China Focus: China upgrades training of nursing professionals for aging population

2024-July-5 13:51 By: Xinhua

by Xinhua writer Wang Aihua

BEIJING, July 4 (Xinhua) -- In 2020, Liu Jiayun became one of China's first undergraduate students enrolled in the major of elderly care at the Shanghai University of Engineering Science (SUES).

In the past four years, Liu and her 30-some classmates have followed a progressive curriculum design on campus, from general knowledge about the elderly care industry, laws and regulations, to operation and management skills. This will be combined with internships at elderly care institutions, working from basic posts to management.

"Sometimes our teachers had to collect teaching materials by themselves due to lack of reference books," she said. "We were also invited to participate in investigative projects on new developments in the industry."

With a population aged 60 or above expected to top 400 million by around 2035, China is upgrading the training of nursing professionals to bridge the gap between talent supply and demand, particularly at the higher end of the service.

In 2019, the Ministry of Education and several other departments urged universities to set up elderly care majors. The SUES and the Shandong Women's University (SWU) were the first to do so, aiming to nurture talents proficient in both theories and practices. More than 200 universities nationwide have opened relevant majors for undergraduates, complementing vocational education.

Ma Liang, a professor of public management at Renmin University of China, said most Chinese universities were not ready to set up elderly care majors when rapid aging widened the talent supply and demand gap. "Many students also hesitated to choose this major because jobs related to elderly care may start with unsatisfactory payment or high workload," said Ma.

Things have changed over the years. According to the SUES, the number of students enrolled in its elderly care major has grown yearly since 2020, with a higher proportion of them making the major their first choice when applying for colleges.

Ma pointed out that the industry now offers sufficient job vacancies, a blessing for graduates in today's fiercely competitive job market, plus significant space for long-term career development if one becomes a veteran.

During the graduation season this year, Liu and her classmates were thrilled to find a number of job vacancies at a specially organized recruitment session on their campus, ranging from management posts in nursing homes to counselors for individual elderly care and health secretaries. "Employers usually find my major novel and suits their needs," said Liu, who quickly secured a job with the Association of Senior Service in Shanghai.

Zhang Jingfeng, general manager of a senior care service provider in Shanghai named Renshoutang, said the company offered salaries of nearly 10,000 yuan (about 1,402 U.S. dollars) for management posts at the SUES campus recruitment session plus a career development package spanning three to five years for new employees.

Industry insiders say many businesses urgently need management staff, which the bachelor's degree holders fit perfectly.

To make relevant jobs more attractive, the central authorities issued a document in 2021 requiring employers in the elderly care industry to raise employee payments and offer clear career development paths.

Last month, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security issued a notice promising to support medical staff at elderly care service institutions by sitting in on the vocational qualification exam and having their professional titles reviewed. Subsidies on social insurance will also be offered to small and micro-sized gray hair economy businesses that employ college graduates.

Major cities are also pioneering efforts to attract educated youngsters in this area. The Pudong New Area, home to the largest senior population among all districts of Shanghai, had encouraged college graduates to work in elderly care institutions, built training camps for them, and established studios for experienced practitioners.

Lin Manqing, one of the graduates at the SWU who will soon take a marketing job at a nursing institution in Qingdao, Shandong Province, shared her optimism about the future. "The university offered us a very good chance to learn knowledge, know different people and accumulate work experiences," she said. "Hope we can stay confident and dare to try."

Editor: WXY
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