teaching and learning facilities including a high-speed railway training center founded in 2018 by the Tianjin Railway Technical and Vocational College. Benefitting from advanced Chinese vocational training education including new technologies, Thailand, through the Luban workshop has trained highly-skilled professionals for key sectors.

According to Tanu Vongjinda, secretary-general of the Thai Vocational Education Commission "The courses offered by the workshop have precisely met the demand for high-quality talent in Thailand's industrial and transportation sectors," Tanu also revealed that "The workshop can be regarded as the commission's pride in having created a model for other educational institutions to promote vocational education management worldwide." Faced with a deeply concerning socio-economic phenomenon where nearly 7 in 10 out-of-school or unemployed youth in Thailand lack the motivation to develop skills or seek work, due to a perceived lack of opportunities, according to a new UNICEF-led study (2023), the Luban workshop has become an invaluable resource, contributing to national actions expected to tackle this daunting challenge.

Faced with similar challenges, Africa, considered the continent with the least skilled workforce in the world, a condition that partly accounts for the region’s decades-long slow growth is also benefiting from the Luban workshop. In March 2019 Africa’s first Luban workshop was setup in Djibouti – over the past four years, China has established 12 workshops in 11 African countries including Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, South Africa, Ethiopia and Egypt – jointly collaborating with local education authorities to provide the continent’s bulging youth population with vocational training designed to foster agriculture modernization, advance industrialization and support human capital development. In Djibouti, the Luban workshop which offers 4 majors: rail engineering technology, railway operation and management, business and logistics, all certified by local education authorities – has trained 69 local teachers and 148 students – the project has also achieved one of its goals, thus, to cultivate local talents for the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, a major project under China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

By jointly providing countries with well-structured advanced vocational training programs that are typically needs-driven, China through the Luban workshop fosters a sense of ownership and empowerment – enabling participating countries, especially those located in resource-poor regions to take bold steps, chart a new path to development.

About the Author
Alexander Ayertey Odonkor is a global economist with keen interest in the social, environmental and economic landscape of both developing and developed countries, particularly in Asia, Africa and Europe. He is a columnist for the China Global Television Network (CGTN), The Brussels Times, China Daily, The Diplomat, Business and Financial Times and several others. He holds a master’s degree in Finance and a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Finance, together with a comprehensive postgraduate education, spanning entrepreneurship, environmental and social management, mining, risk management, electronic trading, and business management pursued at Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Curtin University, University of Adelaide, New York Institute of Finance and Delft University of Technology, respectively.

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