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Cooperation between companies and educational facilities are enabling suppliers to improve their design, technology and manufacturing skill sets, and students to gain employment.
Companies in various export-industries in China are forming partnerships with universities, vocational colleges and research institutes not only to boost R&D and manufacturing capability but also to upgrade their workforce.
Such relationships exist in both mature and sunrise industries, including apparel, furniture, household appliances, PV, LED lighting and electric cars. Most suppliers that venture into these alliances are midsize and large businesses that generate more than $1 million in annual export sales, of which at least 3 percent is invested in R&D.
Local governments encourage these joint ventures, releasing grants to both companies and research organizations. Each year, for instance, Zhejiang Jinfei Machinery Group Co. Ltd and the Jinhua College of Vocation and Technology receive funding for their research projects from the provincial government.
One of the most common types of partnerships involves a research center being built jointly by the manufacturer and the university, with the former applying any developments or breakthroughs in production.
Professional massage product maker Zhejiang Haozhonghao Health Product Co. Ltd worked with the Yangtze Delta Region Institute of Tsinghua University to build the Shengli Research Center in 2006. Zhejiang Haozhonghao provides the funding for the center, which develops the technology the company uses in manufacturing. This relationship also enabled the maker to gain prestige in both the international and domestic markets. It is now one of the top five exporters of massage products in China and is among the companies selected to draft the national standard for the line.
Symbiotic relationships
In some partnerships, recruiting talented students is the main focus rather than enhancing R&D or manufacturing capability. Companies sign contracts with universities, which then open courses and research subjects according to the former’s needs. A supplier of digital equipment for rubber tires, Mesnac Co. Ltd sends its tire and rubber machinery experts to lecture at the Qingdao University of Science & Technology. Scholarships, internships and job opportunities for the university’s graduates are offered as well. By doing so, it is able to recruit outstanding graduates to work at the company.
Neo-Neon LED Lighting Intl Ltd, a supplier of decorative lighting, has a similar partnership with universities such as the South China University of Technology, Fudan University and Wuyi University. The company allows its production workshop to be used for Wuyi University students’ practical training. The university’s applied physics and materials department, meanwhile, opened some LED lighting courses designed to fit Neo-Neon’s requirements. Qualified graduates are given hiring preference.
The Jinhua College of Vocation and Technology has a special machine and equipment manufacturing technology class since 2002. Dubbed the Jinfei class, all lectures are customized to Zhejiang Jinfei’s needs. The company’s technical team members sometimes teach as guest lecturers. Students can also use Zhejiang Jinfei’s automobile accessory production workshops for practical training.
The school, meanwhile, shares its teaching, and research instruments and equipment with the company. It provides short-term training to Zhejiang Jinfei’s workers as well. Further, some of the teachers are invited to join the company’s production and management staff.