SkillingNow Podcast: Episode 6 - Transcript

SkillingNow Podcast: Episode 6 - Transcript


Kathleen Elsig:  Globalisation has created a world in which boarders are blurred and people communicate and increasingly work across different time zones, cultures and languages. Welcome to the SkillingNow podcast. My name is Kathleen Elsig, I’m Head of Strategic Partnerships for the Global Apprenticeship Network. We’re delighted to have with us Ms Min Wang, founder and director of Route2China, an organisation, specialized in providing work exchanges for young people between 17 and 25 years of age with China and other countries around the world, creating new opportunities and challenges for people and for businesses.

Your organisation, Route2China is helping people and companies navigate this new world of work and unlock unforeseen opportunities for example through apprenticeships in Chinese companies. So Min, I have a few questions for you. Globalisation is transforming the way we work, and the skills people and businesses need to succeed. Can you tell us, how Route2China’s mobility apprenticeship programme is helping companies and people build the skills they need to thrive in today’s world of work?

Min Wang: Thank you Kathleen for having me here on this podcast. First, I would like to quickly tell you a little bit about what our mobility programme is about.

Basically, we organise work exchanges, especially for young people when they’re doing an apprenticeship, to get a real-life project in China. For example, in October, we have organised 30 IT apprentices who will be doing 4-5 different projects for start-ups in China. Such mobility programmes are very attractive to the companies, because this helps the companies to build up the image that they are very progressive and that they are a global leader. We need the top talents, young people who are really motivated and young people who are really open to new culture, who are curious about new things, about how to find other ways of looking at things and resolving problems. These are the people signing up for the programmes. We really have a pool of young people who are motivated to go to such programmes and if a company would offer such a programme this definitely increases their attractiveness in the apprenticeship world.

On the other hand, for the apprentices of course, such a mobility programme in China, a country that is so different from what we know in Switzerland, that has a difficult language and culture, this is the best way to prepare them for the future. Like you mentioned before, China and the whole world are really globalising. We are getting closer to each other; however we still have this language and culture barriers. So when young people have a chance to go to a country like China to get real work experience, it really opens up their mind, it expands their horizon also personally and it is definitely a good thing for them to have for their career and to build up for the future and prepare for a globalised world for the future.

KE: Fascinating, thank you for those thoughts. What about for Chinese companies? It’s quite a lot of work to take on board an apprentice for any company. Here we are talking about apprenticeships that are potentially a few weeks or even a month long. What are the benefits for Chinese companies to bringing apprentices on board from other countries for a short period of time?


MW: For the Chinese companies, basically, we are very lucky, especially when we are doing such programmes with Swiss apprentices, they are very hands-on. So the Chinese companies can profit from the very hands-on experience of the apprentices. Of course on the Chinese side, they would also like to learn from the West how different projects, for example, are done, because the way of thinking and how to resolve problems are quite different between these two cultures, the West and the Chinese culture. The companies really welcome such groups of apprentices to do a project in their company also to show their own employees how things could be done differently, or very innovatively and creatively.

For the short experience apprentices, what we offer usually is also done in groups of four to six people, so usually at the end of the three or four weeks they can really deliver quite a complete project and the Chinese companies really see real benefits and real results.

KE: Route2China was established in 2016, so you’ve had nearly three years of solid experience with mobility apprenticeships between, for example, Switzerland and China. Can you give us two key lessons that other companies can take from your experience with the Swiss-Chinese apprenticeships that other countries and other companies can benefit from?

MW: Sure. Such mobility programmes are really great for the companies and also for the apprentices. My key takeaway is that the apprenticeship system is a great system. Many other companies or even countries try to learn from the Swiss model. Even though the apprenticeship programmes in Switzerland are very well established, we have to continue promoting them because many people still prefer going to a Gymnasium[1] and afterwards to university. Universities offer more possibilities and mobility programmes. So for any university student, it’s almost like a given that they will go on exchange programmes for a semester. However, such opportunities are not so available for apprenticeship programmes. When we offer such unique and innovative mobility programmes, the companies can benefit a lot, because they are pioneers in promoting apprenticeship and mobility programmes.

The second key takeaway is that actually 80% of Swiss youth chose to do an apprenticeship. If we want to have a great and bright future, with people who are very adaptable, very flexible and know about a different culture not only from the language point of view but also have an idea of how to work in a different culture, I think mobility programmes such as ours and also the work the Global Apprenticeship Network is doing promoting apprenticeships is really the future that everybody should work on.

KE: Thank you, Min. I’ve understood from our discussion that your programme, Route2China, and the exchanges that you are facilitating with apprenticeships from Switzerland in Chinese companies is motivating Chinese companies and their employees, who work with the apprentices from Switzerland, to think differently about the integration between work and education. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

MW: China at the moment doesn’t have an apprenticeship system. So China would really like to learn from Switzerland and there have been a lot of different initiatives and programmes being set up. The best way to learn is to have Swiss apprentices working in the Chinese companies and show how good and hands-on these apprentices are; how in a very short time, three to four weeks, they can already deliver concrete project results. The Chinese companies are very convinced about such a working model like apprenticeships.

On the other hand, the Swiss companies can also learn from the Chinese. I hope that in the future we can set up a two-way programme. That we’ll also get Chinese companies to send their apprentices to Europe or to other parts of the world, so that they can learn from the other side of cultural learning. I think the world is really big and now there’s a lot of opportunities. Each country has its own strength and the best way to learn from each other what’s the best way of doing things is through such mobility and exchange programmes. There may be sometimes different ways of doing things and that’s also how you can promote innovation and come up with new ideas. Overall, it’s a great programme and it also connects to your SkillingNow initiative: I agree with you, learning is a lifetime job. The more fun the learning, the more hands-on, the more work-based that you can learn, the better you will be prepared for the future.

KE: Thank you very much.

MW: Thank you, as well.


[1] Senior high school (commonly called “Gymnasium” in German, “gymnase” or “lycée” in French and “liceo” in Italian).