In the past, manufacturing was often associated with blue-collar work, making it an unpopular choice for college graduates. However, recent trends show a significant shift in preferences among Chinese college graduates, with emerging and high-tech sectors in the manufacturing industry becoming increasingly appealing.
According to data from the Chinese job-seeking website Liepin, as of April 2023, the three most popular sectors for job applications from graduates were AIGC (artificial intelligence generated content), intelligent manufacturing, and large-scale AI models. The year-on-year growth in the number of job applications in these sectors was remarkable, with increases of 303.12 percent, 297.27 percent, and 235.25 percent, respectively.
Another survey by Liepin revealed that the proportion of applications from upcoming graduates in the internet and real estate industries decreased significantly from 2021 to 2023. In contrast, the machinery manufacturing sector saw a substantial increase in applications during the same period.
One of the key reasons for this shift is the changing perception of manufacturing jobs. In the past, entering manufacturing was seen as taking up blue-collar work, which was not the preferred choice for college graduates. However, this perception has evolved. Nowadays, young Chinese college graduates are more interested in positions related to the construction, management, operation, and maintenance of digital workshops and intelligent factories, especially in high-end manufacturing sectors such as new energy, integrated circuits, and industrial automation.
Sun Piwu, head of the organization department of the Party Committee of Shaanxi Automobile Group Co., Ltd., noted a significant increase in applications from college students in 2023, exceeding 10,000. This shift is attributed to college students adapting to changes in the job market and the growing appeal of high-end manufacturing.
At a recent job fair in Shanghai, nearly half of the recruiters were high-tech enterprises, receiving a staggering 25,000 job applications. Young graduates like Yuan, who majors in energy and materials, prefer offers from promising industries and sci-tech innovation enterprises that offer good salaries and greater potential.
The growing demand for talent in advanced manufacturing sectors is evident. Li Zhiqiang, who joined a new energy car company after graduating, witnessed his department rapidly expanding within a year. Similarly, the photovoltaic industry is experiencing a surge in demand for talent, particularly engineers. Leading enterprises like LONGi Green Energy Technology Co., Ltd. have significantly increased their campus recruitment, reflecting a 50 percent increase in 2023 compared to the previous year.
Furthermore, advanced manufacturing jobs tend to offer better salaries. The average annual salary for jobs in intelligent manufacturing, AIGC, and large-scale AI models stands at 330,200 yuan, 303,600 yuan, and 279,900 yuan, respectively.
However, despite the enthusiasm of college graduates, some manufacturing enterprises struggle to find employees with the right expertise for intelligent and digital development. There is a disconnect between the needs of these enterprises and the knowledge structure and technical skills of applicants. The demand for multidisciplinary and cross-disciplinary talent is high, leading to a shortage in the digital talent pool. According to research, China faces an overall shortfall of digital talent, estimated to be between 25 million to 30 million.
To address this talent shortage, efforts are being made to train digital technology engineers, focusing on areas such as smart manufacturing, big data, blockchain, integrated circuits, and other related emerging occupations. Li Jinsheng, an official with the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, highlights the importance of these initiatives in bridging the gap between industry needs and available talent in the rapidly evolving manufacturing landscape.