Vocational education is the foundation of Taiwanese manufacturing industry

Chang-Hsiu Chen, the president of TFMA, indicated that strong vocational education is necessary for the development of Taiwanese manufacturing industry.

Taiwan is still the main role in global manufacturing industry

Taiwan is renowned by OEM industry, generating what we called “Taiwan Economic Miracle”.  Behind the scene was actually the great combination between education and career development. By looking back, today we understand how important vocational education is, especially for manufacturing industry.

Near 1990, Taiwan industry reached its peak. Around 1992, many of traditional industry started moving out. Industrial hollowing-out had made huge impact in Taiwan employment environment. Many people asked: “Why we can’t raise our standard salary?” Actually the answer is quite obvious. People lose their jobs after industry migrated. However, most of them couldn’t find jobs similar to previous one, as the whole industry were gone. So they had no choice, but restart their career, including their level of salary, or transfer to service industry, or open breakfast restaurants. Moreover, not only traditional industry migrated, but also high-tech industry move to other countries. And, actually, the industrial mirgration is still happening.

Must Integrate Technology and Design

Manufacturing industry take 25% of the whole Taiwan economic, generating a great amount of export value. However, due to the industrial migration, exports to US had reduced 71%(only 29% left in Taiwan), exports to Europe had dropped 65%(with only 35% of previous exports value left in Taiwan). Therefore, to be honest, said Chang-Hsiu Chen, “If we want to raised standard salary level, we have to implement the traditional spirit from Lu Ban. (A Chinese carpenter during 507 - 444 BC)” Take Wegner Furniture for instance. It’s a factory with only 20 - 30 employees that are capable to satisfy orders around the world, with highest reputation. That should be our goal. Furthermore, by integrating our skills and technology we have today, small-volume production or customization is achievable. And that could encourage Taiwanese young people to stay in Taiwan.

Taiwan has been training many designers for years. However,  the amount of technical employees is decreasing. Last year Taiwan Furniture Manufacturers’ Association (TFMA) organized a forum of professional carpenter. It released a report showing that in the past 50 years of vocational education, Taiwanese students had attended 25 times of international carpentry skills competition, with 5 times Taiwanese won gold medals. The records is enough to announce that Taiwan is an important foundation for the development of furniture and carpentry. However, since the education reform, Taiwan’s vocational education has been suspended for over 20 years. Some of those who owned qualified skills still stay in colleges as educators, yet maybe 5 - 8 years later they might retire from school. Then, new teachers who taking over might be credentialism, resulting in the loss of highly talented people.

Taiwan Needs More Skilled Workforce

Perhaps some people would say Taiwan has many universities of technology. However, how many students really take vocational trainings today? Many of those universities even don’t have equipments for trainings. Thus, Chen reveals three difficulties before vocational education truly implemented in Taiwan. The first suggest is to remove subject examination in technical education recruitment. The second is about numerous teacher’s associations, which has became barrier for some talented applicants. And the third is to suggest presidents of universities of technology should be routinely changed every 4 years.

Chang-Hsiu Chen said, the above is the overview of Taiwan furniture industry. When talking about China furniture industry, Taiwanese businessmen has made a great amount of contribution. The highest record is to help China earning 10 billion US Dollars of exports value in one year.  Recently, due to increased labor cost and trade issues between China and United States, Taiwanese furniture companies migrate their factories to Vietnam. Which means that Taiwanese furniture companies still have very strong influence in the market.
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